Cultivate your gardening skills at Master Gardeners' Open House

Cultivate your gardening skills at Master Gardeners' Open House

We can't all be born with a green thumb, and that's why the University of Rhode Island Master Gardener program is hosting a statewide Project Open House on Saturday, Aug. 20, from 9 a.m. to noon.

This event, being held for the first time this year, gives people the chance to learn science-based gardening practices at any of 16 public projects across Rhode Island. Gardens at the event are the creations of URI Master Gardeners, who will teach new gardening techniques during the open house and share their expertise about growing vegetables, flowers, herbs, and other plants.

All this for free.

"The point is to let people in different communities know that there is a Master Gardener presence in their community," said Theresa Melvin, who has run the Master Gardener project at the Cumberland Monastery since 2001.

Melvin says the day is a great way for new gardeners to learn how to create a blossoming landscape of their own. People don't need to bring anything or buy anything, just show up and be ready to learn.

"No question is too small or too insignificant," said Melvin.

Different locations will feature different displays. Attendees can be educated on how to cultivate mushrooms in Providence, cook their harvest and extend the season in Kingston, grow medicinal plants in Pawtucket, and more.

At the Dr. Reuben Mason Medicinal Garden in Chepachet, lessons on the historical significance of the medicinal garden will be incorporated into the open house.

The town historian will be giving tours of the Dr. Reuben Mason house, one-on-one mini lectures will be happening outside, and gardeners will be harvesting and giving out free herb samples for people to take home.

“If you have any inkling of interest at all, you’ll enjoy these open houses,” said Jeff Rossi, the garden’s project leader who started it in 2012.

He says there is more to gardening than just growing plants, and anyone can go to the open house and benefit from experiencing what gardening has to offer.

“It’s a part of being human,” said Rossi. “It makes you a kinder person to retouch the soil. It brings you back to where we came from.”

As for the Cumberland Monastery, Melvin says the gardeners will be doing a soil testing from 9 to 11 a.m., a discussion on dividing perennials at 10 a.m., and a question and answer session from 10 a.m. to noon.

She says it is the perfect place to learn how to grow the basics in a garden.

"If a plant can live at the Monastery, it can survive anywhere," said Melvin. "These plants are like the backbone of the garden."

According to Melvin, Project Open House is a new event that the URI Master Gardeners have planned in response to the success of the Master Gardener Tour.

The tour was a one-weekend showcase of volunteer Master Gardeners' own gardens around the state. People had the opportunity to tour public and private gardens, and see how experienced gardeners have designed and maintained their grounds.

But for 2016, the Master Gardeners decided to have Project Open House instead, so that the volunteer effort put into public community gardens could be showcased, as well.

Melvin says the Master Gardener program will now go back and forth between having a tour and an open house every year.

For more information, visit or contact the URI Extension Outreach Center at 401-874-2900 or .

demonstration locations

Northern R.I.

• Cumberland Monastery, 1464 Diamond Hill Road

• Slater Mill, 67 Roosevelt Ave., Pawtucket

• Glocester Senior Center, 1210 Putnam Pike

• Dr. Reuben Mason Medicinal Garden, 1111 Putnam Pike, Chepachet

Central R.I.

• Roger Williams Park Edible Forest Garden, 1000 Elmwood Ave., Providence

• Roger Williams Park Display Gardens, 1000 Elmwood Ave., Providence

• Betsey Williams Cottage, 1000 Elmwood Ave., Providence

• Coventry Art and Community Gardens, 1675 Flat River Road

Eastern R.I.

• Mabel’s Garden at the Norman Bird Sanctuary, 583 Third Beach Road, Middletown

• Middletown Library Community Garden, 700 West Main Road

• Prescott Farm, 2009 West Main Road, Middletown

• Mount Hope Farm, 250 Metacom Ave., Bristol

• Newport Harbor Walk. Tours leave from Perrotti Park, 39 America’s Cup Blvd., at 9 and 11 a.m.

Southern R.I.

• Wilcox Park, 44 Broad St., Westerly

• East Farm Giving Garden, East Farm Campus of URI, Route 108 in Kingston

• East Farm Demonstration Garden, East Farm Campus of URI

From left, Karen Vincent, Rusty Marrow, and Jeff Rossi work on the garden project at the Cumberland Monastery. (Photos courtesy of Theresa Melvin)