Master gardener says small spaces make great gardens

May 16, 2010|By JANET HEIM

HAGERSTOWN -- Fresh out of college, Shanon Wolf was planning for a garden.

She headed to her local library and found a book that was the inspiration for a raised 4-by-4-foot garden that she planted in the backyard of her apartment.

That experience more than 30 years ago led to one of her many gardening missions -- to dispel the myth that you need large property to have a garden.

"You don't have to plow a half-acre. It's amazing the variety you can have in a tiny little space," said Wolf, 58.


Wolf, who became a master gardener in 2008, shares her knowledge and skills at demonstration gardens at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center.

On a recent visit to the ag center off Sharpsburg Pike, Wolf showed off two 4-by-4-foot gardens where early crops grew.

One had lettuces, spinach, arugula and radishes, and eventually will have corn, beans and squash. Another had garlic, red and white onions, herbs, carrots, lettuce, Swiss chard and other greens. Peas and cantaloupes will grow up the trellis. Later in the season, the early plants will be replaced with cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broccoli.

Wolf, one of 18 master gardeners in Washington County, said the demonstration gardens were started last year, and then a rain garden was added, another teaching tool.

Even though both of Wolf's parents grew up on farms, she said they didn't do much gardening when she was a child. Wolf said she is basically self-taught, gleaning information from books and other sources.

Wolf knew about the Maryland Master Gardener's program offered through the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension office, but her job didn't allow time for the classes. She decided to retire in January 2008, and began the two-month program soon afterward.

Master gardeners must meet a requirement for volunteer hours and continuing education. The mission of the master gardener program is to educate local residents about safe, effective and sustainable horticultural practices that build healthy gardens, landscapes and communities.

Wolf said as she teaches the public, she continues to learn. New to her garden this year is garlic, which she got from another master gardener, and she is growing potatoes in a container, a technique she learned at the ag center.

At the demonstration garden, she helps with weeding, planting and answering questions posed by visitors.

She also helps with plant clinics the first and third Saturdays of every month at the farmers market in downtown Hagerstown.

Wolf, then Shanon Schildknecht, graduated from South Hagerstown High in 1969. She majored in Spanish, earning an undergraduate degree from Frostburg State University and a graduate degree from the University of Delaware.

She married Dave Wolf, a North Hagerstown High graduate, and the couple has lived on Unger Road near Leitersburg for 25 years.

Shanon Wolf worked for the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulations, then for the Job Service/Unemployment office in Hagerstown. She eventually managed the Hagerstown office, and after Job Service and Unemployment became two separate offices, she managed the Allegany, Garrett and Washington County Job Service offices for 10 years.

Information about the master gardener's program can be obtained by calling Extension Educator Annette Ipsan at 301-791-1604 or by going to

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