SOMERSET — Patrons who are walking into the Somerset Public Library may be noticing more plants and flowers around the the building that is improving the landscape of the property. That work is being done by the Southern New England Master Gardener Association, a non-profit organization that was formed last year. Denise Jordan, the secretary of the association who lives in Somerset, suggested the volunteer project to the board of directors and when she informed Library Director Bonnie Mendes about what they wanted to do, she said Mendes was very happy.

"I loved the library and the grounds there were so unmaintained," Jordan said. "It was just such a mess because it is a heavily traveled area."

Volunteers from the association dug up grass and rocks near the main entrance that is in the front of the library by County Street. Jordan said the association wanted to put in as many native plants as possible, including drought resistant plants, so they could take water needs into consideration. She said all fertilizers, soils or compost used in the garden would be organic.

Jordan said volunteers from the association began planting in May. Echinacea, milk weed, hydrangea, pick seed and lavender were planted.

Two dogwood trees were also planted by the building. Jordan said the dogwoods are not native, but are resistant to the virus that has wiped out dogwoods.

An irrigation system was also put in by the association.

Jordan said the association wanted to have a compost bin for the library and so built a cedar compost bin that is in back of the building. She said the association has educational information about compost that will be posted by the bin.

Jordan said that raised garden beds will be built along the side of the library building. She said the association has a benefactor who is designing, paying for and building the raised beds. Mendes said those beds will be at a level that will allow for people in wheelchairs to be able to look at the plants in them.

Jordan said the association is hoping to plant tulips and daffodils at the library this fall.

Jordan said the association's project at the Somerset Public Library is probably a three-year plan because that is about the amount of time needed to get the perennials to bloom fully. She said after those three years, the volunteers will be able to say that their sore knees and joints from working on the gardens will have been worth it.

Jordan said her association has been very happy with the support it has received from Mendes.

"It was a lot of work," Jordan said. "There was a lot more work than we expected, but people are aware of it."

The Daughters of the American Revolution has maintained a garden near the entrance of the library, as well, but Jordan said that organization has asked the association if it can take over its garden. Jordan said a vote of the association's board of directors has to be taken before that can happen.

"Gardening is our passion and we're so happy to be able to do this at the library," Jordan said.

Jordan said the association will have a booth at the Spirit of Somerset Family Fun Day in September where people may be able to buy bulbs that will be planted at the library. She said people also could become members of the association.

Jordan said the association is planning classes with guest speakers to teach the public about gardening, native plants and composting. She said one class in December would focus on how to make wreaths and centerpieces and will be run by a speaker who has a lot of knowledge about that subject.

The association has already done soil testing for the public at the library and Jordan said about 40 people came to that. She said because of the manufacturing that has been in the area, there can be issues with heavy metals and lead paint in soil. She said that is an important reason to test soil before gardening.

Jordan said the association will also be doing a class at the library in which children can make newspaper pots with soil and plant seeds for cool weather vegetable plants.

"We just really believe if we engage the younger people and the adults in their homes, this passion of gardening will be passed on," Jordan said.

Jordan said the gardening project is also meant to encourage volunteerism. She said gardening can appeal to a diverse group of people and can help people to develop relationships and generate a sense of community. She said her love of gardening came from her father, who was raised on a farm in Ohio, and mother who loved gardening. Jordan worked in business integrations in the corporate world before retiring.

The president of the Southern New England Master Gardener Association is Tom Gorski. The association has nine founding members and five citizen gardeners.

Mendes said that because of the types of flowers being put in, they will not have to be planted every year.

Before the association members started to volunteer their time to work on the library property, Mendes said the areas where they have planted flowers were full of weeds. She said it used to be part of the custodian's job to do weeding on the property, but the library no longer has a full time custodian just dedicated to that building. Mendes said Somerset Highway Department workers have cut grass and trimmed hedges on the library property.

Weather permitting, Mendes said volunteers from the association do weeding on Wednesdays on the library property. She said what the association is doing at the library is also meant to educate the public about gardening.

"Everything they've done can be accomplished by anybody," Mendes said. "You don't have to be a master gardener. They did this to teach people what they can do in their back yard."