Mark your calendar for Garden Expo

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Dare we hope spring has arrived? Someone told me yesterday to expect a hard freeze on March 26.  Never mind – today I’m planting.

The signs of spring are everywhere, and not a moment too soon for most folks. From the moment the first jonquils burst into bloom, gardeners everywhere begin sharpening their spades and paying visits to the nearest garden centers.

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Here’s another item to add to your “A” list. The 4th Annual Everything Garden Expo returns to Starkville on March 24-25. It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned gardener or just a “wannabee,” there will be something for everyone says Paige Lawes who is coordinating the event for the Starkville Area Arts Council.

“Our theme this year is ‘Living on the Earth’ and we’ll emphasize sustainable gardening with an emphasis on our unique culture and climate,” she said. “We are holding the Expo a few weeks later than usual which we think will improve our crowds because we’ll be moving into the peak growing season.”

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Lawes is being assisted by committee chairmen Ali Jones, Rhonda Jones, Lelia Kelly, and Alison Buehler, who with her husband Mike, founded Gaining Ground, the Sustainability Institute of Mississippi.

“Composting, building healthy soils, choosing native plants, and growing food instead of lawns are back in vogue,” noted Buehler. “Recycled yard art and backyard chicken coops are popping up all over the place. Expo visitors can learn to garden like their grandmothers did, and hear about new healthy innovations which are building on that knowledge.”

The Expo will feature some 60 vendors who will set up in the Mississippi Horse Park to show and sell the latest in gardening materials and equipment. Outdoor furniture, accessories, yard art, container gardens, and new varieties of bedding plants are always popular according to Candy Crecink, executive assistant of the Starkville Area Arts Council.

Vendors will set up their booths on Friday, March 23. The Expo Hall will be open to the public from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 24, and 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Sunday, March 25. Admission is $5 a person, and there is no charge for children six and under.

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Here’s a sampling of what you can see and do in addition to strolling through the show and seeing how to combine ornamentals and edibles in the garden:

 

Saturday, March 24, Seminar Schedule

8:45 – 9:45 a.m.: Dr. Eric Stafne of the Mississippi Cooperative Extension Service will address growing pecans;

10 – 11 a.m.: Dr. Blake Layton will discuss bugs – both beneficial and aggravating;

11:15 – Noon: Gail Barton is a native plant guru and former horticulture instructor who will discuss the easiest plants to grow successfully in the South;

1 – 2 p.m.: Dr. Rick Snyder will address vegetable gardening with an emphasis on tomatoes;

2:15 – 3:15 p.m.: Pat Drackett will discuss landscaping with ornamentals;

3:30 – 4:15 p.m.: Janet Chapman, of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality will talk about hot button issues in the world of gardening;

4:30 – 5:30 p.m. Felder Rushing – always a crowd favorite, will discuss “Slow Gardening: Getting the Most Out of the Garden All Year Long.”


Sunday, March 25, Seminar Schedule

1-2 p.m.: Cary Lindsey of “O Gardens! Occupy Your Lawn” will share information on how individuals can grow a portion of their own food in limited spaces;

2:15 – 3 p.m.: Sam McLemore of Bountiful Harvest Farms and Chris Oswalt of Mountain Man Organics will discuss “Super Soils: Supercharge Your Soil for Natural Success”;

3:30 – 4:15: A panel will discuss how animals can benefit the garden environment. Find out which small-scale animal is right for you – bees, chickens or bunnies?

Throughout the two days, Gaining Ground will sponsor a unique exhibit featuring the Mississippi Mobile Farm Bus which will be open for tours. It runs on used vegetable oil and solar panels, and visitors can see demonstrations of “lasagna” gardening, vermiculture, a mobile chicken coop, and rain barrel water conservation.

Gaining Ground will also hold a series of 15-minute mini-workshops on the Expo Hall floor on such topics as composting 101, building worm bins, starting seeds, fermented foods, and soil amendments. A seed swap will also be conducted. A detailed schedule will be available at the registration desk.

Fostering young gardeners

 

It’s been said that if you teach a child to garden you will give him or her a lifetime of enjoyment. With that in mind, The Expo will feature more children’s activities than ever before, said Rhonda Jones, chairman of children’s activities.

Weyerhaeuser will sponsor a paper-making clinic where each child will create their own sheet of paper. Lowes Home Improvement Center will be on hand to conduct “Build and Grow Clinics.”  The company will provide the kits, hammers, and protective goggles for each child, and employees and volunteers will them through each stage of the project.

Jones said most of the children’s workshops are designed for first through fifth graders. “Each child must be accompanied by an adult,” said Jones. “But a ‘rent a grandma’ service will be available to parents who may leave their children while they stroll the Expo Hall.”

Saturday Children’s programs:

9-10 a.m.: Gerald McKibben, retired entomologist will bring his giant concrete ants for children to climb on. His unique ants and bears have been displayed at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Sciences in Jackson.

10:30 – 11:30 a.m.: Identifying mammals by using skulls, fur and tracks will be discussed.  All ages will enjoy Leslie Burger, an Extension Associate with the Mississippi State University Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Aquaculture, as she discusses Mississippi native mammals and ecology, and the conservation natural resources.

12:45 – 1:15 p.m.: Audrey Sheridan will discuss honey bees, the perfect complement to flower and vegetable gardens. A single hive can double vegetable yields and supply two or three gallons of honey per year. An observation hive will be available to watch bees at work.

1:30-2:30 p.m.: “The Birds around Us” Explore the world of our feathered friends through sights, sounds, and activities. Find out about the birds living in your yard or nearby. Buren and Luanne Blankenship have enjoyed getting to know the birds of Mississippi since coming to Starkville four years ago. Buren is pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church. Luanne utilizes her training in Christian Education as a volunteer in the church and beyond.

3 – 4 p.m.:Mandi Sanders, founder of Starkville Natural Mamas, will talk about on Southern natural and herbal remedies.

1:30 – 2 p.m. and again 2:10 – 3:10 p.m.: A fascinating exhibit on the habits and benefits of honey bees.

Week-long lunch programs build up to Expo

 

The Expo committee will host a week-long flurry of activities aimed at building excitement about the Expo. Beginning on Monday, March 19, the committee will be “Taking it to the Streets” with a lunch-time seminar by Buehler on how to move from chemical to natural gardening. It will be followed by an organic farm tour at Bountiful Harvest Farms. Run by Sam McLemore, the urban farm on Scales Street serves more than 20 families. The program will be held at The Book Mart on Main beginning at 11:30 a.m. For those interested, Boxed lunches will be available by reservations.

On Tuesday, March 20, the noon topic will be “Those Pesky Bugs – dealing with garden pests. It is sponsored by Northeast Exterminating.

The Town and Country Garden Club will host their “Tablescapes and Tastings” on Wednesday, March 21, featuring James Farmer, nationally acclaimed chef, farmer and author. It will be held at the Starkville Sportsplex.

On March 22, the gift shop “Thyme” will host cooking demonstrations by award winning Chef Danny Wellington of the Central Station Grill. He will prepare dishes and offer tastings from Farmer’s Cookbook.

On March 23 Entomologist Audrey Sheridan will discuss honey bees and their contributions to the garden, along with how to attract them.

For more information on the Expo and related events call 662-324-3080.

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