Saturday and Sunday, the Jackson County Expo's Compton Arena will be transformed into a gardener's dream of annuals, perennials, veggie starts, trees and shrubs, pools and ponds, tools, containers and much more.

Saturday and Sunday, the Jackson County Expo's Compton Arena will be transformed into a gardener's dream of annuals, perennials, veggie starts, trees and shrubs, pools and ponds, tools, containers and much more.

While winter weather-weary Rogue Valley residents could be forgiven for thinking it's a ski swap, the event is in fact the Master Gardeners Association's most important fundraiser. Proceeds go for educational programs, including gardening clubs in area schools.

While the fair marks the start of the county's annual summer garden season, it also hints at the garden group's youth mission, with a theme of "Roots, Shoots and Rubber Boots."

As part of its education mission, Master Gardeners gives away a $2,500 scholarship to a Jackson County student each year and a long list of grants to area schools.

Master Gardener Bill Dietz, of Ashland, who is on the Master Gardeners' grant committee, says the goal is to get young people interested in gardening and horticulture.

"If they get interested when they're young, it'll be for life," he says.

Dietz, a former teacher, says some teens who don't excel academically may bloom (sorry) when they get their hands in the dirt.

"Everybody's kind of pushed the hands-on stuff to the side and started teaching to the tests," he says.

The fair will reprise many of its most popular features and add a couple of new wrinkles. Gardeners who have completed the Master Gardener course will be on hand for a plant clinic. This is the place to seek help with bugs, diseases, plant problems and any other questions about the yard or garden. Volunteers typically diagnose garden problems and dispense advice keyed to Jackson County conditions.

More than 70 commercial vendors, some making an appearance for the first time, will be on hand with products and services from basic beds to wild birds.

Free classes and demonstrations will cover such favorite subjects as growing tomatoes, culinary herbs, composting, proper tree planting and greenhouses. A well-water testing booth will again be available to analyze water for nitrates.

A book shack with books on gardening, donated by gardeners, will benefit the Oregon State University-Master Gardener scholarship fund. The Master Gardener publication "Garden Guide for the Rogue Valley" will be on sale for $2 off the cover price.

Gramma's Garden will return, offering heirloom and unusual plants often not available at local nurseries, most of them from the gardens of members.

An exhibit called Children at Heart will provide hands-on activities for youngsters.

Speaking of youngsters, Master Gardeners' Judy Williams says plans also call for a snail trap, a worm farm and a treasure hunt in which participants try to find plants and other items around the fair.

Reach reporter Bill Varble at 776-4478 or e-mail bvarble@mailtribune.com.

Free classes will take place all weekend at the Master Gardeners Spring Fair. Each last about 20 minutes. Here's a schedule:

Saturday

10:30 a.m. — Culinary Herbs, with Ellen Scannell.

11:30 a.m. — Rock Garden Gems and Trough Gardening, with Baldassare Mineo.

1 p.m. — A Craft Garden, Cora Lee.

2 p.m. — Tomatoes, Carol Oneal.

3 p.m. — Selecting a Home Greenhouse, with greenhouse distributor Doug Perkins.

4 p.m. — Collapse of Bee Colonies, with beekeeper Floyd Pawloski.

Sunday

11 a.m. — Composting, with Denny Morelli.

Noon — Selection of Lavendar for your Landscape, with Jim and Dottie Becker.

1 p.m. — Proper Planting of Trees, Steve Siewert.

2 p.m. — Frogs and Toads, a children's program, with Shari Dallas.