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Spring Garden Fair ushers in gardening season

In the spring, many a Rogue Valley resident’s fancy turns to thoughts of gardening. After those dreary April showers, it’s time to tend to May flowers, plant summer vegetable gardens, and lure butterflies and pollinators.

The Jackson County Master Gardener Association will usher in the gardening season this weekend at the 38th annual Spring Garden Fair. It is billed as the largest garden show and plant sale between Portland and San Francisco. Southern Oregon’s premier event typically sees between 6,000 and 8,000 aspiring gardeners pass through the gates.

Headlining the two-day event are gardening demonstrations, plant clinics, free well water nitrate testing and a supporting cast of vendors offering a colorful array of Mother’s Day gift items.

The Spring Garden Fair will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 6, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, May 7, at The Expo, 1 Peninger Lane, Central Point.

Hundreds of professionals will be on hand to give veteran and novice green thumbs the dirt on the best methods, materials and media to make the yard and garden flourish.

Free demonstrations will be presented hourly both days.

Here is a rundown of topics covered Saturday:

  • Drought-tolerant and deer-resistant gardening, 11 a.m.
  • Culinary herbs, noon
  • Starting a vegetable garden, 1 p.m.
  • Pollinators, 2 p.m.
  • Summer mulching and watering, 3 p.m.
  • Raised bed gardening, 4 p.m.

Sunday’s lineup includes:

  • Planning and growing a Monarch butterfly garden, 11 a.m.
  • Shade gardens, noon
  • Growing onions and garlic, 1 p.m.
  • Winter vegetables, 2 p.m.

Master Gardeners will open a plant clinic to diagnose disease and insect problems and prescribe the best treatments.

The Master Gardeners also will have a library of gardening books, new and used, to browse and purchase. Publications with a local slant include “The Gardening Guide to the Rogue Valley: Year 'Round and Month by Month” and “The Garden Guide for the Rogue Valley: Ornamental Trees and Shrubs.” Both were published by the Jackson County Master Gardener Association in cooperation with the Oregon State University Extension Service.

If you have serious concerns about the taste or color of your well water, the Extension Service recommends testing. Master Gardeners will be on hand during the fair to test for nitrate, a potentially harmful contaminant that can seep into groundwater from a number of sources, including animal and human waste, feedlots, fertilizers and septic systems.

Little is known about the long-term effects of drinking water with elevated nitrate levels, but according to OSU, some research suggests that even a small amount may play a role in the development of some cancers in adults, and in thyroid disorders, spontaneous miscarriages and birth defects.

The Spring Fair is part of Master Gardeners’ mission to “learn, practice and teach the art and science of gardening in the Rogue Valley.”

There are approximately 3,500 Master Gardeners working in 28 of Oregon’s 36 counties. The Jackson County program is the largest in Oregon, with volunteers dedicating thousands of hours each year to the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center in Central Point and community events throughout the county. Master Gardeners staff plant clinics, teach classes on garden-related topics, conduct a children’s summer gardening program, organize seminars and workshops, promote and plan community gardens, and tend to the demonstration gardens on the Extension Center grounds.

The Jackson County Master Gardener Association was formed in 1982 to support the Master Gardener program. The annual fair is its biggest fundraiser, with the event garnering approximately $40,000 to $45,000 in profits. The association awards an annual scholarship to a Jackson County high school graduate who plans to attend Oregon State University and major in a plant-related field. There are also two scholarships available to current Oregon State University horticulture students. Funds also underwrite grants to Jackson County-area schools for hands-on gardening education, horticultural learning opportunities and campus beautification projects.

Admission to the Spring Garden Fair is $3 for age 15 and older, free for children 14 and under. Parking is free. For more information, see www.jacksoncountymga.org.

The Master Gardeners' annual Spring Garden Fair will be held this weekend at the Jackson County Expo. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch