By RONDA GREGORY
News & Journal Staff Writer
Spring into spring at the 17th Annual Harrison County Master Gardeners Spring Clinic and Garden Fair. The event will be about gardening and more, said organizers. From gardening classes to raptor demonstrations, attendees will have a full day of learning and fun for free.
The group’s signature community service event runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 14 at the Harrison County Recreation & 4-H Center on Rt. 19 in Clarksburg.
Children who attend must be accompanied by a parent or guardian, so organizers say they have many interactive family events planned.
“We’re putting together activities that will involve both the parents and the children,” reports Master Gardener Becky Eneix Chong, who is the event chair.
She said some of the other family activities will include face painting, planting and picture painting.
Of course, the gardening workshops and demonstrations are mainstays of the event. Ten will be featured, including a class on straw bale planting, Chong stated.
Straw bale gardening involves conditioning the bale first with organic fertilizer and using it as a user-friendly plant container. With the straw bale technique, you get very few weeds and can grow almost anything–from tomatoes to flowering plants. And it’s a convenient alternative to ground planting.
“If you don’t have much space, or you have poor soil, or if all you have is a concrete patio, this is a way you can grow a few plants,” Chong said.
Another benefit to straw bale gardening is that people with disabilities can have easy access with a wheelchair.
Some other unique and informative classes experts will present are half-hour cheese making, the efficacy of plants and medicine and how effective they are, heritage tomatoes and home fermentation.
A big attraction will be a group of more than 30 Harrison County Master Gardeners being on hand to answer any and all gardening questions. They will be located at a table titled “Ask a Master Gardener”.
“The Master Gardeners will be available to answer any questions about the growing habits and planting times of a variety of plants — just general gardening questions,” Chong stated.
She said it’s perfect timing for beginner and seasoned gardeners to get some planting advice: “It’s the beginning of the growing season and people are getting ready to plant their gardens and their flowers. We can help them solve their gardening problems.”
Chong will be one of those go-to experts. “I really enjoy helping the community and people learn how to grow in an environmentally sound manner and how to use the latest gardening techniques,” she remarked.
Other activities and attractions include demonstrations, a Master Gardeners’ plant sale, vendors selling plants, books and many other gardening items, and, of course, food concessions and bake sales.
A very exciting, entertaining and popular demonstration will be by the West Virginia Raptor Rehabilitation Center.
“They will be there with their amazing birds,” Chong noted.
Door prizes, raffles and a Grand Prize drawing are in the mix, too.
Speaking about the prizes, Chong exclaimed, “They’re fantastic!”
The prizes include bird houses and feeders, wrought iron hangers for outdoors, hanging baskets of a variety of flowers, a selection of local restaurants gift cards and much more.
Chong said a particularly interesting and beautiful item is an artscape garden sculpture. “It’s made of cut metal and glass bottles,” she describes. “It has cut metal flowers and reflects light. It’s very beautiful.”
The raffles include a 50/50 drawing, a low tunnel (like a mini greenhouse that extends the growing season) and gift groupings of four gardening-related items.
“The Grand Prize is yet to be determined,” Chong stated. “We’re waiting to see what all comes in before we make that decision.”
Concessions will have hotdogs, baked beans, baked goods and cold drinks for sale.
Margie DiekmannFiesler, Vice President of the Harrison County Master Gardeners, said the free event has two goals.
“It is to provide a fun, educational experience for members of the community of all ages on a variety of topics to enhance their gardening interests, knowledge and skills and to raise funds that enable the Harrison County Master Gardeners to invest in our community through numerous service projects, such as the Shinnston Community Garden, the Apothecary Garden and the Weavers Garden at Fort New Salem, the garden at West Milford, scholarships for youth to attend the Conservation Camp and other community service projects,” DiekmannFiesler stated.
Several hundred people attended the event last year, and Chong said they look forward to even more this year.
“We hope everybody comes out and has a wonderful time and learns a lot,” Chong concluded.
Most of the activities will be located indoors. For more information about the event, call (304) 624-8650.
The Harrison County Master Gardeners is a nonprofit program of the West Virginia University Extension Service Agriculture and Natural Resources.