in this Issue
Are Bugs Driving
By Laurie Gore
Continuing their 27-year run at the San Diego County Fair, the San Diego Master Gardeners will be manning their booth again inside the O’Brien Building. Led by Exhibitor Assignment Coordinator Carol Graham in a role she has filled since MGs first came to Del Mar, dozens of MGs will staff the exhibit for hundreds of hours and speak to thousands of fairgoers. Though MGs will be invited to about fifty events around town this year, no other appearance involves so many MGs or reaches so many home gardeners.
Carol always picks a theme for the booth and, picking up on the motoring slogan of the “Race to the Fair,” she focused on one of the most persistent challenges for home gardeners: those pests that drive you crazy!
“Every time I ‘work’ the MG booth at the fair, I’m impressed with the interest shown by the kids,” says MG Paul Knowles. “It’s a real opportunity to infect their young minds with the bugs and other interesting stuff we have in our booth. The parents are also in intrigued.”
The UCCE Pest Notes is often the most used material at a Master Gardener exhibit but you can expect much more at the Fair this year. In addition to posters and handouts, look for the Lady Beetle puppet which introduces even the youngest gardeners to the role of beneficial bugs. This year, add a Lady Beetle Larvae created by MG Beth Jurecki. A soft sculpture learning tool, MGs will have a chance to show that the Lady Beetle Larvae is also part of the beneficial team. Carol plans to also have lots of live bugs for curious minds. Make sure when you are at the Fair to come by the MG Exhibit booth. There will be lots to see and share.
But Master Gardeners are involved in other parts of the Fair, too. A number of Master Gardeners will be on the Stage at the Flower & Garden Show. Charles Robinson will revisit the Stage to demonstrate the propagation of Staghorn Ferns and Karan Greenwald’s enjoyable talks last year about Heirloom Tomatoes and starting a vegetable garden inspired her return engagement. Cindy Sparks will also repeat her appearance covering sustainable gardening and drought tolerant gardening. New this year, Karen Contreras will show you how you can remove your lawn to start an organic vegetable garden and John Marsh will discuss fruit trees.
Master Gardeners will be involved in other ways as well. Many Master Gardeners will be entering competitions during the Flower & Garden Show as well as serving as judges. Carvill Veech is serving as a judge after training over a three-year period. Dyanna Madro is also judging. For years she has been entering her floral designs as well as jams, cakes, cookies, and desserts. “I grow many of the fruits for the jam at home,” said Dyanna, counting off the homegrown ingredients. “Apricots, plums, persimmons, strawberries, nectarines, peaches, raspberries, blueberries and boysenberries.”
You will also find Master Gardeners as judges in the Plant*Grow*Eat program. Six to eight weeks before the Fair opens, staff members of this agricultural education program visit classrooms around the county to delivery seeds, soil, containers and planting instructions. Students are encouraged to plant and grow their seeds and bring them to competition during the fair. Students in grades 1 through 3 become radish growers and an annual call goes out to Master Gardeners to come judge the radishes, as well as the flowers, vegetables, and herbs grown by older students. Many of the MGs judges are also active of the MG school consultant program.
Plant*Grow*Eat will involve 10,000 students from more than 80 schools. The coordinators point out that for some children, this is their first experience wit planting seeds, watching them grow, and learning how they become the food they eat.
When you are at the Fair this year, look for the San Diego Master Gardener Association badges. In so many ways, the Fair provides an opportunity for Master Gardeners to fulfill their mission to provide the education and support to home gardeners in the county.