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Garden Party and Workshop: Gardeners to share ideas for growing season

A committee of Beltrami County Master Gardeners meets to discuss the upcoming Garden Party and Workshop, set for April 13 at Evangelical Free Church. From left are MaryLou Marchand, Becky Livermore, Cathy Peck, Jesica Conrad, Wally Peck and Lois Jenkins. Not pictured is Candy Barthel. Monte Draper|Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – The calendar says springtime even though in northern Minnesota there’s still snow abounding. But if you want a taste of spring in these northern climes, do not miss the bi-annual Garden Party and Workshop from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 13 at Evangelical Free Church.

The event, sponsored by the Beltrami County Master Gardeners and Beltrami County Extension Service, will feature University of Minnesota professor Mark Seeley, a weekly commentator on Minnesota Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” who also writes the weekly newsletter, Minnesota Weather Talk, online.

Seeley will speak on the changing Minnesota weather patterns.

Jesica Conrad, a Master Gardener, noted that there seems to be more micro climates happening around this area.

“Let’s just face it,” said Becky Livermore, “we all like to talk about the weather but we really don’t understand it very well. We are hoping that he (Seeley) will give us a little more insight.”

Wally Peck agreed that once someone gets into gardening, you need to pay more attention to the weather. For example, you notice if there’s going to be a bit of frost at night and you cover tender plants.

Cathy Peck added that gardening is a “safe” community project, not controversial like politics. It’s intergenerational; children are fascinated by worms and soil, and they like getting dirty.

Jodie Ramsay and Julie Schroer, whose passion is perennials, have more than 1,200 different varieties at their business, Jean’s Right Plant Place in Perham. The topic of their morning talk will be “Under Used Perennials” and “Shade Gardening” for their afternoon talk.

Julie Froemming is an educator with the UMN Extension Master Gardener program in Crow Wing County. She will speak after the lunch break on strategies to use when you want a garden but can only garden on weekends.

“There has been a resurgence of people wanting to grow food,” Conrad said. “They are concerned about the freshness of produce so it’s sort of like the Victory Garden Days when people were forced to grow food.”

MaryLou Marchand added that, for years, flower gardens dominated the gardening magazines; the aesthetic end of it and not the practical. People have discovered that growing their own produce can be relatively inexpensive once the set-up is established.

Cathy Peck added that the new designation is “food gardening.”

“One of the things we teach people is how to garden in a short season which is what we have here,” Livermore said. “Ninety days is sometimes all we get; if we’re lucky, we get more than that depending on when the first frost comes in.”

Livermore went on to say that one of the things the Master Gardeners teach is how to select plants that will mature in that period of time.

Wally Peck offered that he can grow sweet potatoes up here just fine by using row covers, high tunnels or black plastic to warm the soil.

It is just those kinds of hints that “Tips and Tricks” will cover as the opening segment of the garden party.

Lois Jenkins, chairwoman of the event, has worked diligently to get strong presenters. For example, Seeley is prominent in the field of climatology.

There also will be vendors from local nurseries with seeds and garden art.

Representatives from the Department of Agriculture, Beltrami County Soil and Water, and the Beltrami County Master Gardeners will be distributing educational materials.

Gardeners have noticed that more men are interested in gardening than ever.

“I think it’s because of the expansion of food growing,” said Cathy Peck.

In fact, proof of the growing gardening interest is in growing attendance: the number of workshop attendees has almost doubled.

Cathy Peck gave some statistics on gardening: in 2008, $2.8 billion was spent on gardening (seeds, soil, etc.) and the payback was $21 billion.

“It pays back to the community, it’s an economic benefit for a community to invest in its horticulture,” she said.

There will be door prizes and home-baked goodies. And, if you bring you own cup or mug, it will save resources. The $25 registration fee will cover the cost of speakers and a box lunch with coffee, tea and treats from the ladies of the Evangelical Church.

The deadline to register for the speakers and lunch is Friday. Registration forms can be picked up at the Beltrami County Extension Service, 7223 Fairgrounds Road NW or by calling 444-5722. A registration form is needed to accompany each check.

If you miss the deadline, you can register at the door for $15, but lunch will not be included. 

The spring lecture series given by the Master Gardeners will begin in April with Candy Barthe,l who will speak on growing corn. Watch for forthcoming information in the Pioneer.