Spring has come to Portage County, and gardeners across the county are getting together plans and plants for another year.  The Portage County Master Gardeners are also making preparations for their annual event, Celebrate Spring.  The event, which includes a plant sale, silent auction, and expert gardening advice, will provide valuable information to area gardeners as well as help fund community service events throughout the county.

“We hope that people can come out and join us for a day of plants, great gardening advice, and fun,” said Dee Burdette one of the event coordinators. “This event has become an annual tradition for many area gardeners, and this year promises to be a special treat, with a more casual question and answer format and an expanded plant sale. “

This year’s format will feature three tables staffed by Portage County Master Gardeners with each station addressing specific gardening challenges.  Barbara Murphy and John Gwinn, both certified Ohio Master Gardener Weed Specialists,    will host a “weed” table.  And who would be interested in learning about weeds? National gardening polls consistently rank weeding as the gardening practice that consumes the majority of gardeners’ time.  So we fully expect that gardeners attending this event will find information gained from conversations with our weed specialists immediately useful.  Keith Barton, local insect specialist will also host a table. Weeds are not the only challenge Portage County gardeners face. Insects that feed on plants and insects that transmit disease causing plant pathogens can seriously thwart a gardener’s best efforts. But many garden insects are more helpful than harmful and a little time spent talking with Keith just may help participants better understand the need to distinguish between our gardening friends and foes.  We encourage attendees to bring samples, photos, etc., of weeds or insects they may need help identifying or suppressing. We also think our patrons will appreciate the expert advice they receive from Barb Oare and Lynda Costilla at our edible plant table.  Many Portage County gardeners have attended Barb’s herb workshops and presentations and should be delighted to find that she is able to address tomatoes, apples, etc. with the same level of expertise.  Lynda has also shared her gardening experience during Master Gardener public education workshops in recent years. Lynda is our resident expert on small space gardening techniques.  Even if space isn’t an issue in your garden, many limited space gardening practices are also energy efficient, both in terms of gardener and product (fertilizers, growing media, etc.) input. Our goal in adding the edible plant table is to assist area gardeners in their efforts to increase food production.  And what would an edible plant information table be without recipes and cookbooks?  We encourage you to take a minute to peruse our free recipe selection. Additionally, Master Gardeners at each table as well as those working the plant sale will be eager to assist you by providing advice about selecting the “best plants for their own gardens.”

Our plant sale has been expanded to include a larger variety of herbs and vegetables along with many sun and shade perennials.  Celebrate Spring will also feature some very desirable silent auction items, from essential gardening gear, reference books, some unique finds and unusual plants.  Proceeds from our fundraiser will help support Master Gardener projects throughout the county for the coming year.

These events include planting projects with the Coleman Adult Day Services, Bryn Mawr Glen, our Garden Pot Recycling program, as well as local school gardens and youth environmental education programs.  The Portage County Master Gardeners annually host a number of community education workshops at no cost to participants.   Historically, Master Gardeners have been available from April to October, to assist area residents with questions about their lawns and gardens at the OSU Extension Office in Ravenna. According to Lynn Vogel, former Master Gardener Coordinator for Portage County, “Volunteers have been available to answer literally thousands of questions via our “horticultural hotline” as well as through direct contact with area residents.  Our Master Gardener Volunteers contributed over 2000 hours of community volunteer service last year.”  Recent state and county budget cuts will make it very challenging for Portage County Master Gardeners to continue these services.  Your support of our plant sale silent auction would be greatly appreciated during this difficult time of transition.

Celebrate Spring will be held Saturday, May 14th  at Maplewood Career Center.  The Plant Sale will run from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. Silent auction bidding will begin at 10:00 AM and close at 11:00 am. Our staffed information tables will be available from 10:00 AM to noon.  Our 2011 Celebrate Spring fundraiser is a “no charge” event.