March 10, 2012 6:44:07 PM
EVERYTHING GARDEN EXPO
What: Vendors, seminars, children's activities
Where: Mississippi Horse Park, 716 E. Poorhouse Road, Starkville
When: 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday March 24; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, March 25 (Free mid-day programs at downtown Starkville locations March 19-23.)
Expo cost: $5 admission; children 6 and younger attend free. For more information, contact the Starkville Area Arts Council, 662-324-3080 or visit starkvillearts.org.
BY JAN SWOOPE
The sprawling floor of the Mississippi Horse Park arena in Starkville may look like nothing more than empty expanse today, but in just two weeks, it will be in full bloom.
The fourth annual Everything Garden Expo March 24-25 will draw green-thumbed visitors to browse the wares of 60 or more vendors, learn how to take better care of the earth, and soak up the wisdom of numerous authorities on topics ranging from pesky fire ants to landscape design.
In addition, for five days preceding the Expo, a series of "Taking it to the Streets" talks held in downtown Starkville offer mid-day immersions into natural gardening, bugs, bees, tablescapes and tastings.
The Expo is exciting for hobby and professional gardeners alike. In addition to the broad array of vendors showing the latest in garden decor, products and equipment, seminars led by leading regional horticulturists are popular. A variety of ecology-themed children's activities are available, too.
Being better caretakers
"Living on the Earth" is the theme of this year's Expo, and the emphasis is on sustainable living.
"I think probably the most amazing thing is the marked rise in younger people wanting to get involved this year who are very attuned to taking care of the earth we live on," said Paige Lawes, overall coordinator of the Expo presented by the Starkville Area Arts Council and Mississippi State University.
Lawes praised the "amazing team" assisting her, including Ali Jones, Rhonda Jones, Lelia Kelly and Alison Buehler, co-founder of the Starkville-based Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi.
"The way we garden and grow things in our homes and in our backyards impacts everything and everyone around us," said Buehler, who is coordinating a series of 15-minute mini-workshops on subjects such as soil amendments, composting and starting seeds for the Expo.
Gaining Ground will also host a seed swap both days from 2-3 p.m. and sponsor tours of the "Farm on Wheels." The remarkable rolling "farm," a converted school bus that runs on used vegetable oil and solar power, houses demos of worm farming, rain barrel conservation and even a mobile chicken coop.
"We define sustainable living as meeting our current needs without sacrificing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs," Buehler explained. "When you think about big, global problems, they may seem insurmountable, but everybody can grow a little raised bed in their yard. ... If everybody took a little chip off the iceberg, that's a great place to start."
Pecans to 'maters
The Expo will be open to the public from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 24 and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 25. Admission is $5; children under 6 attend free.
Talks organized by the MSU Extension Service during the two-day show include:
n Saturday, March 24
- 8:45-9:45 a.m. - Dr. Eric Stafne: Pecans for the Homeowners
- 10-11 a.m. - Dr. Blake Layton: Take the Sting out of Fire Ants
- 11:15 a.m.-noon - Gail Barton: Gardening with the Woods
- 1-2 p.m. - Dr. Rick Snyder: Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes
- 2:15-3:15 p.m. - Pat Drackett: Home Landscape Design and Renovation
- 3:30-4:15 p.m. - Janet Chapman: Reigning over Runoff
- 4:30-5:30 p.m. - Felder Rushing: Slow Gardening
n Sunday, March 25
- 1-2 p.m. - Cary Lindsey: O Gardens! Occupy Your Lawn
- 2:15-3 p.m. - Sam McLemore, Chris Oswalt: Super Soils: Supercharge Your Soil for Natural Success
- 3:30-4:15 p.m. - Marion Sansing, Dustin Pinion, Mike Buehler: Panel discussion, Barnyard in your Backyard (How Animals Benefit Gardens)
Taking it to the Streets
"This was such a huge success last year; I think every day the crowds got larger and larger," said Ali Jones, coordinator of the daily lunch presentations scheduled for March 19-23.
The free pre-Expo programs from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Book Mart, 120 E. Main St., include Buehler talking about chemical-free gardening March 19; Jimmy and Richard Linley speaking on garden pests March 20; and Audrey Sheridan talking on bee gardening March 23. Bring a brown bag lunch, or reserve a boxed lunch by contacting the Book Mart Café at 662-323-2844.
"There's just a really casual and cozy atmosphere for these talks," said Ali Jones, "and they're open for questions."
Tickets sold out early for a March 21 seminar with "A Time to Plant" author James Farmer's tablescapes presentation, sponsored by the Town and Country Garden Club. However, on March 22, the public is invited to sample "Tastings" prepared by Chef Daniel Wellington, from Farmer's book. That free event is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Thyme, located at 401 E. Lampkin St.
Teach them early
"The children's activities have really expanded this year," Lawes said enthusiastically.
The young set will be able to craft biodegradable newspaper pots with Gaining Ground, build a kid-friendly project with Lowes, and make paper with Weyerhauser. Most of the children's workshops are geared for first- through fifth-graders. Each child must be accompanied by an adult. (A limited "Rent a Grandma" service will be available for parents who want to attend an adult workshop at the same time.)
Youngsters will also get to see hatching chicks, learn to identify mammals using skulls, fur and tracks, hear about feathered friends and see how honey bees benefit our gardens.
"There will be an enclosed observation hive; the kids just loved it last year," said Rhonda Jones, coordinator of the children's activities.
Retired entomologist Gerald McKibben even plans to bring a "giant ant" created of foam and other materials, one of several he's been commissioned to make for the Museum of Natural Science in Jackson.
"We're also having a scavenger hunt," Rhonda Jones added. "As parents shop, children can be looking for items from a list they'll get; they can turn it in for a prize."
Golf carts will be available during the Expo to transport attendees between the upper and lower levels of the main arena's parking areas.
As spring reveals itself more with each passing day, those who love to work in the earth -- or simply enjoy Mother Nature's handiwork -- are itching to be at it. And learning to do it in ways that can benefit the planet makes sense. That may be using fewer harsh chemicals on the rose garden, or growing your first tiny bed of herbs or vegetables this year.
"Just changing a few little things can make a difference," Buehler encouraged. "We're really just teaching what our grandmothers all knew, knowledge that's been almost wiped out over two generations. ... It's just living wisely."
Lawes promised something for everyone at the Expo.
"It's a real delight that so many different people come together at the Garden Expo ... all ages and races ... this really touches hearts across the spectrum."
For more information, contact the Starkville Area Arts Council at 662-324-3080, or visit starkvillearts.org.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.