Columnists : Joan Swenson

Monday, Apr 06 2009 06:26 PM

Joan Swenson: Growing Garden Fest, cactus speaker, tiny gardens ideas flourish

The first Garden Fest at Bakersfield College four years ago had just seven exhibitors and 100 people who checked out the demonstrations and gardening booths.

Last year, 4,000 people turned out for the daylong event sponsored by the college's Environmental Horticulture program at the BC Arboretum. I expect that even more will attend the free Garden Fest next Saturday. Seminars on gardening run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the booths will include gardening clubs, schools, forestry, parks and recreation and "green" organizations, plus more than 100 vendors including nurseries and gardening-related businesses, pet businesses, and local artists at the festival.

Renegade Ranch Farmer's Market will sell products produced by BC ag students. Fresh fruit and vegetables from Murray Family Farms will also be for sale. Breakfast and lunch will be prepared by the BC Culinary Arts Department. The Arts and Crafts fair will be anchored by the BC Fine Arts Ceramics department, featuring art by faculty and students. There will be a petting zoo for children.

The new California Landscape Contractors Association Garden Stage will be the site of free seminars presented by industry professionals beginning at 9 a.m. with a build-a-pond seminar by Buck's Landscape Materials and Pond Shop. Other 45-minute demonstrations will be given by Country Garden radio hosts Dale Edwards of Old River Sod and BC environmental horticulture professor Lindsay Ono; the Bakersfield Orchid Society; Bakersfield Green Thumb Garden Club; and nurseries including Bolles, Reimer's, and Robby's.

Some of the groups who are expected to attend are The Tree Foundation of Kern, Bakersfield Koi and Water Garden Club, the Kern County Camellia Society, The Hope Center, Operation Smile, Kern High School District ag programs, community gardening clubs, BC students and clubs. Businesses, government and professional organizations expected to attend will be Old River Sod, Reimer's Wholesale Nursery, Bolles Nursery, Robby's Nursery, White Forest Nursery, Buck's Landscape Materials and Pond Supplies, The Flowergod.com, Abate-A-Weed, General Tree Service, Willits and Newcomb Citrus Growers, Weeks Roses, California Landscape Contractors Association, the U.S. Forest Service, BLM, and Kern County Parks and Recreation.

Brazilian cactus speaker

The Bakersfield Cactus and Succulent Society will have a special guest speaker, Guillermo Rivera, who is traveling from Argentina to give a presentation titled "Cacti from Central Brazil: Minas Gerais and Bahia State" at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in Room 604 of Building 6 at Olive Drive Church, 5500 Olive Drive.

Tiny garden

A reader wrote to ask what to plant and how to plant it in a small garden space, just 8 by 10 feet.

Here are my suggestions: Plant vegetables that will be high producers and low space-users. Consider climbing up instead of spreading out, using trellises or staking. There are a number of vegetables that produce smaller vines, examples being squash or melons. A quick look at the Burpee catalog turned up "Picklebush" cucumbers that have a 24-inch spread, watermelon "Bush Sugar Baby" with 40-inch vines, and cantaloupe "Honey Bun," a bush-type melon. Cucumbers or melons can be grown on heavy metal trellises. If you don't want to trellis some vegetables, there are bush varieties, such as bush beans, that grow knee-high.

Growing "patio" type tomatoes (it will list "patio" on the label), which can be grown in a small area or in pots, is also a good option.

I would plant basil, eggplant, a couple of zucchini (or similar squash), but avoid corn (space hog -- needs several rows to be fruitful). You can plant carrots and beets but avoid the months of May through July.

I'd only plant what I could do well; if the professional farmers can grow it better and more cheaply, I do not plant it. For example, we tried potatoes, but for the quantity harvested and effort involved, it was wiser for us to buy Edison-grown potatoes that were cheaper and better quality.

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