Gardeners hope for foul-weather relief at Howard County Garden Festival Ponds, organic methods popular

April 23, 1993|By Patrick Hickerson | Patrick Hickerson,Contributing Writer

A very wet March and a cool April will be on many minds as the Seventh Annual Howard County Garden Festival kicks off tomorrow at Howard Community College.

This year's damp weather has meant that several gardeners are getting a late start, especially those who plant early and deep in the ground. The festival, sponsored by Howard County Garden Festival Inc. and Howard Community College, includes educational lectures, agrarian consumerism and weekend recreation .

Last year's festival attracted 950 people despite its own "horrendous" weather, said Georgia Eacker, president of Howard County Garden Festival Inc.

The festival attracts gardening and landscaping businesses that sell their goods to visitors. This year, 11 businesses, some from Howard County, will participate.

About 13 other organizations, including the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Howard County Recreation and Parks and various flower societies, will also be present to provide instruction and information.

The brief morning schedule of lectures tomorrow features "Pruning Techniques" at 10:30 a.m. and "Aquatic Gardening" at 11 a.m.

Ray Bosmans, a regional extension specialist at the Home & Garden Information Center on Homewood Road, will lead the morning "Aquatic Gardening" lecture, which discusses backyard ponds and lily ponds.

"It's really popular. People are really getting into it," he said.

He said that the rise in interest can be traced to pond-lining materials made of plastic and rubber that are more attractive than the older practice of dumping concrete into a hole.

Mr. Bosmans noted that the information center, which received about 55,000 calls last year, was quiet in the first few months of this year of blizzards, rain and cold.

"Soon as the weather broke, it started to get crazy," he said.

The five afternoon lectures are "Home Vegetable Gardening" at noon; "Renovation of the Older Landscape," 1:30 p.m.; "Bonsai Demonstration," 1:30 p.m.; "Attracting Wildlife with Native Plants," 2:30 p.m.; and "Integrated Pest Management," 3:30 p.m.

Mr. Bosmans' colleague Denise Sharp will lead the lecture on vegetable gardening.

Ms. Sharp cited variables such as cool soil temperature and too much precipitation as factors that inhibited planting cool season vegetables, which include lettuce, peas and potatoes.

She also said that most hard-core gardeners who attend these festivals are interested less in weather than in this year's "All American Selections" for the best in produce.

"Most of the people who come to the garden festival are avid gardeners," she said. "I usually do a basic talk that everyone can understand [with] something for both levels."

Ms. Sharp predicted that the early weather should have little effect on warm-weather vegetables -- such as corn, beans and peppers -- planted after the last frost, usually in mid-May.

Miriam Mahowald, a master gardener, will conduct the two afternoon seminars on pruning and pest management.

Ms. Eacker said that other contemporary earth-friendly events include composting displays, and demonstrations and advice from the master gardeners on such topics as lawn care that doesn't require pesticides. "You can help the environment by using less of the damaging controls, i.e. herbicides and pesticides," she said.

Throughout the day a program for 4- to 10-year-olds is scheduled with hands-on gardening and nature projects, including a compost demonstration by Northfield Elementary students.

"I've tried to develop a strong children's program, understanding the whole process of growth and propagation," Ms. Eacker said.

Saturday's weather forecast is a good omen: no rain or unseasonably cool temperatures.

The Seventh Annual Howard County Garden Festival will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. tomorrow at Howard Community College on Little Patuxent Parkway in Columbia. No admission is charged for any of the events.

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