Hold the date! It's a gardener's paradise
Published: Saturday, February 2, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 1, 2013 at 2:19 p.m.
The UF/IFAS Marion County Master Gardeners are an extremely busy bunch. They've been working almost a year now on the annual Spring Festival which takes place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 9 and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 10 at UF/IFAS Marion County Extension Service, 2232 NE Jacksonville Road, Ocala. This year's theme is "Gardening for Food, Color and Fun." If you're new to Marion County and surrounding areas, it's the event that gardeners in the area attend to kick off spring planting — so don't miss it. It's the place to shop and soak up educational information to help you be successful at gardening in Central Florida.
Plan to spend the entire day at the event, if possible. This will give you an opportunity to attend one or more of the many educational sessions in the auditorium or demonstration gardens taught by Master Gardeners, professionals, county staff and University of Florida faculty. Topics include: "Growing Fruit Trees," "Composting," "Organic Pest Control," "Lawn Care," "Invasive Pest Species" and "Attracting Butterflies and Birds." A complete listing of the educational programs can be found on the Spring Festival website at www.marioncountyfl.org/springfestival.htm.
As you stroll through Education Alley, explore the many resources and opportunities for learning available through UF/IFAS Marion County Extension Service: the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods, 4-H, Nutrition and Food Safety, Housing and Finance, Small Farms and Farm Outreach programs. Other organizations included are: Friends of Rainbow Springs State Park, Marion Rose Society, Marion County Utilities, Marion County Parks and Recreation, Silver River State Park and Pioneer Garden Club.
There will be approximately 70 vendors in 130 vendor booth spaces. Everything you could possibly need for your garden will be available for purchase at the event, including Florida-friendly landscaping plants, vegetable seeds and seedlings, fruit trees, palms, gardening décor and many more items. There will be two ATMs on site, and several holding areas located throughout the grounds. Marion County 4-H members operate a tote service at the event to help haul your purchases to a pick-up area. They work for tips. Most of them do this every year and save their money to purchase supplies for 4-H projects, college or even a car.
The on-site demonstration gardens area (including herbs, vegetables, shade and butterfly gardens) is a must-see during the festival. The plants in the gardens thrive well in Marion County. You can stroll through and read the labels, or ask questions of the Master Gardeners strategically placed throughout the gardens. Do you have a garden problem you need answered? Bring a sample of the problem, or a good photo, and ask one of the Master Gardeners at the Question and Answer Booth — the little white house with the University of Florida Master Gardener logo.
Gardening is a family affair, so bring the kids with you. This year we've added a 4,800-square-foot Kids Gardening Zone. Children will get a chance to plant an herb in a bottle to take home and play Insect Mouthparts Relay, Bug Bingo and many other games. Some of the activities are on a schedule, so when you arrive, visit the Kids Gardening Zone for an agenda. The "Bug Man" will be in Kids Gardening Zone with his enormous collection of insects — most from right here in Florida. The Discovery Science Center also will be present, offering engaging activities. Marion County Public Schools Future Farmers of America (FFA) will be on hand to display some of their work. After participating in events in the Kids Gardening Zone, young gardeners will receive a goodie bag of supplies compliments of "Fresh From Florida" and South Florida Water Management District.
After you completed your day with us, spend a few minutes at the exit gate and fill out a short survey about our event and receive a free tomato plant, while supplies last. Surveys only will be available on Saturday.
For more information, call 671-8400, or visit www.marioncountyfl.org/springfestival.htm. See you there!
Norma Samuel is the Urban Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Marion County Extension Service. Contact her at norma.samuel@ marioncountyfl.org.