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"Ask a Gardener" was staffed by Master Gardeners of Otter Tail County.The banners resembled the old "Peanuts" cartoon strip, with the booth for psychiatric counseling. Engaging in Q and A in this photo are, from left, Roger Walvatne, Robert Wright and Ray Masters.

Thinking spring...and summer...and fall

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Thinking spring...and summer...and fall
Perham Minnesota 222 2nd Avenue SE 56573

"Think spring" was almost an understatement March 20 at Perham's Prairie Wind Middle School.

With sunshine and mild temperatures overhead, more than 350 garden enthusiasts were thinking spring, summer, and fall harvest.

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It was East Otter Tail Horticulture Day, and it got off to a busy start with more than 300 attending the keynote speech on perennials, by Michael Heger of Amber Gate Gardens.

More than 50 workshops were hosted throughout the day, many with presenters from East Otter Tail.To name a few:Jean Johnson on hostas; Carol Rethemeier on container gardening; Mary Dertinger and Wayne Sachs on mushrooms; The "Pickle Factory" on pickling and salsa;

In the hallways, more vendors than ever were stationed throughout the school.

Attendance for the day would have been even greater, commented Arnie Rethemeier, but the Fargo crowd that often attends "may be busy tossing sandbags."

An answer desk, staffed by Otter Tail Master Gardeners, was cleverly created to resemble the "psychiatrist, 5 cents" made famous in the "Peanuts" cartoon strip.

Staffing the Q and A desk for part of the day were Robert Wright, Battle Lake area, Ray Masters, Perham, and Roger Walvatne, from the Phelp's Mill area.

And what was their outlook for the garden season?

Well, its been an unusual stretch for the past three years-two hot, dry summers; capped off by a cool, damp summer of 2009.

"I'm hoping for a nice spring and a nice summer, said Wright.

The cool weather crops, like lettuce and cabbage, did well last summer, noted Ray Masters, but it was a bad year for tomatoes-for most gardeners.

"It's funny, but despite the cool weather last summer, my tomato crop did great," said Wright.He was one of the fortunate ones, evidently.

"I know a guy who had such a good tomato crop that he was putting them on peoples' doorsteps," said Masters, who confessed he didn't do well with tomatoes last summer, adding with a laugh "...But the guy never came to my door."

The cool summer of 2009 may have also had an impact on fall colors, believes Walvatne.

"The fall colors were very bland," said Walvatne.

Apples were another crop that may have suffered, he noted.

But like baseball players, there's always next season.And that's how the garden crowd is viewing the upcoming 2010 garden year.

"I'm liking what I see now," said Walvatne, glancing outside the school windows at the sunshine-and almost complete absence of white in the landscape.

"The snow is about gone, it is warming up earlier, and I'm excited," he said, adding a note of cautious optimism: "but then, it's still only March."

Garden shows draw loyal audience from throughout region

Garden and horticulture shows attract an almost cult-like following.

Such was evident March 20 in Perham; and similar attendance is expected at the big Underwood Garden Day March 27, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Underwood school.

As owner of "Blossoms, Birds and Beyond," Nick and Jodi Theroux display as vendors at numerous garden shows.Nick said he has been surprised over the years how many people cross several counties to attend horticulture events and shop at garden centers and nurseries.

"Gardeners look for destinations, they often go as a group and they go to more than one place," said Nick Theroux, who sees familiar faces at the shows and at the "Blossoms" center in Perham.

"People do travel for planting material. It's an outing and a social event," he said, noting that "Blossoms" usually sets up for at least four shows, including Alexandria and Long Prairie

Meanwhile, customers travel regularly from Becker, Otter Tail, Todd, Wadena, and Hubbard counties to shop at "Blossoms," as well as other Perham area merchants.

The Underwood garden show this Saturday will be similar in format to the East Otter Tail-Perham event.

For information, call the Extension Office in Fergus Falls at 218-998-8760.

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