Lance Ellis

Ellis

Annually, University of Idaho Extension teams up with the Applied Plant Sciences Department at Brigham Young University-Idaho to host one of the region’s most interesting and educational gardening events available to the general public.

It’s the Regional Master Gardener Convention, which is held in the Thomas E. Ricks Demonstration Gardens on the BYU-Idaho campus in Rexburg. The event is open to the public and offers a wide range of horticulture classes in an outdoor setting.

This event is unique from your standard educational events since the presenters will not have PowerPoint presentations in a classroom but will only teach using hands-on techniques in an outdoor garden setting. The cost to attend this event is $35 if you register ahead of time and gives you the opportunity to attend six classes with lunch provided. For those who don’t pre-register, the cost is $40 at the door.

I would personally describe it as one of the best opportunities for an outdoor learning experience, where you will gain new skills and be trained in new gardening techniques. Each class focuses on some aspect of gardening and landscaping in Idaho. There will be a class on pruning shade and ornamental trees in our area, which we all have, and yet the majority of the population has no idea how to prune them correctly.

You will learn how to cut tree branches correctly, how to shape a tree, identify which branches need to be removed and proper thinning methods. If you are considering starting your own backyard nursery to make some extra money or put your green thumb to full use, then the class explaining the basics of running your nursery business from home will help you know if this is a plausible idea before you jump into it. In our arid region, watering and water-saving are one of the most critical and misunderstood gardening practices homeowners need help improving.

Two classes will be teaching aspects of garden irrigation; one on drip irrigation system design/installation, and the other on collecting rainwater and using it effectively to save on home water usage. There are interesting ways to prune your fruit trees, such as espalier pruning, which is great if you have a small yard or space and still want to produce your own fruit.

If wildflowers and hiking are things that you are interested in, there will be a class that will combine both of these, which will focus on how to collect wildflower seed and then how to recreate those plants in your own backyard garden. Another fun class will be on air layering, which is a concept a lot of people have not heard of but is a proven horticulture propagation method: Basically, you can make more plants from your existing plants.

We all visit gardens, enjoy picnics on the lawn and go camping in the back-country, but there will be a class offered to teach you how to use nature as more than just a momentary getaway and instead a restorative experience overall.

Due to our high-alkaline mineral soils, we struggle with issues such as iron chlorosis, nutrient deficiencies and a plethora of other soil-related problems. The nutrient-deficiency class will help homeowners with the first step in resolving these issues, which is diagnosing how issues manifest themselves and then what options are available to resolve them.

Homeowners often send me pictures of insect-damage on plant leaves and tree bark, trying to find out what can be done to eliminate the problem. One class option during the convention will help with identifying options for insect control. Finally, a lot of people really enjoy saving seeds from existing flowers and vegetables but don’t know proper methods of how to collect seeds and store them successfully. Hands-on learning will help you become the neighborhood expert in collecting and using your own seeds for future planting and use.

If you would like to pre-register for this annual event, contact your local county extension office to get a flier, select the six classes you are interested in taking and mail your selections and $35 to the address listed on the flier. We look forward to seeing you at the Thomas E. Ricks Gardens on June 28. For further questions, contact Lance at (208) 624-3102.

Lance Ellis is the University of Idaho Extension educator for Fremont County. He can be reached at 208-624-3102.