Fall Flower and Garden Fest slated in Crystal Springs Oct. 17, 18

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 28, 2008

At the monthly Master Gardeners meeting last week, someone mentioned the upcoming Fall Flower and Garden Fest at Crystal Springs. It reminded me that it is probably not too early to get word out to the general public so garden lovers can get this fun-filled and educational event on their calendars for Oct. 17 and 18. This is the largest home gardening show in the Southeast. Admission and parking are free and the event is handicapped accessible. Hours are from 9 a.m. until 2 both days, and food vendors will have food and drinks.

For those few of you who have never heard of the Fall Flower and Garden Fest, let me give you a little background. For 29 years, the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, in cooperation with the Mississippi State University Extension Service and several other state, federal and county organizations have conducted a fall vegetable demonstration as part of a public field day, now known as the Fall Flower and Garden Fest.  

Visitors travel to the Truck Crops Experiment Station in Crystal Springs to tour ornamental and vegetable gardens, attend seminars, shop for plants and get information from dozens of experts. Last year’s fest attracted more than 6,000 attendees, most of whom were gardeners and the general public. Commercial growers, student groups, supplier representatives, researchers and media members make up the balance of the attendees.

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Each year, two large observational cultivar trials are planted for the fest: an annuals trial showcasing bedding plants, and a nearly one-acre vegetable garden featuring more than 300 entries across several dozen species. The vegetable trial is designed to feature traditional and locally available cultivars and species, award-winning cultivars, well-performing entries from previous trials, and new or unique cultivars offering visitors something they may not have seen or tried to grow before.

The trial is designed to have entries at peak harvest maturity for the fest weekend. That usually brings up the question, “how do they keep those vegetables looking that good so late in the season?” I can admit that many of the vegetables were seeded in the greenhouse in June and July and then the transplants were moved into the garden in either late-July, August, and some even in early-September. The tomatoes, for example, were seeded in the greenhouse June 20 and were moved into the garden July 20. Certain vegetables are not started in the greenhouse and are simply direct-seeded into the garden, such as the snap and butter beans, beets, carrots, peas and most of the greens.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi sponsored a Let’s Go Walkin’ Mississippi one-mile fun walk to kick off the fest last year. The same is planned for this year and will begin at 8:30 a.m. on the first day only. The first 300 participants will receive a free pedometer.

The 2008 Fall Flower and Garden Fest is a great outing or road trip for organized groups like garden clubs or church groups, too. So, service up the church bus or rent a van and bring the entire crew to experience the excitement.

John C. Coccaro is county Extension director. Write to him at 1100-C Grove St., Vicksburg, MS 39180 or call 601-636-5442. E-mail him at jcoccaro@ext.msstate.edu