Hey Juneau, how does your garden grow?

Biennial conference will offer 'a little bit for everyone'

Posted: Friday, May 14, 2010

Members of the Southeast Alaska Master Gardeners are preparing for the upcoming Southeast Alaskan Gardeners' Conference and Garden Tours which will run May 20-23 at the University of Alaska Auke Lake campus.

This biennial conference is the biggest gardening event in Southeast and it is even bigger this year as it is combined with Juneau's annual Garden Tours.

Kim Busch, a volunteer with the Juneau Master Gardeners, said this year's event promises to be informative, entertaining and will even offer gardeners a chance to get their hands dirty.

"There will be something for everyone, I think," she said. "Because of our early spring, I think people are excited about getting into the garden this year."

Busch said the conference is made up of two tracks.

"One for folks who are interested in gardening for food, edibles and grafting fruit trees. Then there will be another section for folks who are interested in ornamental gardening," she said.

Presentations will include a talk from Elizabeth Kunibe, an anthropology researcher for UAS, who explored what Native people have historically done with agriculture in Southeast. Specifically, Kunibe has found some surprising information on the potato varieties that flourish in this region.

Out-of-towner Dan Heims, with the Terra Nova Nursery in Portland, Ore., will offer up some new perennials that are sure to enjoy Juneau's rainy climate.

In addition, there will be presentations on organic edibles, low-maintenance landscaping, composting and how to attract native pollinators, to name a few. Some demonstrations, like the one led by Sam Benowitz, will encourage participants to get dirty as he talks on "Taking cuttings, how to get roots on sticks."

In conjunction, the group has organized tours of local gardens, as they do every year.

Busch said it's a great opportunity to get inspired and ask questions.

"You're able to go into local gardens and discover how other people have used plantings and rocks, for example, and to ask questions," she said.

The conference begins Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Mourant Dining Hall and runs through Sunday. All exhibits and talks will be held at the Auke Lake campus. Tickets for both the conference and the garden tours are $75. Cost for only the garden tours is $15. They can be purchased at Hearthside Books downtown, in the Nugget Mall, or at the UAS Cooperative Extension Service in the Bill Ray Center.

Busch said locals will also have the opportunity to pay by the day, with daily tickets being offered at the door for $20. Cost for food is not included.

For more information go online to www.sealaskamastergardeners.org.

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