When Portage County's Master Gardeners got together to decide what they could contribute to this year's Farm Technology Days, they were not going to be content to pot some flowers and beautify the grounds.
Lynn Caine and Gail Zalewski said that they wanted to make Portage County's Farm Technology Days show (Aug. 12-14) in Stevens Point into a truly educational experience for those interested in horticulture and gardening.
"We're all about proper education," said Caine, during an interview at Media Day for the show.
The county has a cadre of 60 volunteer Master Gardeners who work with the University Wisconsin-Extension. They get many hours of continuing education and supply volunteer service, working in local parks and doing garden programs in the wintertime.
Often these Master Gardeners are on hand to answer questions that come in to the county UW-Extension office. Zalewski said this spring they fielded a lot of questions from homeowners about conifers that were damaged by the harsh winter weather.
They spend a lot of time educating homeowners about the kinds of plants that grow in their area, put on a plant sale each spring and sponsor garden tours.
Caine said the group of garden volunteers has organized to create a lot of displays in Tent City for the show. There will be a pallet garden, a straw bale garden, edible gardens, a square-foot garden and a Polish heirloom garden in recognition of the many people in the area who are descendants of immigrants from Poland.
The immigrants "grew what they liked to eat, and they settled in this area because they could grow the same food they were used to in Poland," Caine said.
That vegetable garden will include tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, onions and rutabagas, as well as herbs that were part of their cuisine. Certain heirloom varieties that were part of their gardens during the immigrant period will be showcased in Tent City.
In addition the gardeners will create a prairie or natural theme with prairie flowers like coneflowers and grasses as well as foxgloves outside the Family Living tent.
The women said they have enthusiastic volunteer gardeners who are tending pots of flowers, vegetables and grasses that will be transferred to the various plots and gardens in time for the show.
The event for this group of avid gardeners will be similar to what is done for major garden shows where there is a garden "installation" that happens right before the show starts.
They are expecting an army of Master Gardeners and other volunteers to show up with shovels the weekend prior to the show to dig holes and put potted plants into their new homes in time to be seen by the 60,000 or so visitors that organizers expect to attend the show.
They have also organized a crew to water the gardens during the show.
The Master Gardener contingent will also have a display in the Progress Tent and be available to explain what's going on in their various displays.
"We wanted to do a lot more education," Caine said. "That's what the Master Gardener program is all about."
The ambitious committee includes about 10 members and a group of 25-30 from the Master Gardeners group who will be helping during the show.