Fall gardening workshop gets dirtyEven though lots of dirt got passed around, no one seemed to mind. It was just part of a fall gardening workshop sponsored by the St. Louis County Extension Office.
By: Thomas Vaughn, for the Budgeteer
Even though lots of dirt got passed around, no one seemed to mind. It was just part of a fall gardening workshop sponsored by the St. Louis County Extension Office.
Held at the Evergreen Senior Center on Grand Avenue, “Soils and Success: Looking Ahead to Gardening in 2013” attracted about 50 participants last month.
“I have a garden with poor, sandy soil, so I’m looking for ways to improve that,” said Anita Anderson, a Fredenberg Township resident. “I hope to learn how to make my soil the best it can be, where to get amendments and how to improve my garden.”
St. Louis County horticulturalist and educator Robert Olen circulated several bags of different types of dirt — sphagnum, mineralized, loamy — that people could feel and touch for texture.
“We’re focusing mainly on soils and soil test interpretation at this session,” said Olen.
Kathryn Halverson came from Lakewood for the workshop.
“I want to preserve my ancient indoor plants,” she said. “I want the soil to be right for them to live another few decades.”
Those who registered in advance for the workshop received a guide to collecting soil samples. Those who wanted to have their soil tested at the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities soil testing laboratory could bring their samples to the workshop and receive free shipping.
“To actually go through the process by yourself of actually sampling, then getting a composite sample and drying the sample, then packaging it, then mailing it to St. Paul — oftentimes that process breaks down for most folks,” said Olen, who added that performing a soil sample test during the fall has some benefits. “People will get results back this time of year very quickly, rather than in the spring when everyone’s lab gets very crowded and analytical results get delayed. That way, they’ll be ready for modification of lawns and gardens this fall; and what isn’t appropriate to modify this fall, they’ll be ready for early next spring.”
David Stauty, of Proctor, has attended county-sponsored gardening events before. He submitted a soil sample for testing and said he looks forward to the exchange of information that often takes place at the workshops.
“I do a lot of gardening,” he said. “You get to hear from other people — their problems and things. A lot of questions come up that you don’t think of, sitting at home. So, it’s good to come and hear other people.”
Kathleen Pettit, of Duluth’s West End, also brought a sample and said that the classes are better than trying to go it alone.
“I started coming about two years ago,” said Pettit. “I go to all the classes offered. I wouldn’t even know where to start if I were reading a book or looking on the Internet. They gave me the basics from the ground up and I can go from there to get what I need.”
St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg opened the event with a short talk. He recalled how Olen and he had originated the fall workshop idea over coffee almost one year ago. During a conversation at Beaner’s Central Coffeehouse the two had talked about the prevalence of clay in Morgan Park soil and what homeowners who wanted to garden more could do about it.
Both men said they were surprised at the level of interest in the workshop.
“I was hoping we’d get 10 or 15 people,” said Dahlberg. “But Bob — he’s like a school kid tonight — he was just giddy because he had 45 people sign up. Tonight we seem to be getting up to 50 or more. So, this is great. We’re tickled pink about this.”
After Olen shared all his information about soil composition during the lecture, Anita Anderson said she was glad she came.
“He was just really good at explaining the whole chemistry of the major nutrients of the soil and how each one works and what we have to do differently to manage each of those nutrients. So, it’s been really useful.”
Olen recommends the University of Minnesota Soil Testing Laboratory website as a good resource for people who may want to submit a soil sample on their own before the snow falls. That website is soiltest.cfans.umn.edu/resources.htm.
The Evergreen Center gardening workshop was also part of the St. Louis County Healthy Foods Initiative. To learn more about future workshops starting sometime in February or March of 2013, go to stlouiscountymn.gov/ext or call (218) 733-2870.