Climate change and well-being are the hot topics during this year's Spring Gardening Extravaganza.
The annual gathering sponsored by the St. Louis County Extension Service runs from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. April 13 at First United Methodist Church at 230 E. Skyline Parkway. Registration is $35.
Bob Olen, longtime county extension agent, will be speaking on adapting, mitigating and benefiting from climate change. Horticulturist Tom Kasper will present on gardening for physical and mental well-being. And MPR commentator and University of Minnesota Extension climatologist Mark Seeley will discuss the implications of climate change for Northland gardeners.
"Minnesota is getting warmer and wetter with climate change," Seeley said by email.
Between frosts, we're seeing longer growing seasons by nine to 16 days. Also, a longer allergy and mold season and earlier appearances and more generations of certain insect species, he added. Trends of warmer and wetter will continue, and this will open the door for more invasive species to find a home here.
Actions to mitigate climate change are improving drainage in the garden; being mindful of plant nutrients and fertilizers so they don't wash through the root zone; and good green plant cover to help minimize damage that can follow significant rainfall, Olen said.
"Being good stewards of our soil and water resources has never been more important," added Seeley.
"Gardeners are finding ways to plant more diverse plants, conserve water, and protect the environment. ... More are using hoop houses and small greenhouses to extend the growing season (especially for edibles)."
On the flip side, an expansion of USDA Plant Hardiness Zones means a bigger pool of plants to choose from for landscaping.
And even though things are warming up a bit, we're still in a cold-weather climate, Olen said. We are seeing that an extended growing season makes it possible to mature some warmer-season crops, such as sweet potatoes and eggplants.
Past presentations at the Spring Gardening Extravaganza have been "Living off the Land: Your Edible Landscape," "Butterflies, Blooms and Bees" and "Mind, Body and Spirit." During this year's program, attendees can choose two workshops on topics like forest stewardship, edible landscapes, sustainable landscape design and more.
No worries if you miss something. Everyone goes home with a 75-page book with original content from each session.
Olen said we can do much in our own gardens to help improve the environment - avoiding synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and composting. The benefits for the latter run the gamut from suppressing plant diseases and pests and reducing methane emissions from landfills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
As far as the whole health approach to this hobby, Olen said he was reading about how gardening can alleviate mild depression. There's a fairly substantial body of evidence that this is good for your body and mental health, he said.
Asked if he had experience with that, Olen added, "You bet."
"There's something innately positive about living things. You can stay in the moment, stay focused on nurturing plants and that nice growth response. ... Very simple pleasures.
"We came from a garden, and we live in an increasingly urbanized society. Getting outside is very important."
If you go
What: Spring Gardening Extravaganza, sponsored by the St. Louis County Extension Service
When: 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. April 13
Where: First United Methodist Church, 230 E. Skyline Parkway
Admission: $35 per person
To register online, go to https://bit.ly/2YuW9hZ
More info: stlouiscountymn.gov/ext or call (218) 733-2870