If you're out and about early Saturday, you just might spot them. They'll be your slightly "enthusiastic" gardening neighbors and friends ("fervent" is really a better word) jumping into their cars or catching rides at a weekend morning time usually reserved for slippers, coffee and fighting the kids and the tabby cats for the rocking chair in front of the fire. These green thumb folks, or those wanting to turn thumbs to green or those not even really caring if the plants make it or not but who like to hear about growing things will be on their way to the Clatsop County Fairgrounds.

There, starting at 8 a.m., they will register for the annual Clatsop County Master Gardener Spring Garden Seminar, perhaps get a refill on coffee and jockey for the best seats to hear Portlander Lucy Hardiman talk about getting her hands dirty. With lessons on bees and soil building later in the day, joined by talks on trees and evergreens, fuchsias and lawns, I imagine the doors on the fecund fairgrounds exhibit hall will burst open later that afternoon with a legion of gardeners tumbling out in search of something to plant, pick or prune.

Gardening is alive and well on the coast, in no small part to the efforts of the Clatsop County Master Gardener Association to spread the word through events such as the annual Spring Garden Seminar, and to give time back to the community, as in the 2,165 hours that local Master Gardeners gave to service projects in 2002.

"We are a diverse bunch in terms of our own backgrounds, our gardening experience and even the conditions we garden in," Pacific County, Wash., gardener Terri Shields wrote me recently. She's a Clatsop County Master Gardener and holds the position of secretary this year in that organization. "That's what makes our group so interesting." I will tell you that our new president gardens near Elsie; the president-elect is out in Brownsmead; the vice-president is in Seaside; the treasurer is in Warrenton; the state representative lives along the Lewis & Clark River and the alternate rep. is on a city lot smack dab in the middle of Astoria.

As in the past, Extension Agent Justin Williams has had to turn people away this year from the Clatsop County Master Gardener training because of its popularity, Shields said. And, thanks to events such as the Spring Garden Seminar, the group's largest fund-raising event of the year, the local Master Gardener Association foresees continuing its outreach. In addition to the classes, a plant sale and raffle will help bring in money so that the Clatsop County Master Gardeners can continue to blossom and grow.

If you decide to attend Saturday's events, here is a list of the classes from which you can choose. Hardiman, a sixth-generation Oregonian whose garden has been featured in national publications and who regularly graces garden shows and magazine pages, will speak from 9 to 10:30 a.m. There are breaks between each session, and box lunches will be available for sale at the noon break.

Meanwhile, you can choose one of the following classes for Session 2, which runs from 10:50 a.m. to noon:

• "Backyard Beekeeping for Your Garden," with Michael Bunch and Thom Trusewicz, offers insight into honeybee hierarchy, jobs in the hive, the life cycle of bees and beekeeping equipment, among other bee topics. If you want to become a beekeeper, you can get an introduction, or if you simply want to learn more about honeybees and how they benefit our gardens, you can learn that, too.

• "Hardy Fuchsias" is a chance to learn from Don and Betty Jean Wagoner, the owners of Fuchsialand.com, about fuchsias in your garden and how properly to build your own hanging fuchsia baskets and mixed containers. Don Wagoner has worked in the nursery industry for years and the Wagoners will offer fuchsia start plants for sale at the Garden Seminar, with a portion of the proceeds to be donated to the Clatsop County Master Gardener program.

Session 3, which lasts from 12:45 to 2 p.m., features two class choices. They are:

• "Revitalizing Your Soil the Natural Way With Humus," a discussion by soil biologist Melissa Finn about the symbiotic relationship between microscopic soil critters and plants in your garden. Finn works with Nature's Needs in North Plains, Oregon's only living soil farm.

Organic humus can revitalize your soil, meaning stronger, healthier plants and less reliance upon chemicals. Humus will be available for purchase at the Seminar, again with some profits going toward the Master Gardener Program.

• "Lawn Care: The Path to a Sensible, Healthy Lawn" is Nehalem garden consultant and landscape specialist Joe Balden's take on "managing your lawn instead of it managing you!"

The final session from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. features two classes:

• "Evergreen Perennials for Year-Round Interest" marks a return to the Spring Garden Seminar by Amy Cathcart of Blooming Nursery in Cornelius, who has talked in the past about ornamental grasses. She will offer suggestions for what she says are "beautiful, reliable, evergreen perennials that provide drama and interest to the garden year-round."

• "Trees in Your Landscape: A Guide to Caring for Ornamentals and Fruit Trees" features Joe Balden, who in addition to his landscape expertise is a certified arborist. A longtime Master Gardener, Balden will discuss all aspects of tree care, including selection, planting tips, pruning techniques and how to evaluate tree health.

Other attractions include local vendors, the annual plant sale, a raffle for specialty baskets, a chance to wander through the Master Gardeners' Demonstration Garden outdoors and judging for the third annual People's Choice Contest. People who attend the seminar will vote for their favorite garden display, which has been created and entered by a current Master Gardener, and the winner will receive $25.

Cathy Peterson belongs to the Clatsop County Master Gardener Association. "In the Garden" runs weekly in Coast Weekend. Please send comments and gardening news to "In the Garden," The Daily Astorian, P.O. Box 210, Astoria, OR 97103 or online to peterson@pacifi er.com

If you go ...The Clatsop County Master Gardeners' Spring Garden Seminar is from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Clatsop County Fairgrounds, 92937 Walluski Loop. The registration fee is $18. Students are free with identification. Register at the door, or by picking up a registration form from the Oregon State University Extension Office, Room 210, 2001 Marine Drive. For more information, call (503) 325-8573.


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