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Ft. Smith and back

June 5, 2014
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As many MG’s learned last week, there is a lot of road construction on Arkansas highways. It seems no matter which direction I drive, there is more and more of it.  From orange barrels to cement barricades and orange cones, I went through a lot heading to Ft. Smith today.  A normal drive would take me slightly less than 2 1/2 hours but today it was 3.  I was doing a summer training of Master Gardeners at the Learning Fields in Ft. Smith (actually Barling, Ft. Chaffee).  These gardens are one of the big projects for the River Valley Master Gardeners, and it just gets bigger and better every year.

I started out speaking to their new trainees, with a nice mix of people.

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Since I was their speaker all afternoon, when we took a mid-day break, I went out and looked at the gardens.  They are really impressive.  From vegetables and fruits, to flowers, herbs, bog gardens, heirloom plants, wildflowers, childrens garden and more, there is a garden planted here for all.  It is a huge project and gets bigger all the time. They also have a greenhouse, the meeting room where the training was going on, and outdoor pavilion, gazebo, trails, and more. Today they were adding new metal gates at the entrance.

blackberries learning field.june 5. heirloom tomato planting learning fields june5.2 learning fields june 5.14.1 learning fields june 5.14.4 learning fields june 5.14.5 learning fields june 5.14.6

These Master Gardeners sure know what they are doing. Their vegetables were huge already–both cool and warm season.

heirloom tomato planting learning fields june5.1 potato plants with blooms squash learning fields june5.

And I was impressed that their lantana not only survived the winter but it is huge already–mine did not come back, and I am way further south.  Did yours overwinter?

lantana overwintered ft. smith.

Their butterfly weed (Aesclepias tuberosa) was also huge and in full bloom. Mine are beginning to bloom, but are much younger plants, but still! Butterflies were everywhere along with bumblebees.

butterfly weed aesclepias learning fields june5.

They said they had a visiting group of Master Gardeners from another county coming to visit. If your group would like to see a great garden, contact them and arrange a visit.  I think the downside to this project is that it isn’t exactly on the beaten path–you don’t just happen by it, so they need more visitors.  It is worth the drive there.  This is a dedicated group of volunteers.

I made it home in less time than it took to get there.  Less work and traffic in the evening hours.  All the storms and rain predicted from here to there and back did not materialize. I had a few sprinkles a couple of times, but not much at all. More is predicted for tomorrow, so we shall see.  I did have time to make a quick walk of my garden when I got home and picked the first 5 (I ate one before the picture) blueberries of the season.  They were really good.

blueberries first harvest june 5.

Tomorrow is the deadline to apply for the Statewide Saturday MG training.  Let me know if you are interested. We have had quite a few applications and many are coming in these last few days.   I head to Saline County in the morning to begin tour planning for the 2015 MG State Conference.  One ends, and another begins!  Exciting times.

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