Boone County Purdue Extension, 1300 East 100 South, Lebanon, IN 46052 [email protected] 765-482-0750

Gardenfest April 6, 2024

Gardenfest was a huge success! Here’s the review that appeared in the Lebanon Reporter

Gardenfest 2024. Planting for a Cause.

By Tom Ewing

On a freezing morning, after a cold and rainy week, a beautiful, colorful day finally burst open: the 36th Annual Gardenfest, on Saturday, April 6 at the Boone County Fairgrounds.

Gardenfest is the annual garden extravaganza hosted by the volunteer Boone County Master Gardeners (BCMG). It’s a popular event – 800 people, a record, attended this year; as usual, the first 300 received a free tree seedling – native trees, of course – bur oak, redbud or common buttonbush. Twenty-three vendors participated.

Boone County businesses Jones Greenhouse, Four Branches Outdoor Solutions, GreenCycle and Dull’s Tree Farm sponsored the “Pansy Patch,” an always popular place because kids can literally dig into some garden work, getting their hands nice and dirty working with soil, plants and planters. Four Branches and Dull’s were new sponsors this year.

The Boone County Solid Waste District was another new sponsor and participant, providing recycling and composting information and giving away items – from pencils to shopping bags – to show a wide range of everyday products made from recycled materials (mostly plastic).

Gardenfest is an early chance to buy plants, tools, books, and all kinds of hand-crafted garden must-haves, from flowerpots to T-shirts to birdhouses (one, believe it or not, with a Sylvester the Cat theme!). Seeds for native plants are popular. This year the Master Gardeners’ seed-team sold 778 seed packets (all seed revenue goes to BCMG grant programs). The event also offers soil testing – people can bring samples to check for pH balance.

Revenue from Gardenfest is critical for BCMG’s activities, which include community education, efforts to eradicate invasive species and raising and donating food from community gardens. BCMG and Habitat for Humanity in Boone County have a ten year partnership.

Master Gardeners complete an intensive 14-week Purdue University program, earning certified status in topics ranging from pesticides to insect control to fruit and vegetable gardening. Each year, Gardeners are required to complete at least six hours of training and help with local community projects.

Gardenfest includes educational sessions. The topics this year covered –

•    “Pollinator Plants” led by Jared Spokowsky, apiary specialist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

•    “The Laws of Attraction – Birds, Butterflies and Bees” led by Jennifer Davies & Karen Smith, specialists in environmental education and raptors and native birds.

•    “So You Bought an Orchid, Now What?” led by Rachel Walker, an officer with the Central Indiana Orchid Society.

One ongoing BCMG focus is eradicating invasive species, e.g., honeysuckle and garlic mustard. This year it was announced that a new Boone County Invasives Cooperative was established, an office that will operate as a local agent, but still be part of Indiana’s statewide program. The new effort has four goals:

•    Helping people start eradication efforts.

•    Developing partnerships to leverage and expand programs.

•   Education and training.

•    Finally – elimination, or at least keeping invasives under control.

Leslie Cain is a Zionsville Master Gardener with a focus on controlling invasives. She explained the upgraded, local program status will help Boone County home and property owners because local expertise, plus state level resources, can operate more extensively and efficiently. She added that Master Gardeners can help homeowners identify invasives and help with planning best approaches for removal and then recovery or replanting.

Andrea Hatfield is Purdue’s Boone County Extension Director at Lebanon. Purdue is Indiana’s land grant university. As such, its mission includes educational efforts beyond a central campus, hence the extension offices. Programs like Gardenfest align with Purdue’s mission. “Gardenfest’s role,” she commented, “is to help share horticulture education with the community. People interested in gardening issues will find what they are looking for here today.” (For information contact Hatfield at 765-482-0750 or [email protected].)

For vendors, Gardenfest offers a chance to sell their goods, of course, but it also helps with marketing and expanding their customer base, both locally and regionally. Benedicts Nursery could be the most distant vendor. Benedicts is based in Nappanee, IN, 20 miles south of South Bend.

Mark Davidson operates Davidson Greenhouse & Nursery in Crawfordsville. This is his 20th year as a Gardenfest vendor. Saturday’s sales were brisk. And he added that visibility at Gardenfest provides a “win-win kind of marketing,” which is expensive for a small business. “I meet people here,” he said, “who otherwise wouldn’t know about us in Crawfordsville. Today we’re able to sell and market at the same time. This expands our customer base. People from Gardenfest visit our nursery.”

Tom Ewing is a freelance writer in Zionsville.

Enjoy these photos from Gardenfest 2024. Thank you to Ron Burkhardt, our Gardenfest photographer.

Thank you to Head Gardenfest chair- Linda Trips and Vendor chair- Cheryl Pleak Copeland

Kids (and their parents!) had great fun decorating and planting their Pansy pots at the Pansy Patch

Our “Pollinator Plant” speaker, Jared Spolowsky, apiary specialist

Rachel Walker shared her expertise on Orchids and how to take care of them in your home

Karen Smith and Jennifer Davies gave their presentation “The Laws of Attraction – Birds, Butterflies and Bees”.

Happy Shoppers Where are you, Tweety Bird?

Native seed packets and meadow mix were for sale at the Master Gardeners Education area

Soil was tested for pH and information about soils was available here

Who can resist these homemade pies and cakes and sandwiches at our Garden Cafe?

Lots of great plants were for sale at the vendors’ booths.

Lots of information about pollinators, native plants suitable for growing in Boone County, controlling invasive plants, community gardens, Purdue horticulture publications and how to become a Master Gardener were available at our Education area

So many unique garden “must haves” were available for purchase at our Potting Shed

We look forward to seeing you at Gardenfest 2025 on April 5, 2025!