The Dirt: Learning from the masters

All right, I confess: In my neglected garden, the arugula has bloomed, the spinach survives only because of our cool mountain nights, my three tomato plants are only now sporting their yellow blooms, and my tatsoi begs to be picked before it goes to seed. I didn't have the time to plant a garden as large as last year's (several pounds of jalapeños are crammed in my freezer, and a dozen jars of canned tomatoes still line my pantry). The other reason I didn't plant much? I was betting the farm that I'd be gardening someplace else by now, but our attempts to sell the property have gone about as well as last year's ill-fated campaign to keep the deer out of my French beans.

Garden structure: Master gardeners helped Isaac Dickson Elementary create a working garden — complete with raised beds, chicken coops, a hoophouse and more. Photo by Margaret Williams

Fortunately, other Western North Carolina growers' efforts have borne more fruit. Here are some sprigs of local garden news and hopes:

Master gardeners lead tour

What can you plant in the shade? Which plants do well in containers? What's the best way to get a compost pile going or attract birds and butterflies? How do you create a raised-bed garden?

On Saturday, June 27, master gardeners from Buncombe County cooperative Extension will answer these and many other questions during an educational tour of four home gardens and one elementary-school demonstration garden in the Asheville area. It's a chance to see what the masters can do — and glean tips for the rest of us.

“We want people to come away from this tour with real information they can put to work in their own gardens,” says tour coordinator Judy Deutsch. “Our role as community volunteers is to help folks learn, and we believe our tour will be a fun way to teach and share smart gardening techniques and ideas.”

Master gardeners will be on hand at each site, answering questions and providing tips on topics as varied as tending orchids and gardening with kids. The tour runs from 9 a.m. till 4 p.m., starting at Isaac Dickson Elementary School (125 Hill St. in Asheville). Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the Master Gardener Volunteer Program, a national initiative launched in 1972 that now operates in 46 states. Nationwide, some 15,000 master gardeners lend their expertise for both ongoing programs and special projects.

Tickets ($11) are available from the following event sponsors: B.B. Barns (3653 Sweeten Creek Road or at, Wild Birds Unlimited (1997 Hendersonville Road); and Grovewood Gallery (111 Grovewood Road). They're also available (for $10) at the Buncombe County Extension office (94 Coxe Ave. in Asheville) and, on the day of the tour, at Isaac Dickson.

Other sponsors that aren't selling tickets include Appalachian Creek Nursery and Landscape, Rux Gardens (Waynesville), Thyme in the Garden, Asheville Mulch Yard, 12 Bones Smokehouse, Earth Fare, Green Outdoors Landscaping and Nursery, and Mountain Rainwater Systems.
For more information, call the Buncombe County Extension Office at 255-5522.

Day lilies with a mission

You can never have too many day lilies in a yard. Hundreds of them grow wild along the road near our cabin. I can only guess that these orange wonders were originally planted on an old farm that once included our pasture. The old farmhouse is long gone, but those day lilies and a few venerable apple trees remain. And thanks to a generous neighbor, I'm free to dig up a few day lilies whenever I want some. But I'll still check out the more exotic ones being offered for sale Friday, June 26 (from 3 to 8 p.m.) and Saturday, June 27 (8 a.m. to 3 p.m.).

The day lily sale/garden tour will benefit Child Abuse Prevention Services. To date, Cheryl and Doug Alderman have raised $20,000 through the annual event on their property — an official display garden of the American Hemerocallis Society. Rare and unusual varieties of Hemerocallis in many colors will be on sale, priced from $2 to $10. The Alderman day-lily-a-thon takes place at 10 Sharon Road in Fairview. (From the Blue Ridge Parkway, travel east on Highway 74A eight miles, turn right on Upper Brush Creek Road, go one mile, turn right on Sharon Road and proceed to No. 10.)

Child Abuse Prevention Services — which served 10,000 individuals last year — works to reduce and prevent abuse, strengthen families and help children who've experienced abuse. The nonprofit provides personal-safety education and outreach, parenting education, and crisis intervention and counseling.
For more information or to become a supporter, call Child Abuse Prevention Services at 254-2000, write them at 50 S. French Broad AVE., Asheville, NC 28801, or e-mail

About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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