Expo brings dreams of a green spring

All things green and growing were on the minds of visitors at the final day of the Home and Garden Expo 2014 Sunday afternoon.

“I think people have been getting spring fever,” said Tom Lockhart, manager of Earl May Nursery and Garden Center. “We’ve had a great turnout.”

The Earl May booth was selling flowers and fertilizer, and giving away free packets of vegetables and herbs. It’s nearly time to plant the veggies, Lockhart said, but still too early for the flowers.

“I want to plant flowers right now, through the snow,” said Deb Gevock, of Gowrie, as she picked out a packet of onions.

Gardeners seeking advice came ready to take notes to presentations by Jerry Kluver, lawn and garden expert with Hy-Vee’s “Get Growing” program.

Elaine Janssen, of Fort Dodge, brought in a sprig of juniper for examination and learned it was healthier than she had feared.

“What people had been telling me was a disease, turned out to be berries on a healthy bush,” she said.

Kluver touched on how to best fertilize tomatoes, when it was appropriate to cut back plants, how to deter deer and rabbits, and how to revitalize the soil.

Kluver said he challenged people to try new products to discourage deer and rabbits.

“Rabbits and deer become very immune to products,” he said.

In terms of pruning, the timing varies with the plant, Kluver said.

March or early April is the best time to prune a magnolia, he said. Hydrangea bushes should be cut back in the spring, when you can see the shoots, and roses should also get a bit of spring trimming.

“Don’t uncover them yet,” he said. “Maybe in three weeks we’ll see what the hot weather does. But you put the insecticide and the rose and flower food on once you see leaves. You’re going to want to prune them back to the green in the stem. Take the dead off.”

Janelle McCubbin, of Callender, had a page of notes on how to care for her lilacs.

“Just the bone meal around the lilac bushes,” McCubbin said. “I’m going to do that to help them bloom better, and removing the dead wood that is in my lilacs.”

She and her husband, Miles McCubbin, also bought one of Kluver’s soil test kits.

“He is so full of information. He’s just excellent,” Janelle McCubbin said.

There were free activities for kids this year at the expo. Alexa Hemmelrick, 11, of Dakota City, came by to build a birdhouse and plant some zinnia seeds in a cup.

She wasn’t sure where she would hang it.

“But we have this mulberry tree where all the birds hang out, so I think we’ll put it there,” Hemmelrick said.