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Everything coming up roses (& more) at fair
Two visitors to the San Joaquin County Fair stop in the horticulture building to admire this fruit-bearing bonsai grape tree which is just one of the many creative garden attractions. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO
Avid gardeners will find many freebies to take home and plenty of gardening ideas at the San Joaquin County Fair which is wrapping up its final day today from noon to 7 p.m.

As soon as you step inside the fair’s main entrance, look immediately to your left and you will see a rose tree-lined meandering walkway. Along one side of the walkway are garden plots, each with a separate theme and concept.

The first plot is a demonstration on composting complete with posted information on how to do it and the benefits of using compost in the garden.

Another plot is a sample of a kids’ garden and some of the creative ways to jazz it up. The plot was actually the handiwork of a 10-year-old. Next to it is a “Giving Garden.” The posted sign reads: “You never labor, nor cause it to grow, yet it grows.... Why?” Below it is a sign that lists a few of the plants that make up a giving garden - peppers, tomatoes, carrots, corn, pumpkins, strawberry.

“Elegant Cure” is the name of another plot containing samples of plants with medicinal purposes, but aesthetically pleasing at the same time, such as rosemary, geranium, pansies, sunflowers and calendula with accompanying explanations on how these can be used.

Then there’s the plot about “Cover Crops, the cornerstones of agriculture.” This low-cost, low-maintenance form of agriculture and gardening is part of the central theme of the Stockton-based nonprofit, all-volunteer young organization that put up this newest attraction at this year’s county fair. It’s called Puentes: Building Sustainable Communities, a grass-roots program that promotes community-supported gardens.

Finally, there’s the “No-till Garden” which is all about mulching for decorative or protective, or both, purposes. From here, the rose walkway leads the visitor right to the front of the horticulture building where more gardening information are being provided by several master gardeners from the University of California Cooperative Extension. Among the master gardeners manning the information tables were master gardeners Claire Patton of Manteca and Harry Dedini of Ripon. In addition to being there to immediately answer questions, the master gardeners have tons of free brochures and printed literatures on a host of gardening topics including: tree selection, “The 10 ‘Most Wanted’ Bugs in Your Garden,” yellowjackets, IPM (Integrated pest management) & Beneficial Insects,” peach leaf curl, pocket gophers, mowing your lawn and “grasscycling, just to name a few. The publication of the 18-page glossy brochure on tree selection was made possible with funding from AB 939 and the cities and County of San Joaquin. A complete collection of all the brochures makes a handy, comprehensive compilation of information for every avid gardener, or someone in agri-business. And all at free of charge.

To get them all, depending on supply that is still available, head over to the county fair today between noon and 7 p.m.

For more information on the master gardeners program or any of the topics above, visit the University of California Cooperative Extension web site at

To learn more about the community supportive gardens or Puentes: Bridging Sustainable Communities, write to: Puentes, 4555 Pershing Avenue, #33-375, Stockton, CA 95207.