By Eric Wilson-Edge
Kids have candy stores. Adults have high cholesterol and have to avoid candy. Instead, we go to plant sales. There’s a big one on May 17. I’ve gone the last two years and come home with all manner of plants. There’s the Sneezeweed with its brilliant red and yellow flowers or the late blooming but equally impressive Japanese Anemone. Then there’s the one whose stalks resemble minarets (I lost the marker).
I’m drawn to the strange but there are plenty of recognizable plants available at the Dirt Works sale. “What we try to do is have really good plants at inexpensive prices,” says Master Gardener, Midge Miller. The annual sale is a fundraiser for the Master Gardener Foundation of Thurston County.
The Master Gardeners are a national program that started in Washington. Their presence in the Olympia area is widely felt. “We have three demonstration gardens in Thurston County,” says Miller. “There’s one at the Olympia Farmers Market, the landfill and here at Dirt Works.”
Dirt Works is located at the back end of Yauger Park. It’s equal parts school, laboratory and garden. Here you can learn how to compost or how to create a shade garden. “Kids come out and learn how to plant things, how to harvest things and how to maintain raised beds,” says Miller.
I can see some of the vegetables are already sprouting. The food grown here will be donated to the food bank. Some of the money collected at the sale will go towards scholarships. Maybe it’s trite, but the idea of cultivating and growing extend beyond the flora.
If you’ve never been to the plant sale, here’s a piece of advice. Arrive early. “We open at 9:00 a.m. but people will start lining up at the gate thirty minutes early,” says Miller. Hundreds come every year in search of that one plant. In this way it’s like Costco. You know what you want but you leave with a whole lot more.
All of the seeds and starts are donated by the Master Gardeners. These men and women work throughout the year in anticipation of the sale. Keep this in mind if you can’t find a particular kind of blueberry. There will be lots of blueberries but since everything is donated you might not get everything you want.
Don’t worry about the crowds or how you’ll carry your purchases. Upon arrival you’ll be given a number with a color attached. When you find something you like just bring it to the table and it will be waiting for you when you’ve finished.
And what if you need help deciding? “We’ll have personal shoppers onsite who can give you some ideas,” says Miller. The same goes for the plant illiterate. Experts will be on hand to answer your questions.
So, you can’t have candy. Growing your own fruits and vegetables is healthier and more fun. Plus, you’ll be helping your community and that’s pretty sweet.
The Dirt Works plant sale is on Saturday, May 17 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For directions and information about the Master Gardener program visit the website by clicking here.