The Literary Gardener – October 2016

“Anyone who thinks gardening begins in the spring and ends in fall is missing the best part of the whole year, for gardening begins in January with the dream.” ~ Josephine Nuese, “The Country Garden,” 1970

For some gardeners, wintertime means growing cold weather crops or enriching garden soil with cover crops. For many other gardeners, however, the months between November and February are for dreaming of their next vegetable, herb and flower gardens—always better than last year’s!

That’s why Rogue Valley gardeners are truly fortunate that the Jackson County Master Gardener Association hosts an annual gardening symposium on the first Saturday of November to help fuel winter gardening dreams with new ideas and gardening techniques.

This year the Winter Dreams/Summer Gardens Symposium will take place from 9:00am to 4:30pm on Saturday, November 5 at the RCC/SOU Higher Education Center in downtown Medford. Cost of the event is $45, which includes lunch, or $50 at the door. To see all of the class descriptions and to register in advance (always recommended), visit the JCMGA website at

I’m excited about this year’s symposium. Although I’ve participated for several years, there are many new classes for 2016 that will make it difficult for me to choose just one to attend during each of the four sessions. I’ll also need to make time to visit the Seed Swap and Northwest Nature Shop in between classes.

Included in the lineup this year is a focus on soil, beginning with a keynote presentation from James Cassidy, a soil science professor at Oregon State University. Cassidy’s expert knowledge and entertaining style have made his soil classes hugely popular among OSU students. Other presenters will continue the topic of soil, including Kristin Ohlson, author of “The Soil Will Save Us,” and OSU Extension Service soil experts Rhianna Simes and Scott Goode, who will lead beginning and advanced Soil Alchemy classes.

Additional themes among class offerings include: how to successfully grow a variety of edible crops and ornamental plants in our local climate; how to attract pollinators and beneficial insects to our gardens (and how to safely rid our gardens of insect pests); how to preserve harvests; and garden design techniques geared toward a wide range of garden sizes and purposes.

I think gardeners relish growing our own food and flowers because doing so, even in small suburban or urban spaces, connects us to the natural world. All of the symposium classes address building healthy relationships with nature in one way or another. A few examples include classes on: urban homesteading, ecological gardening, seed saving, propagating from seeds and vegetative cuttings, sustainable garden design, bokashi composting, and landscape irrigation techniques to conserve water.

While we’re practicing responsible stewardship through our gardening, we must also take care of ourselves. The “Strong Gardener” class, presented by Rogue Valley physical therapist Jeremy Brady, will address common physical ailments among gardeners and provide tips for keeping our bodies healthy and flexible.

I hope I’ve enticed you to continue learning about gardening by participating in the 2016 Winter Dreams/Summer Gardens Symposium. There’s something for everyone—beginning classes for those who are new to gardening or to the Rogue Valley, as well as more advanced classes for experienced gardeners. Master Gardeners can earn re-certification credits from the OSU Extension Service for all classes, and professionals can earn continuing education hours from the Landscape Contractors Licensing Board. Importantly, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to hang out with other gardeners and talk about our mutual passion.

One of my favorite English poets, William Blake (1757-1827) advised, “In seed time teach, in harvest time learn, in winter enjoy.” At the Winter Dreams/Summer Gardens Symposium, it all happens at the same time. See you there!