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Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
5:16 PM Fri, Nov. 16th

Warmer weather brings out the gardener

Time to plant now for county fair entries

Ryan, Aimee and daughter Isabella Lamarca, 8, can’t believe the size of the award-winning cabbage and other produce at the 2016 Yavapai County Fair.

Photo by Sue Tone.

Ryan, Aimee and daughter Isabella Lamarca, 8, can’t believe the size of the award-winning cabbage and other produce at the 2016 Yavapai County Fair.

Yavapai County gardeners are making their final seed selections from catalogues and preparing their soil for arrival of their orders. And the weather is cooperating.

With a relatively moderate growing season, about 140 days, it is not too early to start planning for submissions to the Yavapai County Fair, said Master Gardener Lori Dekker.

“Start now and when the time comes for the fair, people will have something ready to enter,” she said.

County fairs belong to a long tradition, and they remain a place where local competition takes place for the best horticultural, livestock, crafts and art a county can muster, she said. It’s an annual celebration of the labors and harvests of the community, and the local 4-H clubs.

Fair History

“The word ‘fair’ may have its roots in the Latin word ‘feria’ meaning holy day,” Dekker said.

The Old Testament tells how fields adjacent to temples were available for business and trading on days of worship. Later, churches sponsored fairs (perhaps like the bazaars of today) possibly to raise revenue.

“Eventually this blend of commerce and religion moved into Western Europe, where periodic gatherings served as places of bartering, trade, sales and probably a bit of matchmaking,” she said.

Add food, entertainment, crafts and general merrymaking to the mix, and it sounds like today’s county fair.

Elkanah Watson, Father of U.S. Agricultural Fairs, organized a cattle show event in 1811 in Massachusetts that went beyond just an exhibition of livestock to become a competition with prize money for best of show.

Soil Prep

Now is time to get the gardens ready for sowing seeds. Yavapai County has a very “lean” soil, Dekker said, meaning there is a short distance before hitting rock and the soil often lacks in phosphorous.

The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension Office, located at the Prescott Rodeo Fairgrounds, has informative articles available online at cals.arizona.edu/yavapai/. Agent Jeff Schalau writes on a variety of subjects in his Backyard Gardener series.

“Soil test results identify nutrient deficiencies and provide guidance as to the appropriate amounts of fertilizers and amendments,” Schalau said in a March 30, 2016, article. He recommends Texas A&M Soils Lab, which costs $10 per sample for testing and has a quick turnaround time.

Often the soil pH is the reason plants experience micronutrient deficiencies, such as iron (the alkalinity caused by the excess calcium carbonate causes the iron to become less available) and phosphorus. Amending the soil with a phosphorus fertilizer at the root zone is the best alternative, he said.

Yavapai County Fair

Many gardeners are planning now for the Yavapai County Fair which opens the second weekend in September.

“Starting a garden sounds like a lot of work, and in some ways it is. But it’s good exercise and great for your mental health,” Dekker said.

The 2017 Yavapai County Premium Book, not yet published, will include all the rules on how to

enter one’s best tomatoes, flowers or herbs.

The Yavapai Master Gardeners will be providing more information on how children can participate in the county fair. Even without garden plots, they can grow award-winning items in pots and containers, Dekker said.

Watch for upcoming articles on plotting your garden, irrigation, hydroponics, planting for bees and butterflies, how to enter the fair, and what judges look for.

For more information, call the Yavapai Master Gardeners at 928-445-6590 (Prescott) or 928-554-8992 (Camp Verde) during business hours, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.