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Gardening expo teaches about drought tolerance
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The Hall County Master Gardeners will hold their Spring Garden Expo this weekend at the Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center in Gainesville - photo by Tom Reed

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Dave Rusk talks about the different vendors at the annual Spring Garden Expo.

Yes, that lake is still low. And despite all that rain we've been getting, we still have a lot of rainfall to make up.

But don't let that deter you from tending to your garden.

This weekend, the Hall County Master Gardeners present their annual spring Garden Expo, and the workshops they've planned - along with the lineup of plant vendors from North Georgia - will help even the novice gardener start a drought-tolerant, worry-free garden.

Workshops, which start at 10 a.m. both days, cover topics such as how to make your own rain barrel, how to install a drip-irrigation system and how to choose the right drought-tolerant plants.

"People can pick and choose what they want to hear, and almost all the workshops are focused on drought-related gardening," said Dave Rusk, president of the Hall County Master Gardeners.

There will also be a children's booth and the Junior Master Gardeners will be selling marigolds and tomato plants as their own fundraiser, Rusk said. Plus, Hall County will be giving away mulch.

And although many features of the Garden Expo are returning from last year, the display gardens the Master Gardeners usually put together for the show have been replaced this year by a gardening shed that will be raffled off for Habitat for Humanity.

"We're having a raffle to benefit Habitat for Humanity," Rusk said. "We're raffling a garden shed that Dennis Griffin of Griffin Garden Supply has started building. It's a garden shed with windows on either side and pull-down shelves on the inside."

Expo chairwoman Lori Carson, who recently became a Master Gardener, said gardeners should take this opportunity to invest in drought-tolerant plants that can withstand anything mother nature throws at them. Plus, she said, because the plants are coming from North Georgia growers, gardeners know they are capable of growing here.

"I would try to remind (gardeners) about the watering restrictions that have been eased up some," she added. "And watering restrictions have been eased up some on new landscapes."

There will be about 50 vendors at the expo, including 16 new ones offering items such as hand-painted gardening clothing or pottery. Carson said the event has gotten so popular that all the vendors approach the Master Gardeners for a spot in the event.

"The word has just gotten out so much about the expo," she said. "I don't have to recruit anybody - they call me."

This is the main fundraiser for the Hall County Master Gardeners, an organization of volunteers who help teach about plants and gardening.

Money from the event will fund projects like landscaping at the Hall County Schools' administrative office on Green Street or at the Gainesville-Hall County Senior Center, along with funding 4-H Club projects, too.

The fun thing about organizing the expo, Carson said, is then knowing you'll be able to keep funding community projects such as these.

"Because it is the big event - it's the thing that raises the most money for us every year, and then we get to put that money back into all of our projects," she said. "When you get to organize all this and bring everybody together, and it brings in people from the community and you can teach them, you get to see all these wonderful plants, and we know we're making money that we put back into the community."

The combination of workshops and native plants is a good chance to get into gardening or brush up on your skills, and he added that plant vendors will be selling items such as ferns, hostas and thousands of daylillies.

"The timing is good," he said. "We're about at the best time to start planting for the spring. And it's always a good time to plant trees and shrubs. And it's not too late to put annuals and perennials in."

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