Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah
image Virginia Hooper will be one of seven presenters at this weekend’s Spring Expo.

March 2, 2017
Let the gardening games begin!

As I write this, snow is once again on the ground. We woke to a blanket of white on our driveway, paths and lawns. Maggie got a new puppy a couple of weeks ago, and it’s another level of challenge to housebreak a little one when the snow is higher than the pup’s back. A little bit of shoveling gave needed access to the lawn and the problem was solved, but the puppy isn’t that anxious to go outside when it’s so gray. I was glad it was a calm morning, and it warmed up a bit later, including some splashes of sunshine. That’s a real spirit-lifter for me.

Even so, the scenery once again drove home the point we are in the fits and starts of late winter, soon to be early spring. March 20 is just around the corner, pronouncing the formal start of spring, but we will have our share of annual sucker weather, where we can be lulled into thinking warmth has arrived for the season. Enjoy those warm, calm and sunny days, but don’t put too much stock in them. Nonetheless, the length of days increasing slightly and those magnificent previews of spring are indeed an indicator that the active gardening season is about to begin.

For those that have learned to extend the season by seed-starting, cold frames, greenhouses and high tunnels, about 90 days can be added to active production. That’s accomplished by getting started earlier in the spring and getting in an additional crop of selected varieties in the fall. The Master Gardeners just hosted a great presentation by Mike Caron (USU Extension Agent from Thanksgiving Point) on season extension and the construction and operation of high tunnels.

High tunnels (aka hoop houses) are different from greenhouses in that most high tunnels are passively climate conditioned and the crops are grown directly in the soil. They capture heat during the day, warm the soil, and release it back over the night. Greenhouses are actively heated, used year-round and typically have the crops grown in containers or racks. High tunnels are appealing to smaller growers and hobbyists because they are less expensive, require less “baby-sitting” and give a break to the gardening routine over the winter. That last point is important to me.

As much as I enjoy gardening, I relish the break from it late in the season. About the time fall is coming on, I’d like to do something different. Too much of a good thing turns an enjoyable hobby into a taskmaster. However, right now, at the onset of the gardening season, that’s too far away to be concerned about. I’m in the mode of anticipation. I’m dreaming of new things and crops I’ll try this year and what I’ll do to produce more than I did last year and eat more fresh items right out of the our growing plots.

And, that brings me to a passage of spring that we get to enjoy every year, right here in our valley. Next weekend is the Tooele County Master Gardener’s Spring Expo. The organizer of the event is Joyce Tate, one of my many gardening friends. If Joyce’s name sounds familiar to you, it should. Joyce has been responsible for making this great event available every March for over 15 years. She’s the epitome of “hands-on” living, full of vim and vinegar. Her interests are varied, and she’s an accomplished upholster. Some of you may have taken her upholstery classes offered through the USU Extension.

So, when it comes time for the Spring Expo, you know it’s gonna be good. This year is certainly no exception. If you’re looking for a kick-start into your gardening efforts this year, and you can use a good boost of spring, this is the place to be.

There is a wide range of topics that are bound to appeal to any aspiring or accomplished green thumb. You’ll be in good company with a crowd of people raring to go with this year’s garden and yardscape.

The format is such that many different topics are available in a half day. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m., with the entry being a very economical $5. Once you’ve got your course materials, you have six different sessions you can attend. Each session is about 45 minutes. There are two offered at 10 a.m., another two at 11 a.m., and the remaining pair at noon. Since you can’t be at two places at the same time (if you can, you and I have got to talk — I must get your secret.), bring a friend so both courses can be enjoyed, and you can swap notes afterward.

After the breakout sessions are offered, the general group session with Kelly Kopp begins at 1 p.m.. Kelly is the “cat’s meow” on turf and lawns, being Utah State University’s turf expert. She is a gifted communicator (I got to enjoy one of her presentations during a recent Master Gardener’s class), and will give you great insights on how to truly have the best looking lawn on the block.

So, what are the six sessions that are being offered? First up, at 10 a.m., enjoy insights from Louise Hulet on growing a vegetable garden. Louise is a long-term Tooele area resident and proficient gardener. She’ll give you practical advice and insights to be successful in putting more food directly on your plate from your food plot. Or, you can get some great practices from Justin Wiker during his presentation, “Proper Care and Feeding of Trees.” Justin makes his living in horticulture, and is a certified arborist. He’ll give you some great tips on how to care for your trees, as well as identify common diseases, challenges and solutions.

During the 11 o’clock hour, you can choose from “Talking Dirty” (AKA Soils.) by Dave Quist or “Designing in the 4th Dimension” by Virginia Hooper. Dave has gardened for a long time in our valley and will help you build fertile, healthy soils that will support your gardening and landscaping efforts. Virginia will give you some intriguing approaches to landscape design, including making room of future changes and additions. You’ll get some cool ideas.

When noon rolls around (lunch is not provided, so a bag lunch or snack is fine to bring.), there will be two sessions you can choose from. My friend Diane Sagers will be showing you what the 2017 All American Varieties are. These are the top-rated performers in both food and ornamental plants. You’ll walk away with lots of good ideas of what new items to try in the next few months. Or, you can join Maggie and me as we pass on “Tomato Magic.” We’ll give you our top ten tips for growing tomatoes, and then we’ll do a cooking demonstration on how we prepare fresh marinara sauce. Sampling is encouraged, and we’d like to give you a great reason to grow a robust crop of tomatoes this upcoming season.

There you have it. As I mentioned before, the entire event is only $5. Arrive early to get a good spot. The event will be held at the USU Extension Building located at 151 N. Main in Tooele. If that isn’t familiar to you, it’s right across the street from the Big 5 Sporting Goods store. There’s usually an enthusiastic crowd, so arrive early enough to get a good parking spot and get registered in time for the event to start. If the front parking lot is full, there is additional parking along the south side of the building and in the back.

Before we end our time together, there’s another gardening event coming up as well. If you’d like to learn how to prune fruit trees for maximum productivity, have we got something for you. The Master Gardeners will be hosting a pruning demonstration at our home in Erda on Saturday, March 11, from 9-11 a.m.. Check out the announcement in the Happening Section to get more information and our address. We’ll show you how to prune a variety of orchard trees, as well as raspberries, blackberries and grapes. Bring your pruners and layered clothing. We’ll see you there.

Indeed, it’s that time of year. Let the games begin.

Jay Cooper can be contacted at, or you can visit his channel at for videos on the hands-on life of gardening, shop and home skills, culinary arts and landscaping.

Jay Cooper

Garden Spot Columnist at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Jay Cooper is a new contributing writer for the Garden Spot column. He replaced Diane Sagers, who retired in November 2013 after writing the column for 27 years. Also known as Dirt Farmer Jay, Cooper and his wife have been residents of Erda since 2001 after moving to Utah from Tucson, AZ. A passionate gardener and avid reader of horticultural topics, for several years he has been a member of Utah State University’s Master Gardeners Program, and served as chapter president in 2013. Cooper says Tooele County has an active and vibrant gardening community, and the Garden Spot column will continue to share a wide range of gardening, landscaping, home skills and rural living themes.

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