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National Heirloom Expo returns to Santa Rosa

Expect to see all kinds of vegetables at the National Heirloom Expo. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

This must-see event offers latest trends in old-fashioned food

It’s the world’s fair of good, clean food.

The National Heirloom Expo returns this week to the Sonoma County Fairgrounds for three days of the latest trends in old-fashioned vegetables, fruit, farm techniques and more.

More than 100 speakers and demonstrations will tackle all sorts of topics, from African-American heirlooms ( 11:30 a.m. Tuesday ) to "Unstoppable Community Activism" ( 10 a.m. Thursday ).

Beekeeping, seed saving and building a successful farming business are among the down-to-earth practical discussions. A marketplace offers scores of organic and natural food vendors. Music and food samples are almost nonstop.
A mountain of squash is quite a sight.

The biggest draw is the display of heirloom vegetables, fruit and flowers, filling large exhibit halls at the fairgrounds. At past expos, a mountain of squash towered to the ceiling. The flower event includes an eye-popping dahlia show.

Tickets are $15 at the gate; children 12 and under admitted free. Details: .

- Debbie Arrington


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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