The Porter County Master Gardener Garden Show offers an opportunity to meet exhibitors and exchange seeds

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By: Jim Carpenter

Flavor 574 photo/Joe Kuharic

After a number of years of hearing about the Porter County Master Gardener Garden Show, this year I finally decided to see what all the fuss was about. I was not disappointed. It was an excellent event and had something for everyone.

This garden show has been hosted for the last 13 years in Porter County near Valparaiso. It is always a January event and in Northern Indiana it might be a hit or miss, depending on the winter weather. This year the weather was great and the attendance was pretty much a record setter. With more than 100 vendor/educator tables and some great presentations, it made for a terrific atmosphere. Also, I ran into about 25 people from Elkhart County that I knew.

One of the perks of purchasing a ticket for this event is getting five coupons good for five seed packets of flowers or vegetables. While this is donated seed from last year it certainly is still good viable seed. Germination rates will drop slightly with last years seed but if you are concerned, just plant a bit heavier. I did find a few seed packets that were two years old but I steered away from them and got all 2015 seed. I also received 10 additional coupons from two other friends that were not going to use their coupons. I was pretty excited since they had a very large selection of vegetable seed.

So, like a kid in a candy store, I started making my selections. I knew I wanted several packets each of radish and carrots so those got picked up quickly. Since I was getting so many free packets I went for a few things that I might not ordinarily plant. The only thing that was completely new to me was the packet of Bok Choi seeds I picked up. The variety I got is actually a dwarf and only grows to about 5 inches. Bok Choi is a type of Chinese cabbage and is delicious eaten raw or cooked as you would any cabbage. The name means “white vegetable” in Chinese.

I am also going to grow Brussels sprouts again this year. I have never grown Brussels sprouts from seed so I will get them started on the back porch so they will be ready to transplant into the garden while it is still cool. This is another early season plant that will also grow well as a fall season vegetable. I might save some seeds to plant in August and see how that works.

Fava bean will be a new type of bean for me this year. They are a cool season bean that gets planted much like peas. They are an ancient food which is integral to many cultures. Most bean types are sensitive to frost but these are pretty hardy and might be a bean I can plant for a fall crop also. They are a bean that must be shelled so that will be a little different for me. My only knowledge of this bean is from Hannibal Lector in the movie “Silence of the Lambs.” I will not be serving the same dishes he did.

I also picked up another bean called yardlong beans. I will need to make a trellis for this bean to help it reach it’s potential of 36 inches. Since I have several vegetables that will benefit from a trellis, I am planning on getting a number of slender tree branches and make tripods for them to climb on. Right now I am having fun planning out where my tripods will go. I will also grow several varieties of cucumbers on these tripods.

One of the problems with growing heirloom tomatoes from seed is you need to buy a whole packet of seed just to get a few plants. Since I was able to pick up a few more packets of heirloom tomato seed I will be able to grow different types without having to pay for more packets of seed.

There were a lot of interesting things to see at the Porter County Garden Show. I really enjoyed talking to the various commercial and non-profit exhibitors that were there. But one of the most enjoyable things I took away from attending the show were those 15 packets of seed that I am eagerly looking forward to planting. Since most of the seed I got was of an heirloom variety and I can save the seeds, it might truly be a gift that keeps on giving.

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