The Transylvania Times -

By Janet Lute
Transylvania County Extension Master Gardener 

Master Gardener: The Spring Garden Symposium Features Several Alternative Gardening Methods


Last updated 3/6/2019 at 2:53pm

Courtesy Photo

A tower garden, or vertical gardening system, will be one of the topics shared during the symposium.

Spring would not be spring without the popular Master Gardeners Annual Spring Garden Symposium. Sponsored by the Transylvania County Extension Master Gardeners it will be held on Saturday, March 16, at the Transylvania Public Library. This popular event is a great way to get a head start with your gardening plans and to learn about topics that you may be less familiar with. This year, the symposium will feature three speakers who will talk about alternative gardening methods.

Bart Renner, agricultural extension agent, will talk on "Straw Bale Gardening." This is a method that many people may not be familiar with but is well suited to areas where high rainfall totals may bring diseases as the straw usually provides a weed and disease-free medium. It is good for people who don't want to get their hands dirty and you don't have to bend over as far to get to their vegetables.

Renner graduated from Ball State University with a bachelor's degree in biology in 2004. After an internship with the Forest Service in Susanville, Calif., he joined the Peace Corps as an agroforestry and environmental education volunteer. After serving for about three and a half years he came back to Kutztown, Pa., as an organic farming intern at the Rodale Institute. In 2009, he started at NC State University and graduated from the Crop Science Department in 2012 with a master's. He started with NCCES as the local foods agent in Transylvania County that same year and has never looked back.

The second speaker is Agricultural Extension Agent Karen Blaedow, who will talk on "Container Vegetable Gardening." Many people are downsizing their gardens, as well as their houses, and containers are a great option for people with small gardens or just a patio or balcony. Using containers does require you to pay closer attention to watering regimes but they can be portable. This talk with focus on vegetables but the theory can be applied to flowering plants.

Bladow started her position as the Henderson County vegetable and small fruit agent in 2016. She is originally from the Augusta, Ga., area and moved to Asheville two years ago with her family. She has a bachelor's degree in biology from the College of Charleston and a master's degree in plant science (plant pathology) from Clemson University. Her past work experience includes 12 years of research, primarily in plant-pest interactions for a variety of crops including peaches, soybeans, apples and cherries.

The final speakers are Gary and Trish Hughes of WNC Urban Farms who will talk on "Growing a Healthy Planet by Changing the Future of Food with Vertical Aeroponics." Their talk will focus on what is aeroponics: a method of growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil. They will be bringing a tower garden with lettuces, and herbs, and grow lights that allow you to grow vegetables, etc., 12 months of the year.

A few years ago not many people – including Gary and Trish – had heard of the term urban farm. But once they learned how healthy and easy it is to grow vegetables and herbs in the vertical gardening system known as a tower garden, they were hooked. Their mission is simple. They decided to share this amazing concept to empower people near and far to feed their families local, nutrient dense food that can be grown as close as outside their front door or from a local urban farm in their area. They want people to know that they are not only changing the health of generations to come, but also participating in the sustainability of our planet for those generations. The Spring Garden Symposium is on Saturday, March 16, from 9 a.m. to about noon. It will be held in the library's Rogow Room. Doors will open at 8:15 a.m., with the first speaker beginning at 9 a.m. The entry fee is $10 and this includes a chance to win some really nice door prizes, including gift certificates to local garden centers. Light refreshments will be served in the breaks between the speakers. This event is open to the public, and Master Gardeners, both past and present. Call (828) 884-3109 for more information.

(Master Gardeners provide volunteer leadership and service to their community in gardening activities. The volunteer activities can include answering gardening questions, conducting plant clinics, planting demonstration gardens, talking to community groups and more. If you are interested in becoming a Master Gardener, go by the extension office or call (828) 884-3109 or visit


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