Debbie Arrington

Sacramento gardeners reap rewards at Harvest Day

Harvest Day means many things to Sacramento’s legion of gardeners. Most of all, it’s a chance to “grow” green thumb skills.

Want to learn how to grow a lot of fruit in a small space? Searching for a “real” lawn that needs less water? Crazy about sunflowers? This is the place.

About 100 Sacramento County master gardeners will be out in force Saturday, Aug. 5, at their Fair Oaks Horticulture Center in Fair Oaks Park. The only thing that may dampen the crowd’s enthusiasm is triple-digit heat.

Folks tend to get so busy at Harvest Day, they forget the temperature, commented master gardener coordinator Judy McClure. “The endless assortment of learning opportunities will keep you occupied, keeping your mind off the warm weather.”

If you feel overheated, there will be plenty of shade trees plus additional temporary canopies just for the event. To cool down quickly, do some grape tasting (they’re chilled), McClure suggested. Or try an iced coffee or gelato from the vendor trucks.

Need more cool ideas at Harvest Day? “Sit on the bench next to the pond and watch the dragonflies,” McClure said.

Dragonflies are just some of the insects – good and bad – featured during Harvest Day. Experts from the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven at UC Davis will present ways to attract more pollinators to your garden. The Insect Quiz will challenge gardeners of all ages to sort the pests from the beneficial insects.

But come early; most of the speakers and demonstrations are scheduled for the cooler morning hours.

Begun informally in the 1980s as an outreach of Sacramento County’s University of California Cooperative Extension program, Harvest Day started its current format at Fair Oaks Park in 1998. Since then, it’s grown into Sacramento’s largest free gardening event of its kind, attracting more than 2,000 patrons to see demonstrations, get expert advice and discover new ideas.

Major presentations will be in the Green Acres Nursery & Supply Tent, another shady retreat during Harvest Day. The tent fits about 200 people, McClure said.

In the tent, the lineup of featured speakers tackles three subjects near and dear to Sacramento gardeners: trees, water-wise landscaping and growing food.

In the City of Trees, our urban forest has been suffering, due to drought, pollution and other stresses. Arborist Ann Fenkner, herself also a master gardener, will coach attendees on how to tell if their own trees are healthy – and how to keep them that way.

Coping with drought – even after a wet winter – continues to be a popular topic for Sacramento gardeners. Greg Gayton, Green Acres’ popular go-to guy, will present one of his favorite water-wise alternatives: the Mediterranean garden. He’ll cover how to make lavender, rosemary and other drought-tolerant perennials, shrubs and trees happy in Central Valley and foothill gardens.

For farm-to-fork fans, master gardener Bill Krycia will go “From Garden to Kitchen” with tales of his own edible adventures. He’ll share his discoveries including some interesting, attractive and delicious selections for the home garden.

“In a humorous way, Bill motivates you to grow, cook and enjoy,” McClure said. Among his offbeat backyard edibles are dragon fruit, Buddha’s hand and kaffir lime as well as grape leaves and pomegranates.

Elsewhere in the 1.7-acre horticulture center, learn about producing peaches on a fence or espalier. Discover the best sunflowers to help bees or how to grow tropical fruit in pots. Buy a worm composting bin and “adopt” a bucket of worms. Those are a few of the learning opportunities that make Harvest Day unique and a one-day crash course in successful Sacramento gardening.

Just remember to wear sun screen and a hat.

Harvest Day

Where: Fair Oaks Horticulture Center, Fair Oaks Park, 11549 Fair Oaks Blvd., Fair Oaks

When: 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 5

Admission: Free

Details: 916-875-6913,

Thousands of Sacramento gardeners turn out for this annual celebration of gardening and learning, hosted by the Sacramento County master gardeners. Featured speakers will be arborist Ann Fenkner on tree health (8:30 a.m.), Green Acres’ Greg Gayton on planting Mediterranean gardens (9:45 a.m.) and master gardener Bill Krycia on adventures in edibles (11 a.m.).