Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cuyamaca College Spring Garden Festival a potpourri of free activities

Crowds enjoying the Spring Garden Festival
As honeybees are drawn to nectar, so is the public to Cuyamaca College’s Spring Garden Festival, the annual event showcasing the Rancho San Diego college’s Ornamental Horticulture program and event partners, the Water Conservation Garden and the Heritage of the Americas Museum.
The family-friendly festival, now in its 19th year, is set for 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, April 28. Admission, parking and Old Town Trolley transports between the three Cuyamaca College sites are free for the event, one of the largest in East County with attendance reaching as high as 7,000.
The event’s theme, “Growing the Urban Farm and Garden,” will be reflected throughout the festival. This year, a presentation pavilion will be located in Parking Lot 4 – identified as the Plaza on the event map -- for the public to learn about raising chickens and goats, growing one’s own food, and more.
Also new at the festival is a farmer’s market that will be officially opening at the college a week later, and nearly two dozen first-time exhibitors joining the more than 100 vendors, craftspeople, and artisans who regard the Spring Garden Festival as a key exhibition site.
“With the increased awareness in healthy lifestyles, the festival is the perfect venue for San Diego’s large and active gardening community to learn and share ideas on adding an urban farm to their home landscapes,” said Brad Monroe, coordinator of the college’s Ornamental Horticulture program. “Families conscientious about where and how their food is processed are actively looking for ways to produce their own food. People are raising chickens for egg production and goats for milk products. They are growing and canning fruits and vegetables to supply their pantries.”
Faculty and students will give demonstrations and provide a bounty of information on the horticulture program and topics including floral design, landscape design, pest control, plant propagation, arboriculture, irrigation, plant identification and more.
The Ornamental Horticulture department will hold its biggest plant sale of the year, featuring a large assortment of ornamental and drought-tolerant plants. Sales from the nursery supplement the Ornamental Horticulture program’s regular funding, helping to pay for supplies and equipment, Monroe said. The nursery is a learning lab for students on the identification, care and landscape uses of Southern California’s ornamental trees and shrubs.
“What a great way to showcase Cuyamaca College’s longtime commitment to the green movement,” said college president Mark J. Zacovic. “It’s our annual community celebration of spring, a cornucopia of fun events for the family that highlights educational programs, exhibitors and demonstrations focusing on resource conservation.”
At the Water Conservation Garden, visitors can learn about urban beekeeping and small-scale urban farming.   Experts also will be on hand to share tips on installing a washing machine gray water system; sustainable landscaping and sustainable straw bale building. Others will answer questions on tree care, composting, water-smart gardening, fire-resistant landscaping and fire prevention.
A 20-minute landscape design consultation with a professional designer or architect is available for a $20 donation. Pre-register by calling (619) 660-0614, extension 10, and don’t forget to bring photos or diagrams.
Activities abound for the youngest of gardeners, including an owl education program by Ms. Smarty Plants; face-painting; paper bag hat-making; and an urban farm petting zoo.
Musical interludes and entertainment to go with the spring blooms will be provided by Cuyamaca College’s American Sign Language Choir; Grossmont College’s Jazz Combo performing Afro-Cuban music; the flute quartet, “The Four Winds,” playing Native American music; and singing and dancing by Rubio’s Performing Arts. The Helix Highlanders Bagpipe Band will kick off the event and an international food court will help stave hunger pangs.
At the Heritage of the Americas Museum, docent-led tours of the natural history, archaeology, anthropology, and art wings will be available. “Artifacts Alive” features local florists, jewelers and crafters interpreting the museum’s artifacts with their creations. Prizes and a $50 gift certificate for the museum store will be raffled, and museum volunteers, as well as local artists, will demonstrate and sell a variety of arts and crafts in the museum conference room.
For more information about the Spring Garden Festival, call the Ornamental Horticulture department at (619) 660-4023, or the Water Conservation Garden at (619) 660-0614. For a complete program, festival map and web links to each event partner, go to
Cuyamaca College is at 900 Rancho San Diego Parkway in Rancho San Diego.  For maps and driving directions, go to