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Test your tomato taste buds at festival

Tomato-thon

By popular demand, The Arboretum will be holding its annual Tomato Festival on Aug. 9. At the free event, you'll be able to sample tomatoes from around the world, take a tour of the ­demonstration vegetable garden and pick up some tips from Master Gardeners about tomato growth and care.

Also, you can learn how to save seeds with Roger Postley; and listen to Brook Elliott's lecture, ”Heirloom Tomatoes: Why All the Fuss?“

UK College of Agriculture Extension Consumer Horticulture Specialist Rick Durham will be holding a preliminary blind taste test to determine whether your palate prefers hybrids or heirlooms.

It's all happening between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. For a ­detailed schedule, call Roberta Burnes, (859) 257-9339.

Fall Master Gardener class

”Looking for new ­gardening excitement?“ That's the question asked in the Cooperative Extension Service's announcement for its upcoming Master Gardener training sessions. Words like camaraderie, popular and community environments are also mentioned. That's because beyond just providing information to help you become a better gardener, the Master Gardener program encourages members to get active in volunteering and outreach activities.

In addition to the classes, which meet from 9:30-11 a.m. Sept. 6 through Nov. 20 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, participants also need to complete 50 volunteer hours to become certified Master Gardeners.

Half the classes are held at the Fayette County Extension office, and the other half at the Woodford County office. The program's cost is $150. To be accepted, you must submit an application by July 31, and complete a personal interview and police records check.

Find forms at http://ces.ca.uky.edu/fayette/horticulture/MGCLASSAPPLICATION.pdf, or by calling the office at (859) 257-5582.

Casting about for worms

Worms are through-process digesters: food scraps, manure and other ingredients go in one end, and droppings called castings, which can be used as a soil additive to ­provide nutrients and improve drainage and aeration, come out the other.

For about five years now, Robert Prather of Salvisa has been working on developing an organic mix for feeding his red wigglers to get the best casting results. He says it takes about four or five months for the worms to produce the fertilizer, which he sells in 18-pound bags for about $9. If you'd like to see what it will do for your garden, call Prather at (859) 865-2486.

Fayette County Extension Horticulture Agent Jamie Dockery says that the worm castings might not be the most cost-efficient route for fertilizing your garden, but that they are ”a practical way to take people down the natural road.“ They're also a small lesson in composting.

Dockery cautions that a few years ago, farmers ­invested in vermiculture when looking for ways to replace income from growing tobacco, and lost money in get-rich-quick schemes. ”Worms got a bad rap,“ he says.

For more information about worms, check out www.backyardnature.net/earthwrm.htm.

Plant places

Plantplaces.com catalogs ornamental plants found around Cincinnati, Louisville and Dayton into a virtual tour of specimens. ­Photos, descriptions, and map locations are included. Trial gardens for new varieties and even histories of unusual finds make this an easy and accessible resource for gardeners who are looking for planting suggestions in the Central and Northern Kentucky areas.

You can, for instance, find the pignut hickory listed under the Cincinnati region, located in the Spring Grove Cemetery, or the evergreen shrub Tanyosho pine, which was planted in the Bernheim Forest and Arboretum in 1966.

Pictures make identification and recognition simple. There are even suggestions specifically for rain gardens.

Two Kentucky books not to miss

The University Press of Kentucky has recently published two exquisite titles that reflect the unique native treasures found in the commonwealth. Rare Wildflowers of Kentucky, by Thomas Barnes, Deborah White and Marc Evans, discusses ­native species and population changes and presents the rarest of our wildflowers by habitat, with enlightened text expanding on Barnes' earlier wildflower and wild places books.

Early Stone Houses of Kentucky, by Carolyn Murray-Wooley, is a collection representing the history and design of the many stone structures carved out of the wilderness by early settlers. Murray-Wooley is both the founder of the Dry Stone Conservancy and former Executive Director of the Bluegrass Trust for Historic Preservation.

Both are perfect gifts for those who love Kentucky, and this is the time to grab a first-edition copy. You can meet the authors in person at some upcoming book ­signings:

■ Barnes will be signing copies of Rare Wildflowers at 1 p.m. July 27 at The Morris Book Shop, 408 Southland Drive, to coincide with the Southland Drive Farmers Market, and at 7 p.m. August 5 at Joseph-Beth Booksellers at Lexington Green.

■ Murray-Wooley will be signing copies of Early Stone Houses of Kentucky at 7 p.m. Aug. 12 at Joseph-Beth Booksellers at Lexington Green.

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