Garden Lifestyle

California State Fair and Its Amazing Vegetable Garden

California shows off one of its best sides -- agriculture, in this monstrous home vegetable and fruit garden at the California State Fair.

Garden designers made sure there were copious amounts of flowers among the vegetables.
Photo/Illustration: Chris McLaughlin

California visitors should be resigned to the fact that they’ll have a must-do-and-see list more than a mile long — the golden state is that diverse and that cool. In fact, I would have a difficult time offering a suggestion to visitors about where to begin. But if you find yourself here in the middle of summer, get thee to the California State Fair! This mother-of-all-fairs is tops in entertainement and hangs around Sacramento for a long 18 days (you won’t be disappointed)!

Of course, anyone who’s ever met me knows that you’ll find me loitering about the plant exhibits or the barns. Among all of the amazing things going on here at the state fair, I’m going to focus on one thing — the gardens. Ahhhh, the gardens. As the supplier for over half of the country’s vegetables and fruits, California takes her agriculture very seriously and the fair is the perfect place to show off. And show off they did — the demonstration gardens this year were the best to date in my opinion. Special attention was paid to designing and planting the gardens with water conservation in mind. That’s another thing we Californians have to take seriously; our precious water resources.

In the Ag part of the fair called The Farm, there are crops planted as far as the eye can see; I was literally drooling and gasping at the same time. Tomatoes, lettuce, herbs, kiwis, grapes, eggplant, pumpkins; summer squash, corn, green beans, sunflowers, more flowers; the list goes on and on. Through clever plot-planning and thoughtful use of water, these gardens are glorious to behold and are mad producers!

Of course, I was tickled pink to see that they had utilized vertical vegetable gardening throughout the gardens (one of my favorite ways to grow anything). Plus, all of the crops produced on The Farm are donated to various food banks in the area and I snapped a picture of the sign that’s used to tally the weekly donated produce. There was even an owl box placed up high in the middle of the crops to attract this beneficial predator. Owls make excellent organic pest control for rodents such as moles, mice, voles, rats, and gophers.

The Farm included several examples of aquaponics, complete with working systems. Aquaponics takes the basic principal of hydroponics (water and no soil) and adds a twist; fish. It’s a symbiotic system between fish and plants in which water that’s full of fish waste (which becomes toxic to the fish) is directed to the plants. The waste offers nutrition for the plants (fertilizer) and as the plants utilize the waste, they’re also filtering the water.

Guess where the clean water goes next? You’ve got it — back to the fish. nature is amazing that way. Aquaponics may still be in its infancy, but it’s getting a lot of agricultural attention lately and it’s amazing to watch. The insect pavilion was also heart-warming for this beneficial insect lover to see and the Integrated Pest Management program was front and center.

If you’re an out-of-town-gardener that happens to be spending a summer in California, I urge you to add the state fair to your activity list. If you’re a California gardener and missed this year’s beautiful (and bountiful) event, make it a must-do for next year!

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