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Copiah County Master Gardeners host Southwest District conference

By Tricia Nelson

Master Gardeners of Copiah County recently hosted a conference for Southwest District members. The event was held at the Thames Center in Wesson, with over 150 people registering from surrounding counties.

Speakers from Mississippi State University who spoke at the event included Dr. Jeff Wilson, who spoke about ornamental plants; and Dr. Eddie Smith, host of the Southern Gardening series, who gave a presentation on the plants that pollinators love. Other speakers included Adams County Master Gardener Tevah Saxon Cardneaux, who spoke on insects in the garden; and Cathy Stroud, of Wesson, and Mamie Dubose, of Georgetown, who spoke about Keep Copiah Beautiful. John Malanchak, a Copiah County Master Gardener, spoke about gardening with individuals with special needs.

A highlight of the conference was a presentation by Larry Stephenson on fruit trees. Stephenson owns Southern Cultured Orchards and Nursery in the northern part of the state. He is particularly knowledgeable on apple trees, which he states are easier to grow than peaches and plums, which require a spraying schedule to avoid disease.

Anna is a variety of apple recommended for this area due to the lower chill hours required for it to blossom and because it will sometimes pollinate itself. Johnson’s Keeper is also a good variety for the central part of the state. Arkansas Black and Morgan’s Christmas varieties do not have chill requirements. Most varieties require at least 1,000 chill hours, which is obviously harder to obtain further south. A chill hour is a temperature between 32 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

Normally, apple and pear trees require two different varieties that are blooming at the same time, planted not far from each other so that a pollinator can travel from one tree to the other and pollinate. Crabapples can be pollinators for apple trees because they are in the same family.

The Copiah County Master Gardeners operate under the Mississippi State University Extension Service. To learn more about becoming a Master Gardener, visit the MSU Master Gardener website or contact your county extension agent.