On June 13, the LSU AgCenter and Ascension Master Gardeners held a Vegetable Garden Workshop at Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales. An educational program was provided by Craig Roussel of the LSU AgCenter Cooperative Extension Service. Topics covered included new tomato, bell pepper and cucumber varieties, disease management, insect management. 

Attendees went out to the demonstration gardens to view the various varieties of crops planted and discuss issues in the gardens. The group also participated in a blind taste test evaluating the flavor of the past five years’ taste test winners against the authentic LSU Creole variety. After tallying votes, Creole easily outdistanced all other varieties, perhaps verifying the belief that “tomatoes don’t taste like they used to”.

A biggest tomato contest was also held. Attendees were invited to bring their biggest tomato to the event. The tomatoes were weighed and Lori Bond won a $10 cash award with her entry weighing 10.4 ounces.

As part of the program, the 2017 Ascension Parish Garden Contest winners were announced. Judging was conducted on May 18 by Ascension Parish Master Gardeners. Eight adults and four 4-H youth participated in the contest. Judging criteria included record keeping – 30 pts., insect control – 15 pts., weed control – 15 pts., disease control 15 pts., productivity – 15 pts., site selection – 10 pts., and varieties recommended by the LSU AgCenter – up to 10 bonus pts. 

Record keeping is a critically important step in gardening because it allows producers to provide information to extension agents, chemical company representatives, or LDAF field agents if problems arise. Additionally, gardeners can refer back to their records from year to year to anticipate what problems to expect and when to expect them. It is also good to have records about which varieties of vegetables performed well and which ones did not.

Home gardening provides a source of fresh, healthy vegetables for family consumption, as well as some cash from excess produce. Caring for a vegetable garden provides physical exercise for youth and adults and continuous learning experiences. 

The winners of the 2017 Ascension Parish LSU AgCenter Vegetable Garden Contest were:

4-H Youth: First Place-Sean Turner - $50 Cash Award and Plaque, Second Place – Beau Rachal - Plaque, Third Place – Kinslei Scroggs - Plaque, Honorable Mention – Sarah Kloosterman. Adult Small Garden: FirstPlace – Patti Campo - $50 Cash Award and Plaque, Second Place – Kamie St. Pierre – Plaque, Third Place – Lori Bond – Plaque. Adult Medium Garden: First Place – Janis Poche - $50 Cash Award and Plaque, Second Place – Mika Whittaker - Plaque, Third Place – Dale Falcon - Plaque. Adult Large Garden: First Place – Ronald Daigle - $50 Cash Award and Plaque, Second Place – Chuck Leblanc – Plaque.

The Ascension Farm Bureau and Ascension Master Gardener Association sponsored the awards for the Garden Contest for 2017. Their commitment to supporting the LSU AgCenter Extension Service Programs is appreciated.

We encourage Ascension Parish residents to begin the planning process to participate and compete in the 2018 Garden Contest and Biggest Tomato Contest and invite their friends and neighbors to join them in this friendly competition.