Master Gardening Tips for the Panhandle – Week of July 11, 2022

Lincoln, Neb. —Tips for a Successful County Fair Entry

County fairs are right around the corner and we hope you have some items to grab! Consider participating in the bounty of your garden and crops in the horticulture, floriculture, and field crop open classes at your county fair. Your entries are judged on the following criteria: freedom from injury, quality, condition, consistency and fair preparation. This information can be found in 4-H manuals and in your county fair book. Contact your local Nebraska Extension office for these publications. See you at the fair!!

Did you know numbers matter? A common mistake made when exhibiting products at the fair is having the incorrect number of items in your exhibit. For example, if you enter carrots, regardless of class, you should have 5 carrots. However, if you enter cucumbers, the number needed for exposure varies by class. Slicing requires two and stripping requires five. If incorrect numbers are displayed, the ribbon rating may be lowered. So numbers matter!

To stem or not to stem, that is the question! Tomatoes should be displayed at the fair without stems and should be displayed flower side up. Vine crops such as squash, pumpkin, and watermelon should have stems left and pruned to the length recommended in the fair book and 4-H publication. Kale and Swiss chard should be displayed with stems in a jar of cold water, along with herbs like basil, oregano, parsley and thyme. To contain or not depends on the culture!

Freshness and quality are the keys to a successful exhibition. Take the time to carefully harvest your produce, choosing items that are in perfect condition, marketable in size and uniform in shape. Use a soft brush or damp cloth to clean your products, but avoid over-scrubbing. Follow the cleaning instructions for each exhibit. The products must be properly cut according to the pointers in the manual. A little extra time taken to properly prepare your exhibition will earn you good rankings at the fair.

What class are your vegetables in? Take your fair book and determine which classes your product entries are in. For example, peppers have six classes; the squash has ten; tomatoes have seven. This speeds up the registration process and also ensures that your application will be judged in the appropriate class. This week, we’ve covered some tips to help you enter products at the fair. For more information, contact your local Nebraska Extension office. Long live the purple ribbons at the fair!

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