February 2023: Recovering from Garden Expo 2023

PDDC Booth IconI have just finished catching up from the 2023 PBS Garden and Landscape Expo (Friday, February 10 through Sunday, February 12). My booth displays are back in storage, and I’ve documented all of the various education materials that I provided for visitors. This was my first in-person Garden Expo post-COVID. I have to say the weather for the actual event was perfect (sunny and warm), after a challenging set-up day of snowy weather and hazardous driving. Attendance at this year’s Garden Expo was 13,584, with visitors not only from Wisconsin, but from all around the Midwest.

This year, I coordinated and staffed the UW-Madison Plant Disease Diagnostics Clinic (PDDC) booth. Garden Expo organizers Amanda Balistreri and Heather Robbins were very generous in allowing me to have a double booth for my display at no charge. This spacious area provides lots of room for Garden Expo visitors to move about, look at disease specimens and photos, browse free fact sheets (116 titles this year), talk to booth denizens (myself included), and watch segments that I did over the years with Shelley Ryan on WPT’s Wisconsin Gardener. I really like visitors to know that Garden Expo exists because of Shelley and her show.

I was at Garden Expo all three days (noon until 7 pm on Friday, 9 am until 6 pm on Saturday and 10 am until 4 pm on Sunday). Many thanks go to Lisa Johnson of Extension Dane County, Diana Alfuth of Extension Pierce and St. Croix Counties, and longtime horticulture friend, Lis Friemoth (aka The Garden Hoe) for helping staff the booth. A special shout out goes to Tim Lorenz of the UW Russell Labs Hub for helping transport and unload my booth materials on Thursday and Lis Friemoth for helping pack up and load my van at the end of the show on Sunday.

During the three days, I gave three talks (New and Emerging Plant Diseases, Vegetable Diseases and Growing Healthy Plants: Basics in Plant Disease Management) and helped answer questions with Lisa Johnson Larry Meiller’s in-person Garden Talk session on Saturday morning. I also had a steady stream of visitors to the PDDC booth all three days and pretty much talked with and answered questions for folks the entire time. In fact, this is the busiest I have been at my booth for many, many years. I distributed 4,319 fact sheets, 720 brochures/informational handouts of various kinds and 248 handouts for my talks. The top ten fact sheets selected by booth visitors were (in alphabetical order):

Blossom End Rot
Home Vegetable Garden Fungicides
Lawn Disease Quick Reference
Plant Problems to Watch for in 2023
Powdery Mildew (Deciduous Woody Ornamentals)
Powdery Mildew (Herbaceous Ornamentals)
Powdery Mildew (Vegetables)
Septoria Leaf Spot
Ten Common Plant Diseases/Disorders You Can Identify by Eye
Vegetable Disease Quick Reference

All of these materials were not only educational in nature but were branded with the UW-Madison Division of Extension logo and/or the UW-Madison CALS logo and thus provided advertising for UW-Madison.

All-in-all, I had a great, productive weekend, and I think provided a valuable service to the general public. By the time the weekend was over, I physically felt like I had been hit by a truck, but mentally and emotionally, I felt rejuvenated due to all of the positive feedback that I received. I heard numerous positive comments about, and thanks for the work that I do (and more generally about the outreach work that UW as an organization does). PBS Garden & Landscape Expo is by far the most important in-person event that I do every year and, quite frankly, my absolute favorite work activity. I encourage any of you who have not attended Garden Expo to consider doing so in 2024. If you do attend, be sure to stop by the PDDC booth and say hello.  I will be there!


If you have questions about PDDC outreach activities and diagnostic services, feel free to contact the PDDC by email at pddc@wisc.edu or by phone at (608) 262-2863.  Also, feel free to check out the PDDC website (https://pddc.wisc.edu) for additional details on plant diseases and their management, as well sample submission.  You can follow the PDDC on Twitter and Facebook (@UWPDDC) or email pddc@wisc.edu to subscribe to the PDDC listserv, UWPDDCLearn, to receive updates on clinic services and educational materials.