Posts tagged demonstration garden

Your photos:)


Prairie coneflowers at Lowe Park in Marion, Iowa

Prairie coneflowers at Lowe Park in Marion, Iowa

  We’re kicking off a new feature, starting with this photo from Devon Dietz, who captured the early sun on prairie coneflowers driving up to Lowe Park in Marion.








   Devon called the view for visitors “spectacular” and noted that the Linn County Master Gardener Demonstration Gardens are in full bloom at the park, as well.

    If you have a photo of a garden bed, unusual plant or gorgeous flower that you want to share on this blog, email the photo to:

    I’ll try to post as many as I can.


Leave a comment »

Demonstration gardens

Linn County Master Gardener Shelby Foley describes a worthwhile trip to make in Eastern Iowa:


A group of Linn County Master Gardeners has developed a demonstration garden at Lowe Park, 4500 N. 10th St., Marion that serves as an outdoor, hands-on learning laboratory.  The garden consists of eleven beds and a composting station.  Master Gardeners are in the garden on Tuesday evenings from 6:30 to dusk and on Thursday mornings from 9:00 a.m. until noon all summer meeting with the public to talk gardening and answer your questions.

            From conifers to roses to vegetables, the beds offer something for everyone interested in gardening.  The herb garden features eight different types of basil, each with a unique color and taste.  Visitors are encouraged to sample them and taste a bit of Italian summer.  The birds and butterflies bed is planted with flowers and herbs to attract our winged friends.  Here a caterpillar munching on a leaf is a good thing and visitors may spot a chrysalis or two hanging on the plants.  Several beds of annuals are changed in design and color from year to year for added interest.  The other beds provide just as many interesting designs, textures and colors. 

            Meander through the gardens.  Enjoy the marvelous scents.  Hear the soft sound of the native grasses swaying in the summer breeze.    Relax by the water feature.   You will undoubtedly be intrigued by the possibility of a family gardening project. 


Leave a comment »

Victory Gardens

It appears the Oak Hill Jackson Neighborhood Association will soon have a demonstration garden in Poet’s Park, at Otis Road and 12th Avenue SE. An agreement expected to be signed today will now be signed on Monday, the group’s president, Michael Richards, said.

Richards and others hope the garden will inspire neighborhood residents to plant their own gardens.


Julie Sina, director of Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation, who is signing the agreement with the group, said that had the agreement been signed earlier, seedlings planted already would have been lost to this week’s frost. As an aside, she noted  that  the city gardeners at Ellis Park have seen their gardens wiped out by flooding this week from the Cedar River. This hasn’t been the ideal spring for gardeners.


On a more inspiring note, CURE International sent the following news release to me today. And Michael Richards passed along the item on peace gardens/victory gardens below.


LUSAKA, Zambia, May 2, 2008 – As food costs continue to rise around the world, the CURE International children’s hospital in Zambia has cultivated a ground-breaking solution. Many young patients arrive at the hospital so malnourished their frail bodies are unable to handle surgery. In an effort to strengthen their bodies and immune systems, children are fed a nutrient-rich diet of vegetables pre- and post-treatment.

When a hospital administrator noticed the cost of purchasing and transporting fresh produce was rising, he decided the hospital should grow a garden of its own. By converting unused land into farming ground and hiring two full-time gardeners, his research revealed that the hospital could yield enough crops to fulfill its needs and the project would pay for itself by the first harvest.

The first harvest was abundant, providing enough food for all of the hospital’s patients and staff members. There were even enough vegetables to sell to the local community at reduced rates. Hospital gardeners have also started teaching their advanced agriculture techniques to the patients’ family members so that they can apply it to their own gardens when they return home to their remote villages.

CURE, the largest provider of specialty surgical care in the developing world, treating more than 650,000 children to date, brings children around the world the benefits of First World health care. One hallmark of all CURE hospitals is to provide meals for patients during their treatment. CURE’s hospital in Zambia was established in conjunction with UK-based charity, The Beit Trust, as a pediatric orthopedic and neurosurgery training center.



Peace Gardens

One of the most successful civilian programs in WWI and WWII was the widespread cultivation of home victory gardens. The Federal Government did not support this program at first, due to the belief that it would be a poor allocation of resources and essential labor for a tiny yield of output.

But as many of America’s farmers went overseas to fight, domestic food production dwindled. This caused shortages and strict rationing of foodstuffs. Victory gardens quickly became an essential part of the civilian war effort. These small gardens supplied low cost and nutritious produce, and helped build morale during the hard times. By growing victory gardens, our grandparents resolved their food shortages through practicality and common sense.

Today, we Americans are confronted with similar dilemmas which could imperil our very survival: an economy in deep recession, a devalued U.S. dollar, war in the Mideast, totalitarian repression at home, contaminates in the food chain. Add to this the decline of small and family farms, the explosive growth of global factory farming, genetically modified seeds and foods, declines in food production due to drough and global warming, water pollution, and an ever increasing reliance upon imported food. By considering these factors, we begin to see the approaching spector of global famine on the horizon.

Today, the creation of home gardens has become an important aspect of personal sustainability. In a few short years it will be an absolute necessity. Because of this we must relearn these traditional skills, and begin supplying our own produce, just as our our grandparents did.

Gardening is a healthy and satisfying endeavor. It provides numerous benefits, including a sense of accomplishment and personal wellbeing, an inexpensive supply of high quality vegetables, and builds morale during stressful times. Growing vegetables reconnects us with nature, and strengthens us in many ways. Gardening is a perfect antidote for these dark and depressing times. I think of them as “Peace Gardens.”

A surprising quantity of delicious and healthy produce can be grown in this way, and it is easier to accomplish than one might suppose. This can be done almost anywhere: in backyards, vacant lots, in containers or planter boxes, on porches or on window ledges. Community gardens are popping up in urban areas as well as in small communities accross the country.

Small gardens are easy to create using inexpensive, local materials: wood, stone, soil, compost, manure, and water. The size and layouts of the gardens will be dictated by the spaces available. Raised beds are a good solutions for most gardens, and can be built using clean recycled wood, or local stone. They should be designed to provide good drainage (Gravel can be put in the bottoms to assist drainage). The best raised beds are 3-4 feet wide, 16″-24″ deep, and can be worked from either side.

When picking a spot, make sure that is has good solar access, and the availability of good water. If you must use city water, acquire food grade 55 gallon plastic barrels as a temporary holding tanks. This will allow the chlorine in the city water to evaporate prior to watering. Roof water catchment is also a good alternative in areas where pollution is minimal.

Find the best garden soil that you can acquire. Do not dig soil near roads or highways, as these are all polluted with petro chemicals and lead. Ask around and find our where others get their garden soil. It should have lots of worms. Soil with a high clay content can be used, but must be improved. If you must use soil that is marginal, start by sterilizing it with solar, heat or steam. This will kill all bacteria, spores and nematodes, etc. Then augment the soil. You can add washed sand, wood shavings, organic compost, chicken, sheep or horse manure (seasoned not fresh), etc. Mix it in well with shovels and pitchforks.

The economic gifts of gardening are considerable. In addition to supplying ourselves with high quality organic vegetables at a low cost, we are also able to trade, barter or sell our extra bounty. This facilitates our participation in the alternative (underground) economy. The alternative economies will be essential as the traditional ones will soon collapse under their own dead weight.

As spring approaches, it is a good time to begin gathering the seeds, the supplies and the tools necessary to begin gardening. During the dark and cold months that precede spring, one can brush up on the essentials of gardening: composting and making soil, acquiring organic fertilizer, sprouting and planting the seeds, making raised beds, protecting the seedlings from pests, weeding, harvesting, “putting up” the produce, and finally – the many ways of preparing and eating the bounty. There are numerous resources available to assist in this learning process: Libraries, used book stores, university extension programs, and best of all – from experienced gardeners in our own communities.

Planting a peace garden is an excellent vehicle for re-establishing one’s connection with nature, restoring one’s place in the natural food chain, for preserving personal freedom, and for sewing the seeds of peace. This is the essence of true homeland security.

Comments (3) »

Veggies in the city

An awesome idea from the Oakhill Jackson Neighborhood in Cedar Rapids is moving along. Michael Richards, president of the Oakhill Jackson Neighborhood Association, said the group will present a formal request to the Cedar Rapids City Council at its meeting on Wednesday, March 26, about using one city-owned vacant lot in the neighborhood. The lot would be used on a seasonal basis as a vegetable garden demonstration project. 

The City Council meets in Council Chambers on the fourth floor of  City Hall,  at 6 p.m., with the presentation to be made during the public comment segment. The group is welcoming support for the project, regardless of where you live. Richards said the lot will be used as an “outdoor classroom” home vegetable garden demonstration project. 

 He had this to say about the project: “The objective is to encourage Oakhill Jackson families to plant their own backyard gardens.  Low income families have the very least access to real food, and consume the highest quantities of processed commodity based food.  Nationally, this dietary situation results in billions of dollars in disease care costs to deal with the rising levels of obesity as well as childhood and adult diabetes.  The Oakhill Jackson/Metro High School Community Garden Classroom is a way to mitigate this national health problem on a local level.” 

To keep the effort highly focused, the demonstration garden will be at one site in Oakhill Jackson, with families from Wellington Heights, Moundview and any other CR residents invited, as well.  Susan Jutz, former president and current board member of Practical Farmers of Iowa, is donating all seeds for this project.  She and Kate Hogg, an advocate of community-supported agriculture, will be working with Metro High students this year to “glean” surplus produce at their two farms to bring the fresh produce into the Oakhill Jackson/Metro High/Kalona Organics Store Front project. 

The storefront will provide organic milk, eggs, cheese, butter and produce to Oakhill Jackson at a wholesale/affordable price.  The community garden classroom will be part of this overall healthy/local food initiative. Richards said the group is recruiting a local Master Gardener to serve as instructor for this community open air classroom. 

As an added note, for those of you who missed the message from Carrie Marsh on a previous post, anyone who could not attend a community forum last night at the Jane Boyd Community Center can contact her. Those who want to contribute ideas on the “greening” of Oak Hill or other Oak Hil-related urban development topics, can email Carrie at:  

Leave a comment »