Posts tagged lowe park

Digging up dirt

Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith shares the following about becoming a master gardener:    

       Do you like getting your hands dirty and your feet wet?  How about digging up dirt?  Would you wholeheartedly grovel in the ground with new friends?  Are you inquisitive about things flora? Have you ever considered becoming a Master Gardener?  From experience, I can say, it’s a great experience.  What better way to get in touch with nature than through an educational opportunity provided by Iowa State University Extension’s Master Gardener program and an opportunity to make new friends who willingly share their expertise.  The enrollment process is not daunting! If you can demonstrate that you know a little something about gardening; you are enthusiastic about acquiring new knowledge; and would eagerly commit to some volunteerism and community betterment, then this program is for you. Sure, some of the Linn County Master Gardeners can spew verbiage about hundreds of issues.  Some of us, though, still need to ask questions and do the research.  But gardeners of any type and especially Master Gardeners love to share.  In fact, our mission statement says, “the purpose of the Master Gardener program is to provide current, research-based home horticultural information and education to the citizens of Iowa through ISU Extension programs and projects.”

                What do Master Gardeners do in addition to enjoying their personal gardening passions?

Imagine helping create a children’s garden at Lowe Park in Marion.  Learn how fabulous gardens are created by assisting at the annual Garden Walk.  Contribute some time at the Winter Gardening Fair where there are outstanding keynote speakers and the opportunity to choose from dozens of classes.  Lead or scribe on the Horticulture Line to research answers to any number of telephone and walk in questions.  Have privy to updates provided directly to you by ISU plus receive an informative monthly newsletter created by Linn County Master Gardeners.

                Applications and further information are available at or call the Linn County Extension Office at 319-377-9839. Please note that the application and fee are due by Friday, July 17th.  Visit the website at .  Selecting “Yard and Garden” will bring a menu of articles and information about the Master Gardener program.   Go ahead, talk to any Master Gardener.  They’ll tell you to try it:  you’ll like it!

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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.


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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. 


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Lightning bugs eat WHAT??

Who doesn’t like lightning bugs, the quintessential sign of summer? Of all that I learned at Saturday’s Winter Gardening Fair, my favorite tidbit is another reason to love this beneficial beetle. The next time my kids ask what lightning bugs eat, I’ll know, thanks to entomologist Donald Lewis, whose session, “The Good, the Bad and the Buggly,” was one of three workshops I attended at the gardening fair.

Here’s more of what Lewis, from Iowa State University’s extension, had to say.

On earwigs:

It’s a myth that earwigs crawl into a sleeping person’s ears to lay its eggs and they don’t burrow into your brain (whew!) Their name comes from a habit they had in the damp castles of Europe of crawling into the white wigs of the castle’s inhabitants and then wandering into the wig-wearer’s ears. Of more relevance to our time,  earwigs, identifiable by pincers on their tailend, are both beneficial, as they feed on decaying matter, and a pest, as they also nibble on foliage.

White grubs and Japanese beetles:

White grubs are the larval stage of various types of June bugs. Most of those in Iowa are the “masked chafer,” and more and more, the dreaded (editor’s note) Japanese beetle. The grubs live in lawns and chew the roots off grass. Secondary damage is done when raccoons and skunks scavenge for this “land shrimp” and tear the turf to get at the grubs. Moles, by the way, don’t indicate that your lawn has grubs. Their favorite meal is earthworms. There are various chemicals to rid lawns of grubs and to spray on the adult beetles, but just getting rid of the grubs won’t eradicate problems with the adults, because even if your lawn is grub-free, adult beetles – Japanese beetles, at least – can come from far away to dine on your roses, raspberry bushes and 350 other types of plants. Hand-picking the adults works best when done early in the season, as their chewing releases a scent to other Japanese beetles of where to find their next meal. Lewis said what you do with them after you pick them off is your choice: hammer, etc. Mine is to knock them into a container of soapy water. If you use plain water, they can swim around for several days and be none the worse off for your trouble.


 Aha! This is where the lightning bugs come in. Placing copper strips or pennies in your hosta – a favorite target of Iowa’s gray garden slugs – hasn’t been proven to prevent the slugs’ damage. But lightning bugs, in their larval stage, prey on slugs. Lightning bugs also eat other insect larvae and snails. What a beneficial beetle!

There was so much more I learned at the gardening fair. From Linn County Master Gardener Lu Barron – you might know her as one of our Linn County Supervisors – I found out why my peonies might not be blooming. Too much shade, too much competition from other plants, buds nipped by a late frost or too much nitrogen fertilizer are among the possible reasons. I also learned the best way to plant peonies – with eyes 1 to 2 inches below the soil line.

All of the presenters undoubtedly put quite a bit of preparation into their sessions, but I don’t know of anyone who had more work to do than Master Gardener Nancy Sutherland, who labeled and bundled dozens and dozens of tiny dried flowers so each of the attendees at her “Everlastings” workshop could leave with a whole box to take home and examine. Sutherland and other Master Gardeners can be found at the Lowe Park demonstration gardens in Marion, as soon as the weather warms.

Finally, what a great presentation by keynote speaker, Melinda Myers! Some of my previous posts (including excerpts from my interview with Melinda, if you want to hear her for yourself) address her topic of attracting butterflies and birds to your garden.  But I think my favorite quote from her speech was about how to get children interested in gardening. “Even if you don’t enjoy them, bugs get kids in the garden,” she said. “And the creepier the bugs are, sometimes, the better.”  

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