ISU Extension and Marion County Master Gardeners Respond

Dale Miller, Marion County Extension Education Director, Central Area


Due to budget changes, lack of horticultural education, and acts of nature, some botanical beautification was needed in our local communities.  The Army Corp of Engineers had to cut landscaping costs for the welcome centers at all the campgrounds around Lake Red Rock, leaving empty flower beds.  A recent construction site left a beautiful new Habitat for Humanity house exposed to the elements, due to the lack of horticultural experience and finances of the new homeowner.  Finally, the ice storms of 2007 left communities and homeowners struggling to take care of their valuable trees and landscape plants.


The Marion County Master Gardeners recognized the community needs for horticulture education and stepped up to help.  With the assistance of county extension staff, the response included:   1) Partnering with the Army Corp of Engineers staff to plant each campground entrance area at Lake Red Rock by starting flowers from seeds, securing cash donations, and donating plants; 2) Helping educate the new Habitat for Humanity homeowner and community members by holding a Garden Demonstration Day at the home.  Master Gardeners, Garden Clubs, and businesses cooperated to educate on different topics, while landscaping the home with site-appropriate methods and plantings. The public event included presentations about compost, Buck Roses, perennials, vegetable gardening, mulching, tree/shrub planting, and vine establishment; 3) Hosting a Tree Pruning/Storm Damage Workshop at a Master Gardeners home damaged by the storm. The County Extension Director presented the workshop demonstrating how to properly prune trees and shrubs, and how to manage plant damage from the ice storm. 


1) Lake Red Rock is the largest lake in Iowa and has a major tourism impact. With thousands of visitors each year viewing the beautiful entryway flowerbeds planted by county Master Gardeners, a popular Iowa recreation destination was enhanced by the efforts of this local volunteer group. 2)  The new Habitat for Humanity homeowner had streams of tears rolling down her face as the garden and landscaping projects were finished that day.  She not only had plants beautifying her home, she also was prepared with knowledge and tools to take care of them.  She was extremely appreciative of the assistance provided, as were community members that came and learned together during the day-long event. The project was featured in the local newspapers, again showing how the Master Gardeners are devoted to serving Marion county people and their communities. 3)  Eighteen Master Gardeners and over twenty citizens learned about tree and shrub care following severe storm damage.  Following the Tree Pruning Workshop, many of the Master Gardeners went out into their individual communities and helped people properly prune and care for their trees. City and county officials recognized this volunteer-based effort, the positive impact on communities struck by the ice storm, and the opportunity to learn during a teachable moment with little cost to citizens. A city mayor described the effort as, a great way to again show ISU Extension and the Marion County Master Gardeners being visible and responsive during a time of need in local communities.

135  Master Gardener Education

Page last updated: September 28, 2007
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