From the Ground Up: It's a Wonderful Time of Year

What a wonderful time of year. New flowers are blooming every day. Iowa's fertile soil is showing off for us this time of year, and what a beautiful sight. One of my favorite things to do is to go to farmers markets. They have finally started up again.

For a listing of area farmers markets, with locations, dates and times, go to

Another one of my favorite things to do is to go to plant sales. My favorite is coming up - the Linn County Master Gardener Plant Sale. It is from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday in the parking lot of Linn County Extension's new location at 383 Collins Rd. NE, Cedar Rapids. The entrance is on C Avenue NE. Choose plants for your garden from many kinds of perennials (both for sun and or shade), and many varieties of hosta and day lilies, also wildflowers, ground covers, ornamental grasses, annuals and more. These plants come from master gardeners' gardens and some were raised in the Linn County Master Gardeners' Greenhouse, where they have been carefully potted and tenderly taken care of until sale day. Best of all, they are priced for anyone who likes a bargain. Take master gardener plants home, grow them and enjoy them for years to come.

Linn County Master Gardener Carol Sears has some tips on what to look for when selecting the plants for your yard and garden.

Q :I'd like to grow some plants, but I never know which ones to purchase. Sometimes, they don't even make it through spring.
A : Any reputable garden center will have someone to assist you in your selection if you can provide information about how much light they will receive, general soil conditions and whether you want perennials or annuals.

If you attend the Linn County Master Gardener Plant Sale, Master gardeners will be available to help you choose plants right for you. For more information on the plants that will be available, go to news/master-gardener-plantsale#PlantSaleList Before you go off plant hunting, get a notebook and take a few notes on the areas you would like to plant. This will help not only you, but the salesperson or master gardener who is helping you select plants.

Look carefully at the area you would like to start a garden (or add to an existing one.) Note the amount of sun the area receives. Is it sunny all day or just a few hours in the morning? Will it be in full shade most of the day? Notice how quickly the soil in the area drains and how much water it receives after a rain shower. After trees leaf out, the plants under them may not get as much moisture and you may have to provide supplemental watering. Determine if the area is susceptible to high winds or if the area is somewhat protected in the winter. Some plants labeled as perennials may not survive Iowa winters unless they are protected, and some annuals may bloom but will have torn flowers, or fall over, if in an open area with con­stant gusts.

Before planting, look closely at the soil. Amending with compost improves sandy areas and can lighten clay soils, but some plants may naturally do well in clay soils or sandy areas. How much work do you want to do? You may want to make a raised bed or just find a few large ornamental pots and fill with potting mix.

Give your plant a few days in a sheltered area if the weather forecast suggests a freeze or major storm. Once you know what you are up against, you can tailor your plant selection and determine what will grow successfully in your space. Happy planting! 


Save the date: Linn County Master Gardener Garden Walk is June 22. 

Questions on gardening, land use or local foods? Contact Michelle Kenyon Brown, community ag programs manager at Linn County Extension,
It's a wonderful time of year plant sale plant selection Gazette

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