By Cindy Haynes
Iowa State University
When I mentioned this year’s demonstration gardens to some acquaintances this week, they stopped me in mid-sentence and asked, “What is the Home Demonstration Garden, anyway?”
“That’s a good question,” I replied. I also thought this was a great way to introduce the Iowa State University (ISU) Home Demonstration Gardens to others. Below are a few of the most common questions and answers pertaining to this year’s gardens.
What are the Home Demonstration Gardens (HDG)?
They are gardens located at several ISU Research Farms across Iowa. This year nine farms are participating. These research farms also grow other crops (corn, soybeans, grapes and more) as part of research projects with collaborating ISU researchers.
What are the objectives?
The main purpose is to grow and display a wide variety of annual flowers and vegetables and cultural practices in several areas of Iowa. New or unusual varieties are grown next to traditional varieties to compare yield and performance. Gardening techniques or cultural practices also are showcased at the HDG. I hope that the people attending the field days will discover new plant varieties or techniques that will help them have gardening success at home.
What happens at a HDG Field Day?
I call the HDG field days a “meet, greet and eat” afternoon or evening. We meet at the garden, the farm superintendents and I talk a bit about the different plants in the garden and finally we sample some of the products of the garden. (Don’t worry, we will taste more than just zucchini!) By the end of the evening, I hope you have gained valuable information, had a few laughs and enjoyed some tasty produce.
Who should attend the field days?
Anyone who is interested! The field days are especially useful for those with vegetable and flower gardens or those wanting to garden more with annual flowers and vegetables. Many local Master Gardeners attend their local field day. These Master Gardeners are great resources for answers to gardening questions in their local communities.
What are the themes for this year’s garden?
The origin of some of our food and flower crops is one of the themes. The “Continental Garden” features vegetables and flowers domesticated from the Americas (North and South), Asia, Africa and Europe. You might be surprised by how “global” we are in gardening.
In addition, several different types and varieties of summer squash and marigolds are on display. Eight varieties of basil and annual black-eyed susans (Rudbeckia) are other features. We can taste a few of the summer squash, basil and maybe marigolds.
Are all the gardens the same?
Yes and no. Each research farm is given essentially the same types and quantity of plants or seed in the spring for planting. Each garden is also planted in essentially the same design. However, this is often where the similarities end as each garden tends to look different by the end of the season. This is mostly due to differences in weather, soil types and other factors. This makes for valuable information to disseminate at the field days.
The Home Demonstration Gardens are not the only area of interest at the research farms. Some farms conduct research on other horticultural crops such as grapes, melons, potatoes, peppers, strawberries, blueberries and asparagus. Many of the farms also have flower displays or weed displays to educate home gardeners. These “other” aspects of each research farm are featured during field days as well.
Where are these gardens? When can I visit?
Below is a listing of the farms, nearby towns, dates and times of the field days this summer. This information also is available at your local ISU Extension county office or at www.extension.iastate.edu or www.yardandgarden.extension.iastate.edu.
Research Farm Town Date Time
Northwest Sutherland July 25 6:30 p.m.
Northwest Rock Rapids July 26 6 p.m.
Armstrong Lewis July 27 6:30 p.m.
Southeast Crawfordsville July 28 6:30 p.m.
Muscatine Fruitland July 29 6:30 p.m.
Horticulture Station Gilbert Aug. 1 6:30 p.m.
Northern Kanawha Aug. 2 6:30 p.m.
McNay Chariton Aug. 4 6:30 pm
Northeast Nashua Aug. 6 4 p.m.
I know there are more questions out there. Bring them with you to an HDG field day and I, the farm superintendent or one of the knowledgeable Master Gardeners can try to answer them.