Dubuque County Receives Master Gardener Search for Excellence Award

Dubuque County recognized for efforts in pollinator habitat conservation through program aimed at public involvement

May 17, 2023, 3:08 pm | Alicia Herzog

AMES, Iowa – For the past three years, Master Gardeners in Dubuque County have partnered with the Dubuque County Conservation Board to create Mowing to Monarchs (M2M), a program that provides landowners with the tools and resources to convert mowed turf grass to pollinator habitat. Publicly launched in 2020, M2M has helped close to 180 landowners convert 19,100 square feet of turfgrass to prairie habitat.

For their efforts, the Dubuque County Master Gardeners have received the Master Gardener Search for Excellence Award for 2023.

Abbey Krava with children in front yard.The award recognizes Master Gardeners who demonstrate outstanding contributions to their communities, providing significant learning and impact in the local area. All applications must show that significant learning took place, with the focus on educating the general public.

Since the program’s inception, 12 Master Gardener coaches have contributed 392 volunteer hours to teach 468 adults and 20 youth the value of prairie habitat and its impact on pollinators. Master Gardener Doug Cheever states, “Iowa is blessed with creative and energetic people who want to learn about AND play a part in making our home eco-systems healthier. The supportive staff at our Dubuque County Conservation Board and our extension office make Mowing to Monarchs more relevant and exciting each year.”

Ray Kruse, Master Gardener coordinator with ISU Extension and Outreach in Dubuque County, said, “A significant lesson for our community has been that native plantings can be attractive in a suburban setting. We have heard so much feedback from participants that they have shared interest in native plantings.” With the support of M2M, 85% of participants have successfully planned, planted and maintained a pocket prairie in accordance with best practices.

Mike Wright, Dubuque County Master Gardener.The partnership with the conservation board is critical because the board provides funding, plants and administrative oversight while the Dubuque County Master Gardeners provide horticultural content training, resource-based information, gardening experience and coaching to homeowners in urban, suburban and rural areas.

“This program could not have occurred without the support of the amazing Dubuque County Master Gardeners,” said Kaytlan Moeller, outreach coordinator with the Dubuque County Conservation Board.

“Master Gardeners stepped up and filled many roles from program creation, content generation, participant support through coaching, experimentation and data gathering for plant selection and much more,” she continued. “Partnering with Master Gardeners brought this program from a dream to a reality through boots on the ground or hands in the dirt digging in."

For more information about the Mowing to Monarchs project and the Dubuque County Master Gardener program, contact Ray Kruse at rakruse@iastate.edu.

For more information about the Iowa Master Gardener Program, contact Alicia Herzog at aherzog@iastate.edu.

Shareable photos: 1. Dubuque County Master Gardener Mike Wright preparing a M2M participant’s native plant allocation of 78 plants. Forbs and grasses make a good mix of native plants for a 10-fooot by 13-foot pocket prairie. 2.The Search For Excellence Award recognizes outstanding Master Gardener projects that affect their communities. Abbey Krava, a 2021 Mowing to Monarch participant and a 2022 coach, shows off her front yard pocket prairie.

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