Johnson County Master Gardeners of Iowa manage over a dozen projects to serve our community in an educational capacity. Each Master Gardener must complete a minimum of 20 hours of volunteer service per year, many of which are dedicated to these projects.
1876 Coralville Schoolhouse
Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, the 1876 Coralville Schoolhouse Gardens feature native perennials. MG care for the gardens and the City of Coralville provides the grass mowing.
MG staff booths, answer questions, educate the public, distribute pamphlets, and promote the Master Gardener program at community events.
Downtown City Gardens
MG volunteers improve and maintain city-owned properties in the downtown area, Northside Neighborhood, and other city locations. The project was started in 2008 and became an approved MG project in 2016. Volunteers help make spaces in the UNESCO City of Literature beautiful.
Ecumenical Towers, a 13-story apartment building on Washington Street in downtown Iowa City next to the Senior Center, is home to residents of various ages and abilities who meet certain income criteria. MG care for the front garden that faces Washington Street.
The Iowa Firefighters Memorial, located at 1 Russell Slade Boulevard in Coralville, stands as a tribute to firefighters. The memorial honors, celebrates, and inspires the spirit, courage, and service of Iowa firefighters – past, present, and future. Annually, MG plant peaceful gardens on the grounds that are open year-round for the public to enjoy and memorialize fallen firefighters.
MG staff the Hortline service to assist homeowners and garden enthusiasts’ questions about landscaping and gardening. Gardeners may email questions to the Johnson County Master Gardeners at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 319-337-2145 and leave a message, or stop by the Johnson County Extension Office, located on the Johnson County Fairgrounds at 3109 Old Highway 218 S, Iowa City. In-person staffing varies during the growing season.
Johnson County Fair Grounds
Butterfly House. MG share information with the public about native butterflies’ life cycles, habitats, and provide educational gardening material that benefits butterflies and other pollinators. Volunteers raise awareness about the shrinking population of butterflies and other pollinators in Iowa and the survival of the Monarch. The cooperative partnership between Johnson County Agriculture Association (JCAA), Forever Green, Butterfliz of Iowa, and MG began in 2013.
Demonstration Garden. MG showcase their planting and design skills in the “Demo” Garden at the Johnson County Fairgrounds. The garden was organized in 1993 in a partnership with the Johnson County Agricultural Association (JCAA). In 2017, the garden was relocated to its present position, and the corncrib, donated by the Earl Johnson family of rural Oxford, was added in 2018.
Fairgrounds Flower Beds. MG design, create and maintain the flower gardens that dot the landscape throughout the Johnson County Fairgrounds.
Rain Garden. This living memorial is an instructional tool that recognizes and commemorates MG. Utilizing a shallow depression, the Rain Garden collects and holds rainwater for a short time allowing water to slowly seep into the ground. Rain Gardens help filter pollutants and provide food and shelter for butterflies, songbirds, and other wildlife.
Located near the bike trail in Willow Creek Park, the Hospice Gardens is dedicated to volunteers who give their time to Iowa City Hospice. Three stone benches, positioned in a forested setting, offer a place for quiet reflection. MG plan, plant and maintain the shaded gardens.
Macbride Raptor Center
Located in the Macbride Nature Recreation Area (MNRA), IRP Gardens were established in 1999. When the 2020 derecho blew across Iowa, MNRA suffered pronounced damage, closing the area for more than a year. In 2021, IRP managers announced the area would restore a natural prairie using plants native to the Macbride area.
Oaknoll Garden Project
In 2016, Master Gardeners began a partnership with residents at Oaknoll Retirement Residence, a lifecare retirement, and healthcare service residence, to plant and maintain the facility landscape and resident-assigned gardens.
Plant Sale & Flea Market
Organized in 2007, to financially support the JCMG program and projects, including scholarships and awards sponsored by the group. The 2020 – 2021 sales were canceled due to the health and safety concerns with the global coronavirus pandemic. The annual sale is held on Saturday preceding Mother’s Day at the Johnson County Fairgrounds.
“Taste of Plum Grove” was launched in 1995. The annual celebration, hosted by the MG, is a tribute to Iowa’s history and food. Held at Plum Grove, 1030 Carroll Street, Iowa City, the historic residence was the home of Robert and Friendly Lucas. Robert served as the first governor of the Territory of Iowa from 1838 until 1841. Plum Grove Gardens have received local, state, and national recognition including the first Iowa State Service Award, National Smithsonian Garden Award, and an Irving Weber Award.
Tomato Taste at Plum Grove. The annual tasting activity is hosted by the MG as a tribute to heritage tomatoes to honor Iowa’s long history with food.
MG coordinate requests from organizations and groups for speakers to address a variety of garden topics.
Thymes Newsletter & Blog
Thymes is the official newsletter of the Johnson County Master Gardeners (JCMG). The newsletter communicates information about events and community activities. MG-authored articles about topics of interest. The newsletter is published monthly except January and August. The JCMG Thymes Blog was launched in 2021 to make available educational gardening information and boost promotion opportunities to the public.