Sunflowers and Sunburns | Week 2 in Region 1

We have had beautiful weather here up in Northwest Iowa this week. So, what else is better than getting outdoors and spending some time in the garden?!

Growing in the Garden

Growing in the Garden is a camp open for Lyon County youth who have completed grades 1st-3rd and is led by Laura Beyenhof, the Lyon County K-12 Coordinator. The camp takes care of a garden that focuses on a theme and participates in activities centered around that theme. This year, they are having a Zoo Garden! Everything is centered around zoo animals, such as green zebra tomatoes, ZOO-cchini, and straw-BEAR-ries, to name a few. I developed a love for gardening last summer when I was a horticulture intern for the ISU Extension and Outreach of the SOLO counties, so it was exciting to be back in the gardens again. I helped the kids plant their own white petunia in a pot they can take home and take care of when they are not at camp. This was a fun project to complete with the kids because I enjoyed watching them get excited about taking care of their own plant. However, I feel like I had to say, “We don’t put dirt in each other’s hair” way too many times. I’m excited to hear the kids’ stories about their petunias when they return to garden camp in two weeks. When that was completed, I assisted Laura in planting the donation garden. To get a break from the heat, the kids got to have a snack consisting of animal crackers and a juice box while playing a zoo animal game in the shade.

More Introductions

To take a break from the gardens, I had the opportunity to attend 2 County Extension Council meetings. I attended the Sioux County Extension Council meeting on Monday night and the O’Brien County Extension Council meeting on Wednesday night. It was great to meet the wonderful Extension Council members from the counties, and they appreciated meeting me. Both Councils are very excited about my projects for this summer, especially my Fair Storywalk.

Ready, Set, GROW! Garden Club

The next day, I was back in the garden to help the Lyon County Garden Club and Jill Postma, the Lyon County CYC, plant their gardens as well. This club is open to all 4-Hers from 4th grade to 12th grade. Each 4-Her is given their own plot that they get to take care of throughout the rest of the year, as well as a section they take care of as a club. Each of the 4-Hers chose the plants that can be seen in their plots, so there are no two plots that are the same! Some of the 4-Hers picks include sweet corn, sunflowers, peppers, broccoli, and carrots. It was a lot of fun helping the 4-Hers plant their plots and teach them how to decide where to place their plants in their plots. The 4-Hers learned that we place tall plants, such as corn and sunflowers, on the north and east sides of their plots to prevent them from shadowing shorter plants. They also learned that members of the Nightshade family, such as tomatoes and peppers, cannot be planted near members of the Brassica family, which includes cabbage, broccoli, kale, and kohlrabi. These two families do not get along and will stunt each other’s growth, which can lead to the death of the plant. It was challenging to arrange each of the 4-Her’s plants in their plot since they each had a combination of tall and short plants and Brassica and Nightshade plants. Hopefully, each of the 4-Her’s plots will be successful this year, and they will have a bountiful harvest!

As a pale redhead, you would think that I would have learned by now to apply sunscreen, right? Well, you would be correct. Although I applied sunscreen before and throughout the gardening sessions, I still have turned the shade of a cherry tomato. But, it was worth it to see the proud faces of all the kids after their gardens were planted and to have the opportunity to spend time with them over the past week.

Anyway, have a great Memorial Day Weekend and don’t forget to apply your sunscreen!

– Alex