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Americas Garden draws a crowd

By Staff | Aug 1, 2015

-Farm News photos by Michele Linck INSTRUCTOR LAURA BEYENHOF, far left, worked this summer with second- and third-graders in the Clover Kids Club program, Growing in the Garden. The kids helped plant and care for the themed pizza garden and worked to show it off to the public at the fair.


ROCK RAPIDS – Lots of fairs offer displays of locally grown, championship vegetables.

But not many give fairgoers a look at a garden packed with interesting grains, vegetables and flowers originating from North, Central and South America.

However, the Lyon County Fair did with its 2015 theme: “Americas Garden.”

The 40-by-80-foot Iowa State University Research and Demonstration Garden on the Lyon County Fairgrounds was filled this year by five different planned gardens, although their borders are mostly undetectable to the eye.

PETER WILCOX digs up dark purple sweet potatoes that have been grown for millennia in Central and South America.

These include:

  • A pizza garden had tomatoes, peppers, onions, basil, oregano and wheat in a container.
  • A corn-squash-beans and pumpkin garden.
  • A straw bale garden planted in a variety of foods.
  • A container garden of herbs.
  • A pair of flower gardens in rasised beds.

The salsa garden included almost-ripe tomatillos. They look like large versions of Chinese lanterns, due to their tissue-paper- like husk, said Cynthia Haynes, an associate professor in the ISU horticulture department, as she lifted the husk of one to show the nearly ripe fruit.

Sweet corn, which was paired with pumpkins and squash, familiar staples for many indigenous peoples of the Western hemisphere. Popcorn was nearby, as well.

A ‘victory’ garden

The salute to the Western Hemisphere, Haynes said, marked the fair’s come-back after last year’s garden was washed away by a storm taking soil and all just prior to the fair’s opening.

Despite this year’s extended cold spring and a dry summer so far, the garden looked bountiful and drew big groups – about 50 people each – for its free, one-hour tours.

Several Extension agents handled questions in various areas of the garden.

“Small and flattish,” Haynes said, describing one of the heritage pumpkin varieties – Cinderella’s Carriage. “It is typical of pumpkins centuries ago.”

Two varieties of kale were growing with sweet potato plants. Both are known for their high nutrition values.

“Try a kale smoothie or kale chips,” Haynes urged. “Sneak the kale past the kids.”

Another strong point for kale it can be double-cropped in spring and fall.

Flowers only

Haynes talked next about the new raised-bed flower crops, which she said is a good way to use the soil. But, she cautioned gardeners not to plant anything edible in raised gardens if the wood has been treated with creosote, as are railroad ties, for instance.

Kids in the summer youth program helped to plant the garden.

Oliver Harms, 9, said he had learned the parts of of plants.

The Experimental Garden is one of six that Haynes installed across the state this year.

They were jointly funded by a $5,000 grant from the Riverboat Foundation.

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