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IC Farmer’s Market Gardening Storytime Recap

by Morgan Reeves on July 1st, 2015

This past Saturday, I took an early morning trip to the Iowa City Farmer’s Market to do a special storytime. I had been worried about rain, but the day started off nice and sunny. I sat under the trees in Chauncey Swan Park and spread out some colorful tablecloths for the kids to sit on. After  a nice little crowd took their seats, we sang a welcome song together.

“We Clap and Sing Hello” to the tune of “Farmer in the Dell”

We clap and sing hello,
With our friends at storytime,
We clap and sing hello!
(Repeat with stomp, wave, etc.)

As an appropriate start to storytime, our first book was Farmer’s Market Day by Shanda Trent, which follows a little girl throughout a farmer’s market as she tries to decide what to buy.

I followed this by asking what the kids had gotten today at the farmer’s market. I told them about my delicious breakfast at Griddle Me This (blueberry lemon pancakes!). Conveniently one girl was still eating a muffin she had gotten, which led right into singing “Do You Know the Muffin Man?”

Oh, do you know the muffin man,
The muffin man, the muffin man,
Do you know the muffin man,
Who lives in Drury Lane?

Oh, yes I know the muffin man,
The muffin man, the muffin man,
Yes, I know the muffin man,
Who lives in Drury Lane.

Next I asked everyone if they knew where the fruits and vegetables they could get at the farmer’s market came from. Everyone knew they came from the garden. Then we read my big book version of Up, Down, and Around by Katherine Ayres to see how these plants grow.

Afterwards, I asked everyone to pretend they were corn and grow up towards the sky. When I asked what is a tasty treat that comes from corn, everyone shouted out “POPCORN! So then we had to pretend we were popcorn by doing an action rhyme.

I’m a piece of popcorn (point to self)
Put me in the pot (make small tossing motion)
Shake me up, shake me up (jump around)
And watch me (freeze)
POP! (big jump with hands spread out and up)

Next we continued thinking about gardening, but this time with flowers instead of food, by reading Lola Plants a Garden by Anna McQuinn.

I was going to go to a rhyme next, but a family needed to leave and really wanted to hear the last book, so I moved right into My Garden by Kevin Henkes. I love this book because it is so imaginative and inspires belief in limitless possibilities.

I had fun sharing ideas with the kids about what would be in their gardens. Lastly we finished up with a fun little action rhyme focused on fine motor skills.

10 fat peas in a pea pod pressed (fingers in a fist pressed together)
1 grew, 2 grew, so did all the rest (very slowly uncurl 1, then 2 then, all fingers)
They grew and they grew, and they did not stop (keep slowly uncurling fingers)
Until one day that pod went POP! (suddenly open hands with fingers out)

Overall it was a fun and successful experiment, so perhaps we will try to do another Farmer’s Market storytime before it’s over.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

by Beth Fisher on February 27th, 2015

Even though you wouldn’t know it by looking outside Spring really is on the way.  Which means many of us have started thinking and dreaming about our gardens.

As most people know, there are two baisc types of garen plants:  annuals and perennials.  Annuals live fast and die pretty.  They last for only one growing season, and you have to replant them again next year.  Perennials are the mainstays in the garden. They come back year after year.  Many don’t hit their prime for two or three years, making year-round care of the plant important.   One of the most important things to consider before purchasing a perennial for your garden is what its hardiness zone rating is, to know if it will survive the winter in your garden.

The US Dept. of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone Map is now the standard device used to label plants in the US. zone map

It represents the average annual minimum temperatures in 11 zones which vary in ten-degree differences.  Each main zone is further divided into two sections, A and B, based on 5-degree differences.   The map is now interactive.   You can enter your zip code or state and it will tell you which zone you are in.  You can also click on a state on the map and a popup map will appear showing the zones as well as county lines, major cities and rivers.    Click here to try it out.

A bit of history:

The earliest versions of national hardiness maps were developed in the 1920′s and 1930′s by a variety of groups, most notably the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University.  The first USDA Hardiness Zone map was published in 1960 and updated in 1965.  Because it used a different temperature scale for its divisions than the Arnold Arboretum map, it often led to confusion for gardeners rather than clarity.  The USDA map would not be updated again until 1990 when it underwent a huge overhaul, using data collected between 1974 and 1986.  Additional zones were added to include Canada and Northern Mexico as well as Alaska and Hawaii.  Th 1990 map standardized its division s into the well-known 10 and 5 degree division, and became the default hardiness zone map in the US.

There is one big drawback to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map however, it deals with only the average minimum temperatures.  It does not take into account summer weather at all.  Heat, humidity and rainfall are also just as important to the survival of a garden plant, and all that information is found on plant tags as well.   But where can you find maps that give you this  information?

One of the best sources of this type of information is the PRISM Climate Group at Oregon State University.   In fact, the USDA used much of their winter data in the most recent overhaul of the Hardiness Zone Map.     From their web site:  “The PRISM Climate Group gathers climate observations from a wide range of monitoring networks, applies sophisticated quality control measures, and develops spatial climate datasets to reveal short- and long-term climate patterns.”

“PRISMs homepage can be found here.    From this page you can find lots of neat informational maps.PRISM_ppt_30yr_normal_4kmM2_annual

  • The link to 30 Year Normals takes you to a map that compiles the data from 1981-2010, and you can adjust it to see precipitation or temperature and you adjust by month.
  • The link to Gallery of State Maps takes you to a US map that you can then click on state by state to see the average annual precipitation (1981-2010) by state.

Combining information from The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map and the PRISM maps, can give you a lot of information about where you live and the types of plants the will probably work best in your area.    Unless you are dealing with a microclimate.  But that’s another topic for another blog post.   Happy Gardening!

ICPL Announces Second Sunday Garden Forum Lineup

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on January 5th, 2015

For more than 20 years, the Iowa City Public Library and Project GREEN have partnered to host the Second Sunday Garden Forum series. This winter’s forums will be held on January 11, February 8, and March 8.

John Clemens of the Eastern Iowa Bonsai Association kicks off the series January 11 with “The Art of Bonsai.” His presentation will focus on the shape, harmony and proportion of bonsai to express art in the form of these beautiful long-lived trees. Bonsai literally means a tree in a small pot that has been pruned and trained. Bonsai is the “new” interest to gardeners everywhere, despite the fact that the horticultural art form dates back thousands of years in Asian history.

David Morton, the head gardener at Brucemore, will give a tour of gardens of Iowa’s only National Trust Historic Site on Feb. 8. Brucemore, a 26-acre, park-like estate encompasses a Queen Anne-style mansion and multiple gardens. Many of the plants seen today were seeded by Irene Douglas, a knowledgeable gardener who enjoyed experimenting with new plant varieties as well as traditional. Today, Brucemore’s gardeners continue her work by preserving examples of historic plant varieties while adjusting to meet the needs of the changing natural and urban environment.

Think you know everything there is to know about perennials? Thinks again. All perennials require care during the year, some varieties more than others. Low maintenance perennials are the ideal plants for individuals who want an attractive garden, but have limited time to spend working in the garden. Richard Jauron, a horticulturist with Iowa State University and Extension and Outreach, will present “Low Maintenance Perennials” on March 8.

All Second Sunday Garden Forum programs will be held on the second Sunday of the month from 2 to 4 p.m. in Meeting Room A at the Iowa City Public Library. After each presentation, there will be a refreshment break followed by a question and answer session. All programs will be shown live on The Library Channel, Iowa City cable channel 20.

For more information, contact Beth Fisher at or (319) 887-6024.

Roadside plants in Iowa

by Beth Fisher on June 9th, 2014

iowa roadways3If you’ve ever taken a roadtrip, you know there are all sorts of things to see when cruising down the roads of Iowa. Big cities and small towns; railroads, bridges and barns; modern buildings or historic architecture; fields of corn, soybeans or hay; and trees, grasses and wildflowers.

It might surprise you to know that many of the trees, grasses and wildflowers you see in and along the roadsides of Iowa were planted by the Iowa D.O.T.   Iowa’s Living Roadways, a small spiral bound book produced by the Iowa Department of Transportation is a guide to the various landscape designs and planting styles used to maintain the roadways of Iowa.

The guide includes photographs and plant profiles of  41 species of wildflowers and grasses- from Canadian Anemone, Blackeyed Susan, Spiderwort and Vervain;  33 species of trees -  including, 10 species of Crabapples,  five species of Maples and 4 species of Oak; and 16 types of shrubs – from Chokeberries, to Dogwood and Fragrant Sumac.    Each plant profile includes a color photograph, a description, bloom times, trivia, and possible habitats or locations.

The end of the book has a glossary, references and bibliography, and  a fun 8-page section called Amazing Plant Facts.  (Did you know that Oak tress do not produce acorns until they are 50 years old?)     You can find a copy of this book in either the Circulating or Iowa Reference Collections at 582.13/Iowa’s