Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) grows along the sides of Hwy 22 from Davenport to Muscatine, Iowa along with many beautiful wildflowers such as wild bergamot. The milkweed grows to over six feet tall.

On a recent trip to the Quad Cities in southeastern Iowa/southwestern Illinois, I was surprised to see milkweed growing everywhere--on vacant lots within the cities and along the country roadsides.  The most common variety we saw was the Common Milkweed.  However, some gardens also supported Asclepias tuberosa (which looks a lot like Tropical Milkweed) and also Swamp Milkweed.

Speaking of milkweed and wildflowers, part of our journey included Interstate 35--a corridor that stretches from Duluth, Minnesota to Laredo, Texas.  I am happy to report that stretches on either side of the portion of this highway we saw showed healthy evidence of an ambitious project to support Monarchs and other pollinators with an enriched habitat on either side of I35.  We actually saw common milkweed growing alongside stretches of this Interstate Highway.  Over six hundred miles of the 1,538 mile corridor known as I35 winds through Texas. We have our work cut out for us. Numerous national, state and local agencies support this huge national effort. (Note:  the unpaid pollination services of bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, moths, bats and birds totaled $16 billion in 2009.  They are worth our efforts to provide habitat for them. It is often said that pollinators are responsible for one of every three bites we put into our mouths.)


We saw several community gardens on a recent visit to Iowa. Most of the gardens were managed in participation with the county extension and local parks and recreation department. Davenport, Iowa has a population of 102,000.  Throughout this city and others located in the Quad City area (382,000) there are many community gardens and lovely parks.  The Davenport Community and Economic Development Department works with individuals and groups interested in starting community gardens at any of the roughly 170 empty city-owned lots throughout town that are suitable.  In nearby Rock Island Illinois there are 70 vacant lots available. Gardeners must till the land and provide water.  In Davenport, the city provides the water for the gardens.   

Quad Cities Community Gardening was established in 1997 as a nonprofit organization called "The Garden Growers" with a mission to develop and support community gardening programs that promote education, social interaction, vegetable gardening and beautification in neighborhoods.  Its founding partners included Friendly House; Iowa State University, Scott County Extension; ISU Scott County Extension Master Gardeners; Davenport Parks and Recreation Department; and Friends of Vander Veer Park. After 14 years of existence as an independent organization, in spring of 2011, The Garden Growers became a permanent program of Iowa State University, Scott County Extension.



Goose Hollow Community Garden - Davenport, Iowa.

In Davenport, one of the Quad Cities, water is provided by the city at all garden plots. The annual fees charged for the plots vary according to the location.

 At the Goose Hollow Garden area there is a large plastic 500 gallon tank that the city keeps filled with water.  Gardeners pay $10 a year for a plot that is approximately ten feet wide and 50 feet long.

 Davenport, Iowa--500 gallon plastic tank provided by the city at Goose Hollow garden.


Dave Kinney--a dedicated gardener from Goose Hollow Garden.  Dave has three plots at this garden.  In the photo he is standing behind a six-foot hight stand of Common Milkweed in one of his plots.



Friendly House Garden at 1221 Myrtle-Davenport, Iowa

In existence since 1896, the Friendly house has been responding to the needs of individuals and families through programs and services to enrich their lives and neighborhoods. It was founded in Davenport, Iowa.  Since 1896 it has been a haven, a social center, giver of counsel and extender of the helping hand. Like all the other community gardens we saw in this area, the Friendly House Garden had healthy stands of common Milkweed along with the vegetables they were growing.  As you can see from the photo below, one of these milkweed plants was already making seed pods.


Asclepias syrica (Common Milkweed) pod at the Friendly House in Davenport Iowa


LeClaire Heights Community Garden - Davenport Iowa

The Davenport Parks and Recreation Department has 36 plots for rent at LeClaire Heights Community Garden located at 7th and Farnam streets. The plots will be tilled by May 1 and water is available on-site.
A rental agreement stipulates several requirements, including the requirement to keep one's plot weeded and to grow nothing illegal.
- 10-by-10-foot plots are $35, plus a $20 refundable deposit.
- 4-by-16-foot plots are $40, plus a $20 refundable deposit.
Water source for the LeClaire Heights Garden is a well.


Community Garden in Bettendorf Iowa

This garden is located at the Scott County Extension office at 875 Tanglefoot in Bettendorf, Iowa.  It features plots all around the extension building.  I would estimate about 1/2 to 3/4 of an acre total of small garden plots.  One larger plot (about 6 feet by 40 feet) features native plants of Iowa.  It is a beautiful mixture of wild flowers such as purple bergamot and Asclepias tuberosa, and native grasses.

Three Sisters Garden at the Extension Department in Bettendorf.  (The Garland Community Garden had a Three Sisters plot last year.)



Three Master Gardeners: David and Jane Arendorf from Illinois and Liz Berry from Texas

Riverside Park Gardens -- Moline Illinois
(Corner of 34th Street and 4th Avenue)

In 1957 twenty members of the Beautification Committee of the Moline Chamber of Commerce banded together to solicit funds for a building in which local gardeners would have a chance to display and view plants and flowers.  Sections of this garden include:  Children's Garden; Butterfly Garden; Daylily Garden; Greenhouse; Daylilly Garden; Herb Garden; Hosta Garden; Raised Beds (handicap accessible); Rose Garden; and the University of Illinois Extension Garden which includes Perennial Zone Test Gardens and a vegetable demonstration Garden.

When Charlie and I visited this garden last week, we meet David and Jane Arendorf, both Master Gardeners, who were busy cleaning up the Extension Garden area managed by the University of Illinois Extension Department.

Construction of the greenhouse shown below began in 2007.  The $160,000 project was funded by private donations from two estates, Modern Woodmen, the Moline Foundation and the Friends of Riverside Park Gardens. 

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