Linn County ISU Extension showcased a portable container to grow lettuce and other plants during the 2014 Winter Gardening Fair. This year's fair will be Feb. 21 at Kirkwood Community College. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Linn County ISU Extension showcased a portable container to grow lettuce and other plants during the 2014 Winter Gardening Fair. This year’s fair will be Feb. 21 at Kirkwood Community College. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

As Iowa heads into the deep freeze of January, it’s the perfect time to think spring and one of my favorite ways to plan for spring planting is the annual Winter Gardening Fair, sponsored by the ISU Extension Linn County Master Gardeners.

Registration opens today, Monday, Jan. 5, for the 2015 fair, held at Kirkwood Community College, 6301 Kirkwood Blvd. SW in Cedar Rapids. The event takes place on Saturday, Feb. 21, from 8:30 a.m. to about 4 p.m.

Tuition is $59, which includes your choice of five workshops and a boxed lunch. Making those choices out of more than 50 workshops is the most difficult part of registration, but don’t wait too long, as only a limited number of seats are available for each class.

New this year will be a choice of three keynote speakers, which makes the decisions even more challenging, as I’d love to hear them all. The synopsis of keynote speakers is below. Find the full schedule at: Winter Gardening Fair and see more images from last year’s event here.

Kelly Norris

Kelly Norris

The Garden in Four Seasons—Kelly Norris
Many of you have no doubt pondered the idea of creating a four-season garden.  But how?  How do you make a garden space aesthetically interesting in four seasons?  Kelly Norris calls it gardening with the senses.  Four-season gardening is about finding exploitable traits and characteristics of plants that can be patterned together.  Drawing inspiration from native landscapes across the world, Kelly calls this lecture a lesson of ideas.  Beauty is presented on-screen.  Creativity is in the eye of the beholder, with a little coaching along the way.

Kelly D. Norris, of Iowa, is an award-winning author and horticulture manager at the newly-revised Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden.  As a speaker, he has garnered acclaim for his high-energy, zealous presentations on the national stage, leading many to call him one of the rising stars of American horticulture.

Mike Nowak

Mike Nowak

Good Planets are Hard to Find—Mike Nowak
Like many of you, Mike Nowak has been around to observe the successes and failures of the environmental movement in its short history. There’s some gardener out there right now asking, what in the world does that have to do with me? As a founder of the Midwest Ecological Landscaping Association and president of Chicago Recycling Coalition, Mike will answer that question, presenting new ways of looking at pests, pathogens and low-impact gardening solutions and, in the process, perhaps persuading you that ants, grubs and yes, even slugs, are less threatening than you ever imagined.

Mike Nowak is currently radio host of the aptly-named “The Mike Nowak Show,” of Chicago’s Progressive Talk, WCPT.  Mike is also a writer and columnist for Chicagoland Gardening Magazine, and an Illinois Master Gardener. He co-founded the Midwest Ecological Landscape Alliance and  is currently president of the Chicago Recycling Coalition. His first book, Attack of the Killer Asparagus, was just published by Around the Block Press.

Beth Botts

Beth Botts

Vegetables Anywhere—Beth Botts
You don’t necessarily need acreage to grow food. Explore vegetable and herb gardening in small urban spots, courtyards, raised beds, containers, balconies, roofs, and other tight spots.Beth will show you how you can enjoy vegetables and herbs you grew yourself even if you thought you didn’t have the space.

Beth Botts is an award-winning garden writer for publications including the Chicago Tribune, Organic Gardening, Country Gardens and Chicagoland Gardening. A Master Gardener and formerly a longtime editor and newspaper reporter, Botts now is a senior writer at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois. Her website is

REGISTER in advance for classes:
–download and complete registration form
–or call (319) 398-1022 or 1-800-332-8833

QUESTIONS? Call ISU Extension & Outreach Linn County at (319) 377-9839 or email