The African Violet Society table is seen during the 2023 Winter Gardening Fair in Hiawatha, Iowa. This year’s Winter Gardening Fair is scheduled for Feb. 17. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — As Deb Walser drives through Cedar Rapids, she is struck by the multitude of new apartment buildings springing up, each adorned with small outdoor balconies or decks.

Some balconies are diminutive, scarcely a foot wide and spanning the length of a sliding door. Other buildings boast more expansive decks, reaching dimensions of 5 feet in width and 6 to 8 feet in length.

“As a passionate gardener, I perceive these areas as untapped havens for greenery,” said Walser, a Linn County Master Gardener. “These spaces, often overlooked, harbor immense potential within apartment living.”

Walser is among the speakers on tap for this year’s Winter Gardening Fair, hosted by the Linn County Extension Master Gardeners, on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, at the Kirkwood Linn County Regional Center, 1770 Boyson Road, Hiawatha.

Registrants can choose six classes from more than 80 sessions and hands-on workshops, led by Master Gardeners, local professionals and ISU Extension Specialists, including Aaron Steil, Consumer Horticulture Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, host of “Gardening with Steil” on PBS and a regular guest on Iowa Public Radio’s weekly “Horticulture Friday.”

Steil’s classes will cover “Gardening for Butterflies and Other Welcomed Insects,” “Turfgrass Alternatives” and “Frequently Asked Questions for Iowa Gardeners.”

Other sessions address organic vegetable gardening and composting to pest management, pollinator gardens, lawn care and more.

Related: See photos from the 2023 Winter Gardening Fair

Walser will introduce a new program that delves into the potential of deck gardening.

“Consider the possibilities: the compact deck could serve as an ideal spot for suspended baskets along the railings or for hosting lush tropical plants to soften the angular lines,” she said. “The larger deck, however, holds even greater promise.”

Whether you reside in a condominium or apartment, Walser will demonstrate how to transform your deck into a captivating hangout spot, with techniques that are easily transferable and won’t cause any harm to walls, floors or ceilings.

Find her “Small Deck Gardening” class and other sessions and register online at: Winter Gardening Fair.

Tuition of $59 for adults or $30 for high school and college students, plus fees, covers six sessions, horticultural industry vendor fair, lunch and refreshments.

The Winter Gardening Fair is a fundraiser for the Linn County Master Gardener Volunteer Program. All proceeds help to fund Master Gardener volunteer projects around the community. Projects include community gardens, demonstration gardens, and educational classes for both adults and youths. As a program of ISU Extension and Outreach, Linn County Master Gardeners are volunteers, trained to share the research of the university with all Iowans.

More: see photos from the 2022 Winter Gardening Fair