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Polk County Master Gardeners

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach in Polk County

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Discovery Garden

The Discovery Garden at the Iowa State Fairgrounds is a cooperative effort between the Polk County Master Gardeners and the Iowa State Fair.  It began in 1983 as a small bed of annuals named "The Children's Garden" planted on the south side of the Agricultural Building. In the mid-nineties, care of the area was assigned to the Polk County Master Gardeners.  Under our guidance, the Discovery Garden has grown into a beautiful spot maintained by volunteers and visited by thousands each year! Here are a few highlights you can check out at the garden:

  • About 5,000 square feet is replanted each year and over 80 Polk County Master Gardeners maintain the beds from early April through the first snow.  All plants and beds are marked for the fairgoer's ease of information
  • New and unusual plant material including; annuals, perennials, tropical plants, natives, ornamental grasses, hardy roses, dwarf conifers and bushes.
  • Plants and beds are labeled during the Iowa State Fair
  • Our famous children's tunnel made of gourds and other climbing vegetables and flowers for children of all ages to run through.
  • A landscaped pond with a bog and rapids
  • Composting areas
  • A rainwater harvesting system
  • Unique garden design techniques

While the intent of the Garden is to peak at the Iowa State Fair, it provides interest, color and a place to relax throughout the season.  There is rarely a time when the Garden isn't in use whether by wandering gardeners, families with children interested in crawling through the tunnel, wedding parties, or someone just looking for a place to eat lunch or read a book.  It is also a favorite place for photographers who value the variety of colorful borders which make up the Garden.

Visit the Discovery Garden

Located on the Iowa State Fairgrounds, on the south side of the Agricultural Building.

1207 E Iowa St., Des Moines, IA 50317

Contact us at:

Join the Discovery Garden Facebook Group

Contact Us
Office: 515-957-5768

ISU Extension and Outreach, Polk County:
1625 Adventureland Dr.
Suite A | Altoona, IA 50009

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