Master Gardeners at Work

Community Giving Project 2021 and Giving Gardens Project 2020

In 2021, the Giving Garden Project expanded and was retitled “The Community Giving Project”. Three pillar projects comprised the expansion including: Seed Starting, Container Gardens and Giving Gardens.

The Seed Starting project provided the Master Gardeners to start seeds and nurture plants for use in both the Container Garden and the Giving Garden Projects.

One hundred forty Patio Gardens were created from carefully selected lettuce, tomato, and pepper plants grown from the Seed Starting project. The container gardens were designed to give those with limited access to green space the opportunity to grow and harvest their own food. Distribution of the included area food selves, senior living centers, the Veteran’s Association, the Garrison Lions, and past G101 participants. All the gardens included care instructions and educational materials.

The Giving Gardens portion was continued in 2021. By mid-September, the gardeners had surpassed the initial goal of 2,000 pounds of fresh produce ending the season with an impressive 2,862 pounds or 5,725 vegetable portions. The produce was donated to Crow Wing County organizations including area food shelves, the Salvation Army, Mid-Minnesota Women’s Center, Sharing Bread Soup Kitchen, and Crow Wing County Social Services.

Container Gardens with educational materials:

2021 Giving Gardens:

2020 Giving Gardens:

Like so many individuals and organizations throughout the country, the Crow Wing County Master Gardeners came to the realization in mid-March that they would be unable to hold Gardening 101 classes at the Northland Arboretum in 2020. However, the committee agreed that it was imperative to do something to help the community during these challenging times. And so, the Giving Gardens project was born.

Master Gardeners established vegetable gardens at a portion of the expansive G101 site, with plans to donate all the vegetables, fruit and herbs produced. However, even more than getting their hands dirty, Master Gardeners love to educate. Why not give the knowledge and skills to grow your own tomato, in addition to the tomato itself? Particularly given that during these times of social isolation, economic hardship, and disrupted supply chains, more people were trying their hands at gardening than ever before.

As a result of this initiative, 1,143 pounds of fresh food was donated to area organizations in 2020. Educational materials on growing, harvesting, and cooking with the specific vegetable at hand accompanied the donation.


To learn more about growing vegetables in Crow Wing County, visit our resources page.


Presentations and Articles
Gardening Presentations at Brainerd Public Library

In 2013 the Brainerd Public Library and Crow Wing County Master Gardeners joined together to offer a variety of monthly gardening presentations. In 2020, due to Covid, in-person classes were cancelled but continued virtually via Zoom, allowing a significant increase in the number of attendees. Click here for the schedule for current presentation topics and dates.

Writing Gardening Columns and Articles

For many years, there has been a gardening column written by a Master Gardener in the bi-monthly magazine Lake Country Journal. The column “Through the Garden Gate” covered many different aspects of horticulture. Since 2008, Master Gardeners have contributed to a column in the Brainerd Dispatch. Due to the tremendous interest in gardening during the 2020 Covid pandemic what started as a monthly column, has evolved into a weekly column. The column includes answers to many horticulturally related questions as well as timely gardening tips. Questions for the column may be sent to umn.mastergardener@gmail.com
Master Gardeners also contribute articles to other groups’ publications such as ArbLife and lake association newsletters.


Downtown Brainerd Planters

Crow Wing County was happy to have “Visit Brainerd” staffer Holly Holm join the program in 2021. Holly has utilized her connections downtown and is currently working on promoting some nearby nature in the city by keeping the planters weeded and looking good!


Central MN Adult & Teen Challenge
Sustainable Garden
Since 2014, Crow Wing County Master Gardener volunteers have collaborated with Central Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge staff and guests to establish and maintain a healing outdoor area. This space includes raised vegetable gardens, an orchard, and pollinator gardens. The mission of this ongoing project is to harness the healing power of nature, provide educational opportunities, and promote access to healthy, local food.

Monarch Waystation
The Crow Wing County Master Gardeners recently completed a Monarch Waystation at Central Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge. The design and plant list were developed by University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners in 2020 with all 65 plants donated by Master Gardeners. Clients of Teen Challenge provided the muscle, and the project was completed in a busy couple of hours one afternoon. Now all we need is for the Monarchs to return in the spring and the plants to bloom again!


Rain Garden at the Northland Arboretum in Brainerd

A demonstration rain garden was installed in conjunction with a Rain Garden Workshop in June of 2007 at the Northland Arboretum. In 2017 a significant renovation was constructed with the following objectives:
• Showcase native and cultivar plants with creation of14 different garden groups of perennials and shrubs.
• Educate the public on the importance of native plant varieties through the use of pollinator friendly plants, labeled for visitor convenience.
• Reduce the work for the garden volunteers through low maintenance plants and hardscape.
• Improve the visual appeal of the garden by selecting plants through various bloom times and colors.

The renovation also included installation of a retaining wall, pathways, pergola, and benches, allowing visitors to walk, pause and relax with nature. Master Gardener volunteers continue to play an active role in making this space an oasis for all Arb visitors.

The rain garden project was made possible by volunteers from Crow Wing County Master Gardeners, MN Master Naturalists, Brainerd Garden Club, Northland Arboretum staff, Boy Scouts of America, and Warrior Day of Service Group. Financial assistance was provided by project committee members and Crow Wing County Master Gardeners. The Brainerd Garden Club provided plants.


Gazebo Garden at the Northland Arboretum in Brainerd

When visiting the Arb, don’t forget to wander up to the Gazebo Garden. This excellent example of a shade garden is maintained by Master Gardener volunteers. In 2021 forty new plant labels were added so visitors can add cultivars they spot to their own landscape.


Gregory Park Fountain Garden

Since 2007, a Master Gardener, in coordination with Brainerd Park & Recreation, adopted the bench planters in Gregory Park. Through the years a wide assortment of annual flowers continue to be added to beautify the park.

In 2008 the big planter at the park’s entrance was reconstructed to match the fountain and provide an example of raised bed planting techniques. Pollinator-friendly plants have been incorporated into the garden.

While the wooden benches were removed in 2019, the fountain planter continues to provide an impressive entrance to Gregory Park while offering visitors a place to enjoy nature’s beauty.

Through the years support has been provided by Jackie Burkey, the John Turcotte family, City of Brainerd, Minnesota Green, and the Brainerd Garden Club.


Gardening Presentations at Good Samaritan – Woodland Campus 

Beginning in 2011, Master Gardeners partnered with the Good Samaritan Society to facilitate monthly gardening classes at their Woodland Campus in Brainerd.

Crow Wing County Master Gardeners also assist in the Good Samaritan Community Garden based on the Woodland campus. Good Samaritan residents can choose their raised bed and be matched up with a partner to help take care of it and harvest the veggies. Any extra harvested vegetables and flowers can be used in the Good Samaritan Dietary Departments and served at mealtimes.

If you are interested in volunteering or want more information about this community garden, contact Woodland Campus at 218-829-1429.


Pelican Woods Cemetery and Nature Trail

Pelican Woods Cemetery is all about nature. Since 1999 the Crow Wing County Master Gardeners have worked with the City of Breezy Point and the Cemetery Commission to ensure the trail around the perimeter of the property is a good way for visitors to breathe deep and relax. The Trail Stations have been designed to enhance the natural beauty of this unique setting; visitors find familiar and unfamiliar trees, flowers and greenery which grow well in Northern Minnesota’s harsh climate.


Gardening 101/G101

Crow Wing Master Gardeners guide new gardeners in basic vegetable, fruit, and native wildflower growing at the Northland Arboretum’s ‘Gardening 101’ Gardens. Participants attend sessions from early June through August, with classroom instruction and hands-on gardening. The course expanded in 2019 to include a Veteran’s and Adult series.

In 2019 the size of the gardens expanded to include of a back garden for additional youth, veteran’s and adult attendees, and a plant propagation space for both the Brainerd Garden Club and the Northland Arboretum. The expansion was created with financial support from the Northland Arboretum Board of Directors, Northland Arboretum Grounds and Trails Committee, Mid-Minnesota Credit Union, Crow Wing Energized Healthy Living, U of M Extension Master Gardeners in Crow Wing County, Northland Arboretum members and staff.  Construction was completed by volunteers from Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, U of M Extension Master Gardeners, Arboretum staff and families, and Northland Arboretum members. A special thank you to Erickson’s Greenhouse of Brainerd, Wild Bird Store Little Farm Market, Crow Wing County Master Gardeners, and Northland Arboretum members for plants and seeds.

Photo credit: Steve Kohls/Brainerd Dispatch


Ecological Restorations

Master Gardeners are helping to protect and restore many bodies of water by assisting with the planting of shoreland buffers and rain gardens.

A shoreland buffer is a simple and direct method of protecting a lake by preserving or restoring a buffer of native vegetation along the shoreline. These buffers slow down and infiltrate the runoff that otherwise might be going straight into the lake.

A rain garden is a shallow depression on the landscape where planted native plants will promote the infiltration of runoff coming from other areas of the landscape. Contrary to shoreland buffers along lakeshores, rain gardens can be planted at properties all throughout the county.

Past projects include the rain garden and Serpent Lake shoreland restoration project in Crosby, shoreland buffer at the Elks Camp on Pelican Lake and the rain garden at Fairview Office Park in Baxter.


U of M Extension Master Gardener Volunteers at Crow Wing County Fair

U of M Extension Crow Wing County Master Gardener Volunteers staff the “Ask a Master Gardener” booth located in the Horticulture Building at the Crow Wing County Fair.

The information booth provides up-to-date, research-based information on many horticulture-related topics such as flower, vegetable gardening, wildlife management, diseased plant material diagnosis. Information about the Master Gardener Program and how to become a certified program member is also available. To find us, look for the white pergola in the center area of the building.

For more information about the informational booth, Crow Wing Master Gardeners at (218) 824-1068