A Garden Oasis in the City
Sometimes the best things are hiding in plain sight and that’s exactly what the The Grand Ideas Garden (GIG) is doing on the NE side of Grand Rapids.
Tucked away in a neighborhood on Ball Ave NE, the small-but-mighty Grand Ideas Garden is powered by volunteers and holds a special place in the hearts of the local community.
Created by the Kent County MSU Extension’s Master Gardener volunteers, it serves as an open-air classroom for homeowners and gardeners, offering inspiration and education about locally suitable plants.
But, not many beyond the local area have heard about this walkable, inviting treasure-trove of gardening bliss. It is a hidden gem.
Reasons to Go to the Grand Ideas Garden
Why stop by?
Come to Relax: With picnic tables, a cascading waterfall, trellis structures, and meandering pathways, the Grand Ideas Garden offers quiet spot in the city and is a popular site for lunch breaks.
Come to Get Ideas: Wondering what will thrive in a Grand Rapids garden?
A look through the many carefully labeled plants in the different gardens (selected because they are suitable to our growing conditions) will inspire you to go home and get planting.
Come for Photos: You might find an engagement photo shoot or senior photo session underway when you stop by. It’s that pretty.
A Teaching Garden Built by Volunteers
Built on donated funds and resources, the GIG thrives under the diligent care of MSU Master Gardener volunteers and is open to the public 24/7.
Learning in the Garden
Acres of plants are waiting to teach you.
Learn about Pollinators: One of the highlights of the garden is the pollinator garden, designed to attract and support local pollinators like bees and butterflies.
This not only creates a vibrant display of flowers and plants but also teaches about the important role that pollinators play and how we can help them thrive.
Investigate Different Garden Sections: Stroll through the different sections of the garden, each designed to demonstrate various planting scenarios.
From the shade garden to the new “no deer” garden, each setting is there to help you figure out how to overcome your gardening challenges.
Plants are labeled with names and helpful information.
Workshops and Events: The Grand Ideas Garden frequently hosts gardening workshops, plant sales, and other educational events, led by knowledgeable MSU Extension Master Gardeners.
These offer a deep-dive into various gardening topics, including pollinator-friendly gardening, native plant landscaping, and more.
Becoming a Master Gardener with MSU Extension
Feeling the itch to plant and nurture?
If you’re curious about what it means to be a Master Gardener and how to become one, we’ve got all the information you need right here.
What is a Master Gardener?
Master Gardeners through the Michigan State University (MSU) Extension are volunteer gardeners that have a unique opportunity to serve the community.
They do this primarily by:
- Educating the Public: One of your main tasks would be to educate the public about gardening, environmental stewardship, and the benefits of green spaces.
- Maintaining the Grand Ideas Garden: Master Gardeners play a vital role in maintaining and improving the Grand Ideas Garden. They not only nurture the plants but also design new elements and features for the garden.
- Supporting Community Events: Master Gardeners assist in organizing and running community events like plant sales, workshops, and educational series.
Steps to Becoming a Master Gardener
Becoming a Master Gardener is a multistep process:
Enroll in the Foundations of Gardening Course: This 10-week online course explores a variety of gardening aspects. It’s a prerequisite for applying to become a Master Gardener and serves as a solid foundation for your MG journey.
The Fall 2023 Foundations of Gardening Class begins on September 5 and runs through November 21, featuring self-paced and live Tuesday sessions. Registration is open until September 1, and the course, inclusive of all electronic materials, costs $350 per person.
Complete the Volunteer Screening Process: After completing the FOG course, apply to become an MSU EMG volunteer, which involves a Volunteer Screening Process, acceptance as a volunteer, and a local MSU Extension Onboarding Course.
Complete Volunteer Service: Once accepted, you’re expected to complete 40 hours of volunteer service within a year. This could involve working on approved projects such as the Grand Ideas Garden or helping Kids Food Basket grow produce for their sack supper program.
To start this process, visit the MSU extension’s website website.
What is the MSU Extension Office?
The Michigan State University Extension Office is a statewide resource that connects Michigan residents with university-based knowledge on a wide variety of topics, from agriculture and animals to health and nutrition and have branches in each Michigan county.
Supports Community Education: The Extension Office hosts various programs such as workshops, plant sales, and educational series in the garden, promoting gardening education and environmental stewardship.
Offers Services: They offer Michigan homeowner soil test kits (fee) and a toll-free lawn & garden hotline to enhance their gardening practices.
Toll Free Lawn and Garden Hotline: 1-888-678-3464
Staffed by MSU Extension Consumer Horticulture Educators and Master Gardener volunteers.
Connect with the Grand Ideas Garden and Kent County MSU Extension Office
For more information about the Grand Ideas Garden and the services offered by the Kent County MSU Extension Office, use the following contact details:
Address: 775 Ball Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI, 49503
Website: Kent County MSU Extension Office
Facebook Page: Grand Ideas Garden
Do note that while the garden is open to the public 24/7, the Extension Office operates during business hours from Monday to Friday, 8 AM to 4 PM.
For any garden-related questions, you can also reach out to the toll-free Lawn and Garden Hotline at 1-888-678-3464 (1-888-MSUE-4MI), staffed by MSU Extension Consumer Horticulture Educators and Master Gardener volunteers.