Yard Tours

Yard TourYard tours are hosted by pioneering residents who have made small to large ecological improvements to their landscapes and want to graciously share their knowledge with our community.

Benefits of immersing yourself in these diverse landscapes:

  • Connect with like-minded residents
  • Gain design ideas for your landscape
  • Learn about a wide variety of plants that provide food and habitat
  • Discover what fellow neighbors are doing to improve environmental health


We are always looking for pioneering residents who have made small to large ecological improvements in their landscapes. If you would you like to inspire others with your ideas and resourcefulness, Backyard Abundance strives to make it easy to share your landscape with the community. If you would like to host a yard tour, please contact us and we will promote it.

What qualifies as an "abundant landscape?"
Any landscape that has been consciously designed to help our environment is an abundant landscape. Classic examples include growing food, the installation of a backyard pond, a native prairie garden, a butterfly garden, or bird-attracting shrubs and trees.

A yard that reduces the amount of energy used for care and maintenance is also a model abundant yard. Creating and using compost as fertilizer, collecting and using rain water for irrigation, and replacing energy-intensive turfgrass with alternatives are all good examples.

Look at past events and view the ideas for your yard to see what others have done. If you have made the effort to help the environment through your yard, then your yard is likely a good candidate for an event.

Can yards that use chemical fertilizers and herbicides host an event?
Yes, yards that use chemicals can host an event.

Yard tourThere is no doubt that chemicals have contributed to the unhealthy state of our water and wildlife habitat. As a society, however, we have been indoctrinated to believe that vast expanses of turfgrass represent a healthy and thriving community. We are now beginning to recognize that these conventional urban landscapes have many environmental downsides. Even though this cultural phenomenon began only 150 years ago, a change in perception of what is beautiful and healthy will take a long time to emerge, both in ourselves and in our society. Backyard Abundance strives to hasten this shift in perception by hosting events that show alternative landscapes which will help us redefine our perception of beauty.

While our "big green lawn" perception persists, we must appease our neighbors and ourselves by keeping our turfgrass somewhat green and free of weeds.

What are the next steps?
If you are interested in hosting a yard tour, contact us and we will arrange a time to stop by and chat with you about how you want your event to proceed. A date and time will be set that is convenient for you.

We encourage you to take pictures of the environmentally-friendly features in your landsscape and post them on your My Abundant Landscape page. The pictures will be used for promotion and will help others understand your motivation for implementing the feature.

What is the day of the event like?
Our goal is to make the event as easy for you as possible. Below is a description of how things went at past events. All or just a few of these procedures can be replicated for your event—just let us know how you would like your event to be tailored.

  • We provide cups and napkins along with cold lemonade and water in large coolers.
  • You provide whatever snacks you like; e.g., cookies, veggies, crackers, etc. At past events New Pioneer Food Co-Op has provided gift cards for event hosts to help with the cost of refreshments.
  • We arrive about an hour before the start of the event to help set up.
  • We provide a name badge for you so folks with questions can easily find you.
  • A Backyard Abundance yard sign is placed in the front yard to help folks find your home.
  • Informational yard signs are placed in front of environmentally friendly features describing their function.
  • A table with a sign-in sheet and information related to the event is set up in the front yard.
  • We greet folks, give them a quick description of the event, and point them to your yard.
  • Master Gardeners and/or other knowledgeable individuals may be available to help answer questions.


Past Yard Tours

Beautiful Rain Garden

May 16, 2010

3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Rain garden

Neighbors Chant Eicke, Risa Dotson Eicke, and Sue Campney have constructed a beautiful rain garden between their two yards. The garden captures rainwater from two rooftops and allows it to slowly infiltrate into the ground rather than rapidly running into our urban streams.

Chant and Risa's yard also features a rain barrel, vegetable garden, and composting system.

Kevin Somerville, of Green Castle Organics farms, will showcase one or more custom rain barrel designs that may be available for purchase.

Local experts and participants from the Improve Our Water Quality class will be available to answer questions about the rain garden and rain barrels.

See pictures of their rain garden: http://laughsing.com/RainGarden/Excavation.htm

Learn more about the many benefits of rain gardens: Visit the Backyard Abundance rain garden page

Free. Refreshments provided.

Creating Landscapes for Children

July 18, 2010

This event is divided into two sessions: a presentation and a yard tour. Please attend one or both.


1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Southeast Junior High School, Band Room (131)
2501 Bradford Drive, Iowa City  directions
Cost: Free

Yard Tour
2:30 pm - 4:30 pm
Yard of Tony Malkusak
Cost: Free

Tony Malkusak designs children’s playgrounds for his living. But it has been a joy, not work, creating a play garden space at his home for his children and their neighborhood friends.

You can learn about ways to create your own nature friendly outdoor play space for your children or grandchildren by attending  his presentation at South East Junior High and follow-up yard tour on the east side of Iowa City.

Tony will show you easy ways to get your children outside doing nature art, utilizing loose parts (natural and recycled), building, and much more. Children who play outside regularly are less stressed, have fewer behavior problems and improved attention spans. Bring your children or grandchildren to this Backyard Abundance event and enjoy the fun!

Both events are free. Refreshments provided.

See photos of the playspace: Go to Abundant Landscapes

ExploreThe design approach for creating these outdoor spaces is promoted by the Nature Explore Classroom project, a collaboration of Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Educational Research Foundation.

Abundant Health

August 21, 2010

This event is divided into two sessions: a presentation and a yard tour. Please attend one or both.

Terry Wahls with Aronia

1:00 pm - 2:30 pm
Robert A. Lee Community Center
220 Gilbert Street, Iowa City  directions
Cost: $15 in advance (pre-register), $20 at the door

Yard Tour
2:45 - 3:30 pm - Open to presentation participants
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm - Open to the public
Yard of Terry Wahls
Cost: Free

Terry Wahls with red currantsDr. Terry Wahls was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2000, slowly losing control over her body in the following years. A change in her diet and physical therapy sessions in which her muscles and nerves were stimulated through electricity boosted Wahls out of her wheelchair.  Now she is back to walking and rides her bike 5 miles to work.

During the Presentation
During the presentation, Dr. Wahls will describe the link between food and her recovery to health. Fred Meyer, director of Backyard Abundance, will show how healthy landscapes lead to increases in our health and will provide tips for growing the food in easy and low-maintenance ways.

During the Yard Tour
A tour of the edible landscaping in Dr. Wahls' yard follows the presentation. Her yard features an aronia bush (chokeberry), hardy kiwi, elderberries, currants, apples, strawberries, blueberries, and several low-maintenance leafy green vegetables.

Samples and Handouts

  • Small kale plants will be available at the presentation, ready for planting or potting.
  • Samples of Dr. Wahls' suggested recipes will be available at the presentation and the yard tour.
  • Many ISU Extension publications about growing fruits and vegetables will be available.

View pictures of Dr. Wahls' yard.

Visit Dr. Wahls' website.

Learn about the Backyard Abundance Edible Landscaping class.