Getting down and dirty

Future Master Gardeners Cathy Mason, Pam Wendel and Sheryl Cray. Not pictured Carol Thompson.

By Marcie Klomp

Some find it therapeutic to sit in a garden and enjoy all the glorious colors and smells. Others are the ones who actually get down and dirty pulling weeds, adding mulch or planting new bulbs. Many times they are one in the same.

Over the past year, a few local ladies have taken their love of gardening a step further and committed to earn their Master Gardener certification.

Cathy Mason, Sheryl Cray and Pam Wendel of Chester and Carol Thompson of Lime Springs started their journey years ago when they first found their love of plants. Over the years they have built up their gardens and landscape and decided to take it a step further last fall by starting the Master Gardener Program.

Wendel got her love of gardening from her dad. “My dad was the gardener in my family.” Mason’s inspiration for joining Master Gardeners was a friend. “When I heard Anna Mae Roethler talk about it, I knew I wanted to do it.”

They attended training classes last fall for 12 weeks and had a one-day training in Ames. The ladies are considered interns until they complete their first 40 hours of service, which is what they have been working on this summer.

They have helped weed the beds at the fairgrounds before the fair, taken care of the plants at Chester City Park and in front of City Hall and planted some flowers in front of the “Welcome to Chester” signs on either end of town. The flowers at the signs were done quickly this spring, and the group plans to put up a nice brick border and spruce up the area this fall.

Since before Old Settlers they have also been working on some landscaping in front of Chester Community Center.

Cray noted black dirt was brought in, wood chips were added and a gravel path was laid out. Some greenery has also been planted. More landscaping is planned, including a bench, trellis and more wood chips.

The City of Chester sent out letters with the water bills earlier in the summer explaining the project and asking residents for help or donations. They got a few takers. Wendel said, “Bob and Jeanine Chase put the planters up (on the light poles) and watered them twice a day.” Howard Falck built the brackets for the planters.

The City gave $500 for a matching grant and Partners in Progress received a $1,300 grant for the group to spruce up the signs and other beautification around the town.

Cray says, “We hope to have kids around town help us plant.” By having youth help, it gives them a vested interest in keeping it nice.

Right now, the area in front of the south doors of the Chester-Lime Springs Community Center is the main focus of the interns, but they have plans for moving north in the future.

Lots of events take place at the Community Center and people might like a nice place to have a picnic.

Much of what the Master Gardeners do is physical and can be seen by the beautiful landscapes they create, but being a member is more than looks. It is also educational.

Friends and neighbors are encouraged to ask questions in formal or informal venues. If you see Cathy Mason at the post office, don’t be afraid to ask what are the flowers to plant in dry soil that bloom in August. If she doesn’t know the answer, she will find the answer.

In fact, she is interested in answering questions and putting them in a column in the Lime Springs Herald. Send her a message at She will answer your question directly and help others by publishing the answer in the paper.

The Master Gardener program is on a rotating schedule. The next one in Howard County is in fall 2014. This year’s local training is in Allamakee County and starts September 13.

If you like flowers and getting dirty, this might be the hobby for you!


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