Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dear Iris - Master Gardener Awareness

By GERRI LYON, Master Gardener intern | May 17, 2012

I am relatively new at being a Master Gardener, but have always had a love of gardening.
Maybe it’s in my blood, or it could just be the country way of life and the desire to provide for yourself. Growing vegetables has provided delicious, healthy food as we raised our family, while landscaping and flowers have given our homestead the curb appeal! There have been many moments while gardening that I have asked myself “is this the right way to do it?” That was the driving force for me to take the Master Gardener training. The next rational reason was, enjoying the beauty at parks, city gardens and nodes, arboretums, botanical gardens, etc. and realizing that volunteers make it happen or contribute to the upkeep.
That’s what Master Gardeners do: learn and help. We learned accurate applications from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach for planting, maintenance, pest control, animal ecology, turf grass management and much more. Then we are equipped with training and experience and a willingness to help others.
The course class schedule lasted for two months, September through early November. The three-hour classes were one or two nights a week, which got us through 40 hours of instruction.
We had two formats, Adobe Connect, with the class viewed via Internet and given by ISU horticulture professors, or live presenters. The last class was a day-long class held on the ISU campus at the Horticulture centers. Overall it was a great experience!
Kim Keller is the Jefferson County coordinator, with so much educated knowledge and enthusiasm to share. Kim is very passionate on every horticulture level! I’m partial to Kim; she grew up near us on “Quality Avenue.”
I also want to mention that you don’t have to reside in the county where you take the Master Gardeners course. Van Buren County, where I live, didn’t have enough interest so I signed up in Jefferson County.
Our group had a desire to stay connected and work together so we formed the Jefferson County Gardening Club. We meet once a month at the Jefferson County Extension Office. Our officers are Sandi Dimmitt, president; Julie Johnston, vice president; Colleen Bell, secretary; Gerri Lyon, treasurer; Julie Wetrich, historian.
Some of our projects include the Maasdam Barns along Highway 1; adoptions of Fairfield city nodes; courtyard gardens at the Jefferson County Health Center and more.
We also write a column for The Fairfield Ledger titled “Dear Iris.” Our correspondence is via email with work times and locations.
We come from all walks of life. There is a young librarian, dental employee, retired teachers, organic farmers, a photographer, etc.
No matter your age, gender or occupation, the goal is the same: a desire to share information and volunteer. Kathy Tollenaere keeps a gardening blog going at
In order to become a certified Master Gardener, 40 hours of volunteering is required, as well as six hours of continuing education in the first year following your training. After these requirements are met you are certified.
To maintain your certification 12 hours volunteer work and six hours continuing education are all that is required. There are many ways to achieve each of these areas through organizing events, manual work, writing, plant sales, etc. Continuing education can be attending seminars, workshops and clinics that involve horticulture.
More information is available at With enough interest, there will be a Master Gardener Training scheduled for the fall 2012.
The gardening and landscaping industry is very popular and thriving in America. It is so desirable on many levels: to provide food, beauty, and economic value. Because Iowa can produce many challenges with weather, diseases, insects and, of course wildlife, we all need more knowledge. Enjoy your space, watching all great things grow!

Gerri Lyon is a Master Gardener intern.

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