Many Dubuque County Master Gardener activities are based in Dubuque, but a stalwart group of rural and small-town Master Gardeners, and some new blood, are raising awareness of the program outside of the city.

The Master Gardener program educates volunteers in horticulture and home gardening. These volunteers then share their time and knowledge with others. Training includes classes and service hours for each gardener.

Laura Klavitter has been the Master Gardener coordinator since last year, after working in the Virgin Islands and Central America, as well as in the Davenport Parks and Recreation Department. Having a coordinator has contributed to the program’s growth, with more frequent workshops, lunches and educational programs.

“Another thing we’re trying to do is break the perception that the Master Gardener program is (just) for retired people,” Klavitter said. “It is a big time commitment, but we’re hoping to expand our program and make it more accessible to working people.”

Nick Simon owns Simon’s Lawn Care and is currently completing his service hours to become a Master Gardener. He and a couple other young Master Gardeners-in-training are hoping to start a Junior Master Gardeners program in the Western Dubuque area. “Some people have a commitment to bowling, football, soccer,” Simon said. “It’s just your hobbies. If you enjoy it, get out there and train people. Educate them.”

Sharon Cable of Dyersville, a three-year Master Gardener, said that she does much of her service work in education and grounds-keeping at Four Mounds in Dubuque.

“In a sense, it’s kind of therapy for me,” she said. “I have an office job. I sit in an air-conditioned office all day long in the growing season. It gets me in the outdoors, and I get a kick out of dumping a plant in the ground and seeing what it does.”

Simon said that the program’s diversity has taught him more about vegetables and indoor plants, though his business gave him some knowledge of some aspects of gardening.

Cable likewise identified Master Gardeners as a “broad interest group” that extends far beyond her first love of flowers.

She tells how she got involved in the program. “I’m kind of a gardener by nature,” she said. “I’m really interested in helping other people, and a lot of people have questions about that sort of thing. I thought, I’ve got some knowledge already. Let’s see what I can do to help people.”

“That’s what being a Master Gardener’s all about, giving back to the community,” Klavitter said.

In Dubuque County, classes are scheduled in the fall of each year, and those interested should contact the Extension office.

Those who live outside of Dubuque County can still participate, or they can contact their county’s extension for information on Master Gardeners.

There are currently about 89 Dubuque County Master Gardeners, and Cable is working on recruiting the next generation: her 14-year-old son, Cam, is her best helpmate in the garden.