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Spring is coming — really! Carbon County welcomes a new batch of master gardeners

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    The newest group of Carbon County master gardeners are, seated from left, Mary Soto, Ann Marie Oblas and Chelsea Weyhenmeyer; second row, Angie Cales, Kathy Conrad and Patricia Kramer; and back, Len Steigerwalt and Christopher Anthony. KAREN CIMMS/TIMES NEWS

Published February 15. 2019 11:51AM


Carbon County’s latest batch of master gardeners have completed four months of lectures and workshop instruction, and are ready to focus on giving back with 50 hours of volunteer service to the program.

The gardeners were recognized at the program’s monthly meeting at the Lehighton Recreation Center last week.

The new master gardeners include Mary Soto, Lansford; Patricia Kramer, Lehighton; Ann Marie Oblas, Andreas; Kathleen Conrad, Summit Hill; Christopher Anthony, Palmerton; Chelsea Weyhenmeyer, Hometown; Leonard Steigerwalt, Walnutport; and Angie Cales.

Soto, who works as a cancer registrar at St. Luke’s Hospital, says she’s a backyard perennial gardener and also works as a volunteer for community gardening.

She decided to become a master gardener in order to gain valuable knowledge in gardening, so that when she retires, she will be able to volunteer her time doing something she loves to do.

Soto hopes the process will expand her knowledge with different types of gardening and allow her to share that knowledge within the community.

Kramer has an emotional healing practice. Her background includes working in her own garden. She decided to pursue becoming a master gardener so that she may better able serve the community and is hoping to expand her knowledge of gardening while volunteering.

Oblas is retired from the pharmaceutical industry and from teaching. Her background consists of an interest in houseplants, as well as vegetable and flower gardening. She’s looking forward to putting her new knowledge to good use.

“I now have the time to invest in learning and experimenting with my gardens,” she said.

Conrad is retired from a career in medical/scientific research. She said she’s always been a gardener, but wasn’t always doing it correctly.

Her interest in becoming a master gardener stems from an interest in showing others how to garden, especially children. She hopes to spark gardening interest at an early age.

Anthony is a Penn State graduate. He’s a retired chemistry educator and a business owner. A longtime gardener, he started a lavender farm which he continues to work and grow. He took steps to become a master gardener to increase his knowledge base and share it with others.

“I hope to at some point, create a community garden project in the Palmerton area,” said Anthony.

Weyhenmeyer has a bachelor’s in business communications and is “almost” the mother of two.

Her background includes working on 14 Acre Farm in Summit Hill, tending trees in the apple orchard, as well as home gardening.

“I have a passion for watching things grow,” Weyhenmeyer said.

She’s hoping that as a master gardener she’ll be able to inspire the community and her children to tend and nurture the Earth.

Steigerwalt has been an educator for 36 years and is a ski instructor at Blue Mountain Ski Resort. His gardening background includes a small orchard, growing grapes and a vegetable garden.

He became a master gardener so that he could learn more techniques on organic gardening and to be able to share that knowledge with others.

Cales admitted that she didn’t really have any gardening background, but wanted to learn.

“I would like to achieve knowledge on vegetable gardens and everything else that has to do with gardening,” she said.

While there is still plenty of snow on the ground, Carbon County master gardeners are gearing up for the growing season.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 30, the gardeners will celebrate their annual “It’s Time to Plant” event at the Summit Hill Heritage Center, 1 W. Hazard St., Summit Hill.

For a $10 fee you can learn about composting food for plants, what is a spotted lanternfly, alternative gardening ideas and attend a seed-starting workshop.

For more information and to register, visit or call 570-325-2788.

Carbon County master gardeners will also hold their annual plant sale from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 18 at the Lehighton Farmers Market in Lehighton Borough Park in downtown Lehighton.

The gardeners will offer unusual plants, annuals and perennials, house plants, heirloom vegetables and boutique herbs.

All plants are grown and donated by the master gardeners, and are grown without pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers.


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