Master gardeners: Do you like gardening? Apply to become a Master Gardener | House and garden

The gardening articles you enjoy each week are written by community volunteers who are certified as Master Gardeners by Washington State University. There are 30 Master Gardener programs in 39 counties in Washington State.

In Yakima County, we celebrated our 40th year of service in 2020. In 1980, Dr Roy Van Denburgh, WSU Extension Emeritus, began training eight or nine people in horticultural practices. Today, under WSU Extension, we have grown to over 140 active volunteers. The goal of the WSU Master Gardener program is to educate volunteers so that they can provide and share scientific information about horticulture, gardening and pest management within their communities.

From January to April, these dedicated people start their classes and meet every Wednesday afternoon at the Red Barn in Ahtanum Youth Park. Some courses are taught by WSU professors and local people who are experts in their fields. For trainees, these courses are supplemented by a WSU Canvas online course. Areas covered include botany, plant identification, soils, composting, insect identification, plant diseases, integrated pest management, lawns, vegetable gardens, sustainable gardening and the spread of plants. Yes, it sounds technical, but the point of the course is not to “know” everything there is about gardening, but to be able to use the resources to find information when needed.

The main objective of the Master Gardener program is education in public gardening. Many of our members are retired teachers who continue to find satisfaction in sharing their knowledge.

Another goal of the program is community service. Interns volunteer for 40 hours, spending time at the Plant Diagnostic Clinic at WSU Extension, the Downtown Yakima Farmers Market, or the Central Washington State Fair. Master gardeners research and answer questions from the public when they call, email, or show up in person.

Other volunteer activities include:

• Work in the demonstration garden of the Ahtanum Youth Park.

• Help out in the Heirloom garden (only vegetables and seed saving).

• Propagation of plants and maintenance of seedlings during the winter months in the greenhouse.

• Help with our annual plant sale on the first weekend of May (which provides the necessary funding to support our program).

• Host the Spring Symposium, where every Wednesday evening in March, a guest speaker gives a two-hour gardening presentation to the public.

• Organize classes for the public on Saturday mornings in the demonstration and heritage gardens, share local master gardener expertise or have a guest speaker.

• Help members of the Speakers’ Bureau talk about gardening topics to local groups.

• Writing gardening articles for the Yakima Herald-Republic and Yakima Magazine.

• Teach gardening practices to our youth in some schools, outreach programs and at many local events.

• Help create community gardens when requested.

We all work hard, but above all, we find the Master Gardener program fun and extremely rewarding.

After completing these training and service requirements, our new trainees receive their Master Gardener Completion Certification. Many of our master gardeners say that the friendships made along the way are as important as finishing the program.

Veteran Master Gardeners return each year for 10 hours of continuing education and a minimum of 25 hours of community service while continuing to enjoy the many friends they have made.

If you think you are interested in joining our family of gardeners, we encourage you to apply for the WSU Master Gardener program by the November 15th deadline. Write to WSU Yakima County Extension at 2403 S. 18th St., Suite 100, Union Gap, WA 98903-1637; call 509-574-1604; or send an email to [email protected] and request the app and the fact sheet.

Terri S. Tomasini