heirloom garden

The Yakima County Master Gardeners maintain an heirloom garden for public viewing.

Let’s party!

Yes, we know we can’t gather together, shake hands, give hugs and share food and drink, but we at WSU Yakima County Master Gardeners are partying in our own way to celebrate our 40th birthday. How futuristic Dr. Roy Van Denburgh was when he set up a curriculum, advertised what the program was all about and began teaching those four people who joined him.

Those four back in 1980 have grown now to a membership of more than 150 people doing the same things Roy taught us so long ago. We pride ourselves on our continuing education each year and staying ahead of what is changing in the plant and insect world. Our mission remains: “Engaging university-trained volunteers to empower and sustain communities with relevant, unbiased, research-based horticulture and environmental stewardship education.”

But how have we put that mission statement to work here in the Valley? We are proud of the clinic work done by so many of our volunteers. You can call, email or come into the clinic with your gardening issues. We will guide you to use cultural methods first, then organic options before the use of chemicals. We also will refer you to other resources for answers if we think it would be helpful. We have a clinic at the extension office but you can also find us at the farmers market and the Central Washington State Fair.

We have a Writer’s Guild that takes care of this column in the Yakima Herald-Republic; it is here where we keep you informed on so many gardening subjects. We have a Speaker’s Bureau where a group of volunteers will come do a talk or demonstration for your group, sharing science-based gardening information.

Yakima County Master Gardeners also has a great youth program, doing outreach in area schools, partnering with other Washington State University programs like 4-H, taking part in Arborfest at the Arboretum, and other events. Who knows how many of the kids we teach will continue gardening for life?

We created and maintain a Demonstration Garden at the Ahtanum Youth Park of which we are proud. There you will find ideas you can use in your own garden from plant choices, art that showcases various uses of recycling and repurposing for pathways and trellises. We hold Saturday classes twice a month at this location in the spring, summer and fall that are free to the public.

We created an Heirloom Garden where all vegetables grown are open pollinated, which allowed us to start a seed library that we share with the public each year. All food not used for seed saving is donated to food banks, and that has amounted to thousands of pounds. This year, this garden space has been turned into an exclusive Food Garden with intentions to help with food scarcity here in our Valley. We also have the Kamiakin Food Garden where the produce raised will benefit the diabetes program on the Yakama Reservation.

We all know how different our lives have been over the last few months, and we at Yakima County Master Gardeners have been affected just like you, so even though we have written what we do, this year we have had to change, adapt or cancel many of the services we provide. We encourage you to stay in touch with us through our columns in the newspaper, our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/YakimaMasterGardeners and our website at www.tinyurl.com/yakimamg. Our mailing address is P.O. Box 10081, Union Gap, WA 98903; our email address is www.gardener@co.yakima.wa.us; and our phone number is 509-574-1604. We are here to help you with your gardening concerns.

The WSU Extension office that houses the Master Gardener clinic is closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, we will continue to answer your gardening questions; call 509-574-1604 and leave a detailed message. We also will respond to emails at www.gardener@co.yakima,wa.us. Again, leave a detailed message and include your contact information so we can call if we have questions. If you have photos as evidence of a problem, attach them as well; we are not accepting any physical samples at this time.