The gardening articles you enjoy every other week in the Yakima Herald-Republic are written by community volunteers who are certified as Master Gardeners by Washington State University.

There are 30 Master Gardener programs within Washington state’s 39 counties. In Yakima County, we are celebrating our 40th year of service in 2020.

In 1980, Dr. Roy Van Denburgh, WSU Extension emeritus, began training eight or nine individuals in horticultural practices. Today under WSU Extension, we have grown to more than 120 active volunteers. The purpose of the WSU Master Gardener program is to educate volunteers so they can provide and share science-based horticulture, gardening and pest management information within their communities.

From January to April, these dedicated individuals begin their course work, meeting Wednesday afternoons at the Red Barn in the Ahtanum Youth Park. Several classes are taught by WSU faculty and local individuals who are experts in their field.

For trainees, these classes are supplemented by a WSU Blackboard Learn online course. Subject areas include botany, plant identification, soils, composting, insect identification, plant diseases, integrated pest management, lawns, vegetable gardening, sustainable gardening and plant propagation.

Yes, it sounds technical, but the purpose of the coursework is not to “know” all there is about gardening, but to be able to use resources to find information when needed. The primary goal of the Master Gardener program is public education, and many of our members are retired teachers who continue to get satisfaction from sharing their knowledge.

Another goal is community service. Interns volunteer 50 hours by spending time in the diagnostic plant clinic at WSU Extension, the Yakima Farmers Market and the Central Washington State Fair. Master Gardeners research and answer questions posed by the public when they call, email or present in person.

Other volunteer activities include:

  • Working in the beautiful Demonstration Garden at the Ahtanum Youth Park.
  • Helping in the Heirloom Garden (strictly vegetables and seed saving).
  • Doing plant propagation and seedling nurturing over the winter months in the greenhouse.
  • Helping at our annual plant sale the first weekend in May, which provides funding to support our program.
  • Hosting the Spring Symposium, where on each of the four Wednesday evenings in March a guest lecturer gives a two-hour gardening presentation to the public.
  • Holding classes for the public on Saturday mornings at the Demonstration and Heirloom gardens, sharing local Master Gardener expertise or listening to a guest lecturer.
  • Participating in the Speaker’s Bureau, featuring talks on gardening topics to local groups.
  • Writing gardening articles for the Yakima Herald-Republic and Yakima Magazine.
  • Teaching gardening practices to youths in certain schools and at numerous local events.
  • Helping create community gardens.

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

After completing these educational and service requirements, our new interns are awarded their Master Gardener Certification of Completion. “Veteran” Master Gardeners return each year for 10 hours of continuing education and to contribute a minimum of 25 hours of community service.

If you would like to join our family of gardeners, we encourage you to apply to the WSU Master Gardener program before the Nov. 15 deadline. Contact WSU Yakima County Extension at 2403 S. 18th St., Suite 100, Union Gap, WA 98903-1637; call 509-574-1604; or email www.gardener@co.yakima.wa.us and ask for the application and information sheet.

For more information, visit our webpage at http://tinyurl.com/yakimagarden, where an application and information sheet are available.

WSU Extension Master Gardener Program is an organization of trained volunteers dedicated to horticulture and community service. The Master Gardener Walk-In Diagnostic Clinic operates from 9 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Direct questions about gardening, landscaping or this program to the Master Gardener Clinic at 509-574-1604, or leave samples for identification at the WSU Extension office. Leave a message with your name, phone number, email address and the nature of your problem or question. You can also email your questions to gardener@co.yakima.wa.us and include pictures if you have them. A member of the Master Gardener Clinic team will check voicemails and emails, and reply as soon as possible. The WSU Extension office is at 2403 S. 18th St., Suite 100, in Union Gap. Call 509-574-1600. New volunteers are welcome.