Thursday, March 18, 2010

Master Gardeners

The WSU Extension Master Gardener Program trains volunteers to be community educators who provide science-based information on horticulture and environmentally sound gardening practices.

We have about 300 Master Gardeners in Snohomish County; each year a new class receives extensive training from the WSU faculty and experts from the Extension program. Returning MGs are required to complete continuing education every year to maintain certification.

In return for the intensive training, we provide diagnosis of plant problems, training in IPM, plant selection, soil imJune 014provement, water quality and organic techniques through the Extension office and hotline, community clinics and demonstration gardens. 

We are not trained to know all the answers; we are trained to find answers to the questions you ask.

The Washington State Master Gardener Program grew from the need for county agents to respond to the growing interest in home gardening. The WSU Extension originated the idea and trained the first Master Gardener volunteers 30 years ago. Now the program is replicated in every state and several provinces in Canada.

WSU extension offices are organized by county. Originally, the county agent was given the task of assisting the horticulture industry: orchards, farms and nurseries, for example. The horticulture faculty that was assigned to each office focused mostly on crop production.

In 1971, the extension offices began to experience public demand for information about plant problems that overwhelmed the resources. The solution that seemed most feasible was to recruit and train volunteers to serve the urban audience.

The viability of the concept was tested with a trial clinic; it was covered in Sunset Magazine with the caption, “Wanted: Expert Gardeners to Become Master Gardeners.” 600 applied; each applicant was interviewed and 300 were accepted. Ed Hume was an honorary trainee in the first class.

Sharon Collman, who had been working as program assistant on the project, became the King County Extension Agent.  She promoted and expanded the program and built a solid foundation. Sharon continued managing the program for several years and is now the Snohomish County Extension Agent.

If you’d like more information on Master  Gardeners including location and description of demo gardens an2008 ps setting upd community clinics, Speakers List, information on the Telephone clinic and location of the Extension office, visit the website. More information is available on the SCMG Foundation website including dates for the Winter Series lectures and the SCMG Plant Sale.

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