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In the North Central Washington Garden

The WSU Extension Master Gardener Program


The Master Gardener Program originated in Washington state in the early 1970s. At the time, Pierce and King County extension agents David Gibby and Bill Scheer were attempting to respond to a renewed and burgeoning interest in gardening. Initially, they thought that gardening articles and radio and TV shows would meet the demand.

Their approach was clearly inadequate; extension offices soon became overwhelmed with requests for gardening information. So Gibby and Scheer considered other approaches. One possibility would be to recruit and train volunteers to serve the gardening public. This idea was presented to subject matter specialists at the Western Washington Research and Extension Center in Puyallup. Initially, the specialists were not enthused. They believed that volunteers would be difficult to recruit and possibly inadequate since most of them would not be horticultural specialists. Gibby and Scheer responded by presenting trial clinics at local malls.

The clinics were very successful. The specialists were impressed; they became active supporters. The volunteers became “Master Gardeners,” a translation of the German term “gartenmeister;” gartenmeisters were well respected horticulturists in their communities. (I have to admit that some of our more modest members feel a little twitchy about the word “master.” We’re all trying to live up to the title.)

Today there are Master Gardener Programs in every state in the US and in four Canadian Provinces.

In general terms, WSU Extension Master Gardeners ‘promote gardening and agricultural land use, inform the public about best horticultural practices, enhance environmental conservation, and broaden gardening expertise in their communities.’ Specifically, Okanogan County Master Gardeners provide plant clinics, community service projects, classes, and demonstration gardens. We hope that you’ve had the opportunity to talk with a Master Gardener at the county fair or visit one of our demonstration gardens, the xeriscape (waterwise) garden at the fairgrounds or the rose garden near Mid Valley Hospital.

Our plant clinics are a great opportunity to get your gardening questions answered. If oregano has taken over your vegetable garden, your dogwood looks bad, or you need to identify an insect call (509) 422-7245. (Other questions are welcome too.)

Master Gardeners will be on site at the Extension office from nine to noon on Tuesdays; that’s a good day to bring in dying leaves, unknown insects, or tomatoes that are rotting before their time. When gardening questions leave us scratching our heads, we can turn to excellent resources including WSU faculty and staff.

Eleven new Okanogan County Master Gardeners will graduate this spring; anyone who is interested in becoming a Master Gardener should consider the next class which will probably be offered in the early part of 2015.

One of our most popular events is the annual spring plant sale. This year it will be on May 11th at the Civic League Park in Omak from 9-2. See you there and happy gardening!

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