Supposedly Albert Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again but expecting a different result. I wonder if there is a word for doing something over and over again and expecting the same result? For me, the words are repeated success. This January will be my 37th year training volunteers who want to become Washington State University Extension Master Gardeners.
This enormously successful program was started by WSU Extension in 1972 as a way to handle the large number of home gardening and landscape care questions received in local extension offices. When I came here in 1980, the program had already started in the Tri-Cities. Back then, there were about 20 new and returning, or veteran, volunteers who annually received training and volunteered their time, mostly by answering home gardening questions in local plant clinics.
Like any well-nurtured seed, the Master Gardener program has grown and blossomed since it was planted. Now there are about 150 new and veteran volunteers each year who receive training and volunteer their service. Their service includes not only staffing plant clinics as before, but also maintaining a three-acre Master Gardener Demonstration Garden in Kennewick, teaching gardening to adults and children, and helping establish and mentor local community gardens.
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This past spring, the Benton-Franklin Master Gardeners decided to build an outdoor classroom in their demonstration garden. This classroom, with seating for 50, will be used for teaching classes and community events. A crew of dedicated and hardworking Master Gardeners built this impressive Waterfall Classroom, lifting 50 tons of landscape blocks during hottest summer on record with their own hands, hard work and sweat.
The Waterfall Classroom and the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden is a public garden worthy of a visit any time, but it is at its best when plants are green, growing and blooming. It is a beautiful place for learning about plants and nature, walking and taking photographs. You can find it behind the Mid-Columbia Library and adjacent to Highlands Grange Park at 1620 S. Union St. in Kennewick.
This year, the Master Gardener education team taught almost 5,000 children and adults about gardening. The Master Gardener food garden team helped establish 15 new community gardens and mentored 33 food gardens. New gardeners learned to grow their own veggies for feeding their families. This team is working on raising funds to build even more beds next year.
I am immensely proud of the success of the Benton-Franklin WSU Extension Master Gardener program and the many wonderful volunteers throughout the years who have made that success possible. We will start a new training program later this month and are looking for new volunteers interested in becoming Master Gardeners.
Training sessions are held locally each Tuesday afternoon, starting the last week of January. New participants are required to attend these sessions and take an online basic horticulture course from WSU. The cost of the training is $115, plus participants are expected to return 50 hours of return volunteer service to the program.
I am excited about this year’s face-to-face training that will include WSU faculty and local experts talking about genetically modified organisms, forensic entomology, climate and weather forecasting, irrigation management, water movement in soils, vegetable gardening, weed management, and much more.
Would you like to become a WSU Master Gardener? Call your local extension office at 735-3551 for an application. The deadline for applications is Jan. 20.
Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.