KENNEWICK -- Can you plant a tree, know when to fertilize, or not, and tell the difference between a ladybug and a tomato hornworm?
Do you enjoy working with people and plants? Can you spare about 50 hours in the spring and summer assisting others who have plant, insect and other horticultural questions?
If so, consider becoming a Master Gardener volunteer.
You don't need to be an expert in all aspects of gardening to join the Washington State University Extension Master Gardener program. You just need the interest and some spare time.
There are many ways Master Gardeners give back to the community in return for their training, said Marianne Ophardt. She's a horticulturist with WSU Extension and runs the Master Gardener program in Benton and Franklin counties.
Master Gardeners hold plant clinics where they help people identify plant diseases and problems caused by improper planting or care. They also help identify which insects are munching on people's prize tomatoes or what disease is attacking their dahlias.
They help maintain the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden next to the library on Union Street in Kennewick.
At the Benton Franklin Fair & Rodeo, they run a booth answering gardening questions and handing out fliers and booklets. And they hold plant sales and organize a garden fair to help fund the Master Gardener program and maintain the Demonstration Garden.
First-year trainees receive over 60 hours of instruction. Much of it is in the classroom, but some time is spent with hands-on training in the Demonstration Garden.
The Master Gardener core curriculum includes lectures in basic botany, horticulture, soil and garden management, principles of pest management, landscape plant management, pesticide safety, entomology, plant pathology, principles of weed management, tree fruit and small fruit production, vegetable garden production, tree and shrub pests, principles of weed management, home lawn care and plant problem diagnosis.
Classes are taught by a variety of WSU Extension staff and other plant and garden experts.
Training begins Jan. 20 with an orientation session for new volunteers. Classes run from noon to 4 p.m. and are generally held on Tuesdays beginning Jan. 27.
Classes run 16 weeks and will be held at WSU Tri-Cities in the East Building Auditorium in Richland and at the Demonstration Garden in Kennewick.
Pass an open book test at the completion of training and you'll be named a Certified Master Gardener.
Cost for the first year's training is $100. At the end of the season, if you've returned 50 volunteer hours to the program, you'll receive a $50 refund.
Get with the program
Benton-Franklin counties: To register for the Benton-Franklin Master Gardener program, call 735-3551 and ask for Marianne Ophardt.
Or pick up an application at an Extension office: 5600-E W. Canal Dr. in Kennewick; 1121 Dudley Ave. in Prosser; or 412 W. Clark St. in Pasco.
Yakima: Volunteer Master Gardeners are also needed in Yakima County. Training begins Jan. 21 and runs through May 6. Classes meet from 1-4:45 p.m. on Wednesdays at Ahtanum Youth Park in Union Gap.
For more information or to apply, call the Yakima County Extension Office, 574-1600.
Walla Walla: There are a few openings for Master Gardener volunteers in Walla Walla County. Master Gardener trainees will attend classes in Richland.
For more information or to apply, call 524-2685 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Applications and the program fee for applicants in all four counties are due by Jan. 16.
* Loretto J. Hulse: 509-582-1513; email@example.com