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Gardeners have easy entry to a world of new knowledge through Master title

EVERETT — Gardeners who love to learn and share about all things botanical now have the chance to join an elite group of gurus.
The Washington State University (WSU) Master Gardener program is now accepting applications for its winter training program, held at McCollum Park in Everett and a green thumb is not required.
Training coordinator and master gardener Jackie Trimble says she’s seen gardeners of all levels succeed in the program.
“I was a home gardener trying this and that — sometimes things worked sometimes they didn’t — never knowing for sure,” said master gardener Jenny Lidington. But after chatting with master gardeners at a garden show, she decided to try her hand post-retirement.
“It was everything I hoped it would be,” she found. She loved that the classes were full of expert speakers: one day would bring a pruning presentation by an orchard manager, another a talk by a WSU botany professor, yet another a Q-and-A by a beekeeper with 30 years of experience.
The program is low-stress but requires a time commitment. South Everett classes are 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Thursdays from January to March and total 80 hours of instruction plus four to six hours per week of online homework, study and exams.
Last year, 43 people joined the club, which numbers 349 active members.
For some older applicants, returning to college or going for the first time can seem daunting, but it isn’t, Lidington said.
When studying something you love “it’s not onerous, it’s wonderful.”
It helps that the weekly classes stress learning how to find answers rather than memorizing them. “All quizzes and exams are open book and can be re-taken,” program materials reassure.
Master gardeners often volunteer in groups of three as well, so if one is stumped, another is likely to root out the answer.
In 2017, the program reported volunteers spent a cumulative 31,524 hours, or about 90 each helping fellow plant lovers improve their environment.
The garden trivia buffs answered 7,637 queries at plant problem clinics across Snohomish County last year.
Perennial questions include: “What’s wrong with this plant, why is it not growing well? What can I do to take care of insect problem without killing my tree? How can you garden sustainably, be a good steward of the land,” to name just a few, Trimble said.
Also, “there’s a lot of people very appreciative (who want) to learn best practices about chemicals on their lawns and how they affect children or pets … and they’re becoming more aware of bees, (when) putting them on trees or bushes, it’s really nice to see,” she said.
One WSU study showed the use of pesticides by people who consulted with a master gardener dropped about 75 percent.
Master gardeners certainly learn from the experience too, both in class and volunteering.
“I used to believe in green thumb, and that I didn’t have one,” but I’ve learned “not having a green thumb is about not knowing the basics,” Lidington said.
And for those curious to get a peek into a master gardener’s own plot, Trimble described hers as “a huge English garden that looks a little messy all the time, and I love watching the hummingbirds come in and butterflies, (even though the) deer kind of munch on it.”
Applications are available at
The fee for the program is $275 for people who agree to volunteer 40 hours a year for two years. Without the volunteer commitment, classes cost $775.
Class rosters are on a rolling basis, so if you apply for one and don’t make it in, the organization puts you at the top for the next set of classes.



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