The Garden Life: Working in yard a great way to grow relationships




Most gardeners spend a considerable amount of time alone, working and thinking in the garden. It is in this realm that we often feel most fulfilled by what the garden gives in return for our work. Alone we revel in the sight of a Douglas fir dancing in the evening wind. Or we suddenly recognize the sound of voices in the rustle of aspen leaves. Who knew that a chore as mundane as weeding could be the very platform we needed to revel in deep, uninterrupted thought.

When you are working with a fellow gardener, you often do a lot of talking. Talking and laughing. It’s fun and easy and time passes by twice as quickly. With three the talk goes on and on, light-hearted at times, often growing personal and at its best, intimate. I believe that sharing a job in the garden is as good a way to get to know someone as any other; as good as a glass of wine or a late night gab session. I highly recommend it for setting a friendship in motion.

This spring, my gardening has been influenced in every way by the Clark County Master Gardener program. With my growing interest in the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, I have had the pleasure of working with a dedicated group of master gardeners preparing the garden for the upcoming season. Through their efforts over the years, the garden has blossomed in every way and is now on the verge of being recognized for its value to the community, Vancouver, Washington and the National Parks System.

My interest led me to do some research. I was surprised to find the depth of our state’s involvement in the creation of the first master gardener program in the nation. With that bit of information, I’ll share what the WSU Extension Master Gardener website has to say, beginning with the fact that the first master gardener program was initiated in the State of Washington in 1973.

“At that time, university extension agents found themselves overwhelmed with questions on horticulture, gardening and plant problems, especially in the urban counties. The objective of the first program was to train a group of skilled volunteers in plant identification and selection, fruit and vegetable gardening, soils, insect and disease control, and lawns.”

Trained master gardeners were expected to assist local extension personnel in providing home gardening information to residents of their communities. With experience and mentoring master gardener volunteers became very proficient at answering nearly all of the home gardening calls, thus freeing up extension staff for program development.

Master gardening training has evolved into a program stressing sustainable gardening practices involving integrated pest management, natural gardening, water efficient landscaping, and plant selection for the urban environment. Volunteers now spend time in the extension office as well as working in the community in elementary school gardening programs, neighborhood associations, and in association with local ornamental plant associations. Check out the upcoming training session at

Do you have gardening questions? Call the WSU Master Gardener office. Even the experts are not expected to know every answer to every question off the top of their head, but master gardeners are trained to know how to find answers. Give them the time to research the latest information on your topic. The office has an extensive library and volunteers who are willing to give their time to research. Give the office a call at 360-397-6060 Ext. 5711. Erika Johnson is the WSU Master Gardener Coordinator and Dr. Charles Brun is our resident Horticulture Faculty advisor.

Celebrate the upcoming Mother’s Day with the Master Gardener Foundation Mother’s Day Weekend Plant Sale. This is the ever expanding annual plant sale put on by the Master Gardener Foundation. The sale includes perennials, annuals, vegetables, trees, shrubs, herbs, houseplants, hanging baskets and flower bowls. Many of the plant were grown in greenhouses by master gardeners. Many others were donated by members of the organization and by community gardeners willing to help the cause.

Your purchases help support the WSU Master Gardener Program, horticulture education in our community and healthy food growing grants in Clark County. Funds are also used to award horticulture education grants that preserve or enhance our environment. Master gardeners will be on hand to answer any questions you may have about plants or gardening in general. May 9, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and May 10, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the 78th Street Heritage Farm at 1919 N.E. 78th St. Website: