Where do you go to get answers to your gardening questions? Your best friend? The clerk in the gardening department at Walmart? Do you try to look it up on the web and find contradictory opinions?
Perhaps you have heard the phrase “Ask a Master Gardener” floating around in our gardening community. Just about anywhere I go — the gym, the grocery store, parties, etc. — I am asked gardening questions. I trust most of our 80 or so active Master Gardener volunteers in Chelan County do as well.
I’m here to tell you the best sources for answers to your questions.
During spring, summer and fall there are many places around town where you might find a WSU Master Gardener almost any day of the week. From 1 to 4 p.m. every Monday and Wednesday from April 1 until November, a team of WSU Master Gardeners is available to do serious research on your gardening problems at our diagnosis clinic at the WSU Chelan County Extension office at 400 Washington St. in Wenatchee. Either call 667-6540, or come in with your diseased leaf, weird bug or other sample in a plastic bag and one of the Master Gardeners will go to work with all the many resource materials on hand.
However, if you are out for a walk in Riverfront Park early on a Wednesday morning, you are likely to see several Master Gardeners working in the Xeriscape Demonstration Garden. Any one of us is happy to stop and chat and tell you the names of plants, explain good cultivation and watering practices and give advice on related gardening problems. If you have a problem that needs research, we can give you information on where to look or take your name and number and someone from the diagnosis clinic will call you on Wednesday afternoon.
The same is true if you drop by the Community Education Garden at Springwater and Western avenues on any Thursday evening, between 6 and 7:30. You are welcome to ask any Master Gardener working there any other time, as well, and one of us will be glad to steer you in the right direction. In the rose garden, there is a plastic information stand with information on growing roses.
The Wenatchee Valley Farmers Market on Saturday morning is another place to catch a Master Gardener ready to help you.
Now, what do you do if you can’t find a Master Gardener or you can’t phone or visit the office during the hours available? Here is a useful website that WSU set up to help with a great many problems faced by gardeners in our state: pep.wsu.edu/hortsense. If your question is about insects, use pep.wsu.edu/pestsense.
These are the very sites we volunteers in the diagnosis clinic use if we need further help. Another very useful resource for our area is “The New Sunset Western Garden Book.” The current edition was published in February and contains the latest climate information, new plants and discoveries. Even if you have access only to an earlier edition, you will find it to be a great help.
There is one more important fact I must share with you. When I first started gardening in Eastern Washington, I was not aware that Sunset has a more detailed climate zone designation than the more commonly used USDA designations for the U.S.
Most plant labels will have the USDA Zone number on them. Our area is considered the mildest area of the Intermountain Climate and is Zone 5. It is not the Zone 8 Pacific Northwest climate, which both Seattle and Portland enjoy. When I looked up some of my precious new plant purchases in the Sunset book and read that they were hardy to Zone 4 or 5, I was sure that they would survive the winter here. Unfortunately, many plants did not thrive and often died. It was some time before I read the information in the front of the book and realized that our SUNSET zone here is 3B. If you remember this little fact, you will find the “Sunset Western Garden Book” to be the most valuable gardening reference in your library.
So hunt down a Master Gardener, a book or a computer and get your questions answered!
A WSU Master Gardeners of Chelan County column appears weekly in the At Home section. Gloria Kupferman is one of three columnists featured.