In the Garden | The enemy of my garden enemy

Tim Smith

What is a Master Gardener? The title is usually applied to someone with years of gardening experience, and the passion to overcome the complex aspects of home horticulture. Someone who communes with nature sensibly, selecting carefree plant varieties to keep the lawn and garden safe from problems caused by insects, plant disease, weeds and irrigation (over, under, or both). A person who has developed skills through constant effort to upgrade their understanding of the natural art of gardening.

A Master Gardner carefully plans the planting of the right plant in the right place. They consider bloom timing and non-clashing colors, cultural compatibility with neighboring plants, hardiness, resistance to common diseases, or freedom from common insect problems. Their vegetable gardens grow freely from early spring to late fall, providing wheelbarrows full of fresh, wholesome and nutritious produce. Their yard looks straight out of a gardening magazine. All without apparent effort.

Most of us probably know someone like this, but there aren’t many of them in any community.

Your yard probably does not look like theirs. You do the best you can, but the perfect curb appeal just isn’t there. That plant you are struggling with just doesn’t look like it did in the catalog picture.

But wait — there’s help available. You may ask for help with your garden from a local member of the WSU Master Gardeners. You can even become a WSU Master Gardener, and in the process, learn to be better at keeping the yardwork under better control. By getting involved, you might also meet and help a lot of nice people, and by participating, benefit from the pool of useful knowledge of researched information from WSU and other universities, and the wealth of experience your fellow  WSU Master Gardeners have to offer.

Having a perfect yard may not be highest on your list of priorities, but understanding the plants you should use or avoid in a fire-safe landscape can save you a lot of trouble. We all live in a potential fire zone, regardless of where we are in town or the country. Many plants burn easily and serve as “kindling” during a wild fire, and others don’t. The WSU Master Gardeners, as well as others, have much of this information about specific, locally adapted plants, locally written and mostly free of charge.

Every winter, a new group of volunteers is guided by local WSU and other professionals in a formal in-class and online educational program covering a wide range of garden and home horticulture topics. In return for this educational exercise, each of the “rookies” pledge to give back 100 hours of service to the local gardening public.

Anyone is welcome to become a WSU Master Gardener, even when you are not a gardening expert; everybody brings their own personal strengths, and the program’s power is in the diverse backgrounds of its membership. More than 340 local people have been involved with the program since 1996, and there are currently 120 active members.

You may have asked a Master Gardener's advice at the WSU Chelan County Extension Office (Mondays and Wednesdays from 1 to 4 p.m.), or have seen the MG booths at local farmers markets. They don’t always have the answer to your question, but they often do. They have been trained to say: “I don’t know, but I will find an answer.” And they most often do identify the bug, plant or mishap and get back to you with practical answers to your gardening questions.

WSU Master Gardener programs from across the state are coming together in Wenatchee this fall. The local and state Master Gardeners Foundation is hosting the statewide annual meeting of the WSU Master Gardeners (East Meets West — Sharing our Roots) in late September. You don’t have to be a Master Gardener to attend the four-day conference. There will be useful programs on topics that include weeds, pollinator insects, firewise gardening, native plants, organic gardening and much more. There is a $50 discount if you register before July 1. Visit to learn more.



A WSU Master Gardeners of Chelan County column appears weekly in The Wenatchee World. Tim Smith is one of four columnists featured.