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Coronavirus COVID-19

COVID-19 Advisory: WSU Extension is working to keep our communities safe. All Extension programming is being provided virtually, postponed, or canceled. Effective March 16, 2020, WSU Extension county offices and WSU Research & Extension Centers will be closed to the public. We are available via email, phone, and webconference.

Master Gardeners

Program Contact: Alex duPont, Master Gardener Program Coordinator
360-395-2367 • alex.dupont@wsu.edu

Cultivating plants, people and communities in Skagit County since 1977

Master Gardeners are trained volunteers who work in partnership with WSU Extension to educate the public and enhance the quality of life in the community by promoting sound gardening practices.

History

The Master Gardener Program was started here in Washington State in 1973. Records show that 120 Master Gardeners from King and Pierce County Extension were trained in the first class. They served more than 7,000 clients in their first year. Today there are more than 3,000 Master Gardeners serving in 28 of the 39 Washington Counties. We serve more than a quarter of a million clients each year. The Master Gardener program is now operating in 46 states and four Canadian provinces.  Click here for more info on the statewide program.

The program in Skagit County was started in 1977, and has grown significantly since then. We now have approximately 150 active Master Gardener volunteers in the Skagit County program.

What we do

As trained and certified members of a volunteer program of Washington State University Extension, Master Gardeners assist Extension in providing information to home gardeners about sound and sustainable gardening practices. This includes integrated pest management, efficient watering technologies, recycling of garden wastes and cultural methods for preventing and treating plant disease.

We have

Over 170 certified Master Gardeners and up to 25 new interns each year.

Programs include:
  • Discovery Garden to inspire and educate the public – watch this video!
  • Weekly Plant Clinics in Anacortes and Burlington to diagnose plant problems
  • Skagit Valley Herald newspaper articles
  • Monthly Know & Grow gardening lectures
  • Rain garden and community garden mentors
  • DIG-IT! elementary school program
  • Skagit Master Gardener Plant Fair, Saturday of “Mother’s Day Weekend” (Cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19)
  • Speakers to talk at events and community groups
Community Contribution

In 2019, we contributed 20,617 hours:

  • 8,702 hours in Program Support
  • 6,363 hours at the Discovery Garden
  • 1,462 hours in Other Educational Delivery
  • 1,831 hours at the Plant Diagnostic Clinics
  • 324 hours in Youth Outreach

Check out our printable resources guide to our program.

MG Volunteer's Page CalendarEvents supporting the Skagit County home gardener. See you there!
Except for a part-time WSU Extension Master Gardener Program Coordinator position and the annual training program, all Skagit County Master Gardener programs, including the Discovery Garden, are funded through the efforts of Master Gardener volunteers in conjunction with Skagit County Master Gardener Foundation (SCMGF).

Deborah Smeltzer - Washington State Master Gardener of the Year

Skagit Valley’s own Deborah Smeltzer was selected as 2020 Master Gardener of the Year by the Master Gardener Foundation of Washington State.  Congratulations to this amazing woman who has given over 5,200 volunteer hours to the program since qualifying as a Master Gardener in 2012.  The award committee selected Deborah from eleven well qualified nominees using an unbiased point system to score applications submitted by Washington State Master Gardener County Chapters.

Deborah Smeltzer poses for a portrait at the WSU Skagit County Master Gardeners Discovery Garden on Friday in Mount Vernon. Smeltzer is the Washington Master Gardener of the Year and the third from Skagit County to win the award in eight years.

Master Gardeners are trained and certified volunteers who work with WSU Extension Offices to support home gardeners by promoting science-based gardening practices and education.  Since becoming a Master Gardener, Deborah has been involved in every aspect of the program.  While still an intern, she started organizing the syllabus and training materials.   After qualifying, she remained passionate about training and mentoring new Master Gardeners, helping to train 147 perspective Master Gardeners.  When asked about her role, she said “There are two things I really love about our Training Team—getting to work with truly dedicated and experienced volunteers, and getting to know the Master Gardening newbies and help them find where they fit into our Skagit MG Program.”

Deborah was President of the Skagit County Master Gardener Foundation Board from 2016 through 2019.  The Foundation organizes fundraising to support the program and operates the Discovery Garden in Mount Vernon.  Deborah has focused on expanding the use of the Discovery Garden to educate the public about sound gardening practices.  She helped establish the Joint Counties MGF Forum that meets twice a year to share best practices among MG foundation members from neighboring counties.  She also championed the establishment of Star awards to recognize MGs for exceptional “behind the scenes” service.

Deborah was Chair of the annual Plant Fair from 2013 to 2015.  The Plant Fair is the primary fund-raising activity that supports outreach programs such as Plant Clinics, ‘Ask a Master Gardener’ booths at farmers markets and fairs, Know and Grow lectures, and DIG-IT! elementary school programs.  Except for the part-time WSU Extension Master Gardener Program Coordinator position and the annual training program, all Skagit County Master Gardener programs, including the Discovery Garden, are funded through the efforts of Master Gardener volunteers.  The 2019 Plant Fair held at the Skagit County Fairgrounds on the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend was attended by over 2600 people.

Deborah’s passion for science was evident as a young adult.  In 1976, she completed a B.S. in Biology followed by an M.S. in Medical Microbiology in 1978 from the University of California, Irvine.  Later, she added to her skill set by completing an M.B.A. from Stanford University Graduate School of Business in 1985.  She spent over 30 years in the biotechnology industry as a financier, corporate officer, business manager, and public spokesperson.

She began actively gardening in the early 90’s when she and her husband purchased a new home in the wooded Baltimore suburbs and began to experiment with ornamentals and garden design.  Over the years, she has lived in California (S & N), Maryland, Oregon and even France and was able to experiment with different ecosystems learning about ornamental and vegetable gardening.  In 2009, they retired to the Skagit Valley and purchased a home on six acres.  With some extra time on her hands, she pursued training to become a WSU Master Gardener.  Her background in science and business combined with a passion for adult and youth education was a perfect skill set.

Deborah has been an unstoppable force contributing to the Master Gardener program.  The Skagit County Master Gardeners are proud of our fellow Master Gardener, and thank her wholeheartedly for everything she does for the Master Gardener program and the community.   Well done!

Pest Alert - Giant Asian Hornet
The Asian Giant Hornet — What the Public and Beekeepers Need to Know
Rain Garden Handbook for Western Washington
A Guide for Design, Installation, and Maintenance
Have a rain garden, or planning to build one?
Register your garden as part of the 12,000 Rain Gardens Project!
Rain Barrels
Want a Rain Barrel
Build your own and conserve water
Become a Master Gardener
As trained and certified members of a volunteer program sponsored by Washington State University Extension, Master Gardeners assist the Extension in providing information to home gardeners about sound and sustainable gardening practices. This includes integrated pest management, efficient watering technologies, recycling of garden wastes and cultural methods for preventing and treating plant disease.

New! Weeds of the West

Available for free download from the University of Wyoming
Pest Alert - Houdini Fly
Pest Alert - Spotted Lanternfly and Tree of Heaven
Due to COVID-19 and the state mandated “stay at home” proclamation, the garden and restrooms are temporarily closed.  Please check back often for more information.

Free Admission
Discovery Garden
Open to the public from dawn to dusk daily

Visit the demonstration garden maintained by the WSU Skagit County Master Gardeners.

Plant Clinics
The WSU Skagit County Master Gardeners host weekly Diagnostic Plant Clinics in Anacortes and Burlington to diagnose plant problems and provide assistance with plants, trees, landscaping and gardens including pest and disease identification. There are also monthly Ask a Master Gardener Booths at the Mount Vernon, Sedro-Woolley and Concrete Farmers Markets to provide general assistance with plants, trees, landscaping, and gardens.

Suspicious Seeds in the Mail?

The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) and United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) are asking the public to turn in seeds they received that may have been shipped into the United States illegally.
Insects of Skagit County
The 150-page book by Dr. Lloyd Eighme is chock full of interesting facts and color photos of the more common insects found in Skagit County. Personal stories, humorous notes, and amazing revelations make the book as enjoyable as it is informative. There are 32 pages of insect photos collected in Skagit County and preserved in the WSU Master Gardener collection.