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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.

Become a Master Gardener!

Program Contact: Alex duPont, Master Gardener Program Coordinator
360-395-2368 •

Due to COVID-19, we will not be holding in-person Master Gardener Training in 2021. Please consider our Home Horticulture Training 2021 that is being held online. Registration begins November 14. See WSU Home Horticulture Training.


What is a Master Master Gardener?

Master Gardeners are community educators trained to work in partnership with WSU Extension to teach the public and enhance the quality of life in the community by promoting sound gardening practices with research-based information.

The Skagit County Master Gardener program starts with a 12-week course combining classroom and online education. Training is computer-based with on-line course instruction, including a WSU Master Gardener Program Education disk that you will receive, along with a weekly hands-on learning at class held on Mondays at the Padilla Bay Interpretive Center, beginning mid-January.

The Master Gardener core curriculum includes lectures in basic botany, horticulture, soil science, sustainable garden management, integrated pest management, plant health care, pesticide safety, entomology, insect pest management, plant pathology, plant disease diagnosis and control, weed identification, tree fruit and small fruit production.

In Skagit County, the Master Gardener program is inviting student applications until October 31. We will contact you to schedule an in-person interview for the January class. Prospective student interviews are held the 2nd or 3rd week of November. The cost of the Master Gardener education is $400. A refund of $100 is returned to the Master Gardener after their volunteer time is completed by the end of their intern year.


Master Gardener Certification

Master Gardeners are volunteer educators in their community. After completing the training, Master Gardener interns schedule volunteer time at plant diagnostic clinics, work in the Discovery Garden and contribute to other community outreach and education events like rain garden education, community school gardens, and participation at the Skagit County Fair.

Master Gardeners interns fulfill volunteer time requirements to the program to complete their Master Gardener designation. The first year volunteer time requirement is 60 hours contributed to educational outreach, plant diagnostic clinics, hands-on gardening in the WSU demonstration garden, and other outreach and education activities. After qualification, MGs must complete 25 hours of public service annually, including 4 hours of educational outreach to the public and 10 hours of MG continuing education.  Volunteers often give back much more!

How to Apply?

Due to COVID-19, we will not be holding in-person Master Gardener Training in 2021. Please consider our Home Horticulture Training 2021 that is being held online. Registration begins November 14th. See WSU Home Horticulture Training.

We plan to resume Master Gardener Training in 2022. If you are interested in our Skagit County Master Gardener Program or more information about the Horticulture programs at Washington State University Extension Skagit County, please contact Alex duPont, Master Gardener Program Coordinator at 360-395-2367 or email:

Meet 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!