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Apply to be a Master Gardener!

Program Contact: Alex duPont, Master Gardener Program Coordinator
360-395-2367 •

Sign up for Skagit County WSU Extension Master Gardener Training

If you want to become a Master Gardener, please apply by October 31 for the following year’s training. Click here to open the fillable form, which you can complete online and save to your computer, or click here for the printable form.

The information on the application will help determine if you qualify for the program, so please give thoughtful consideration to your answers. Although the rewards of becoming a Master Gardener are many, the training is academically rigorous and requires a large time commitment.

Once you have completed filling out your Master Gardener application, please send it to Alex duPont, Skagit County Master Gardener Program Coordinator at

What is a 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 Certification Process

The application deadline in Skagit County is October 31 for training which begins in January. Applicants are interviewed during November. The cost of the Master Gardener education is $400. A refund of $100 is returned to the Master Gardener once the required volunteer time is completed by the end of their intern year.

The Skagit County WSU Extension Master Gardener program starts with a 14-week course combining classroom and online computer based education. The weekly classes are held on Fridays at the Padilla Bay Reserve Meeting Room, beginning mid-January. The curriculum includes reading and lectures in botany, horticulture, soil science, sustainable garden management, integrated pest management, plant health, pesticide safety, entomology, pest management, plant pathology, plant disease diagnosis and control, weed identification, tree fruit and small fruit management.

After completing the academic course, Master Gardener Interns must complete 60 hours of supervised learning to become fully certified. This hands on training is completed at plant diagnostic clinics, the Discovery Garden, and other community outreach and education events such as farmers markets, Skagit County Fair, and community gardening classes.

After becoming certified, Master Gardeners must complete 25 hours of public service annually, including 5 hours of educational outreach to the public and 10 hours of MG continuing education to maintain their Skagit County WSU Extension Master Gardener certification. Volunteers often give back much more!

Meet Deborah Smeltzer
2020 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 Skagit County WSU 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 an Extension 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 Extension Master Gardeners, helping to train 147 perspective Extension 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 Skagit County WSU Extension Master Gardener Program Coordinator position and the annual training program, all Skagit County WSU Extension 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!