Master Gardener Foundation of King County Programs
The Master Gardeners maintain 38 plant answer clinics in locations throughout King County, from Bothell and Woodinville to Auburn and Maple Valley, including several farmers' markets. Clinic volunteers provide research-based information and advice regarding home garden problems. The Foundation supplies all reference materials, storage and display supplies, and printed reference materials for our clients. The Foundation also provides the resources needed to stage the clinics, such as canopies, tables, chairs, carts and display cases.
The Master Gardeners maintain seven demonstration gardens, two outreach gardens, and five youth outreach gardens. In our gardens we partner with school districts, social service organizations, city and county departments, and other groups. Each garden has its own mission and character: one demonstration garden features heritage flowers, vegetables and perennials that are representative of the 1885 time period of an historic home in the Kent valley; another primarily serves as a sensory/fragrance garden to the deaf/blind communities. Public outreach at our gardens varies from the Bellevue Demonstration Garden where in addition to food, ornamental, children's, and meditation gardens, there are weekly public lectures on various gardening topics, to the Shorewood High School Culinary Arts Garden, which allows us to teach staff and students enrolled in the culinary arts program to plan, grown, harvest, and prepare fresh food. The Foundation provides financial support for each of these gardens.
The Master Gardeners also provide free advanced diagnostic gardening advice to the people of King County. If a client brings in a pest or disease sample that cannot be diagnosed at one of our clinics, the sample is sent to our advanced diagnostic lab, where our skilled Master Diagnosticians, working with powerful equipment, diagnose the problem and provide a written report the client. This service is free to our clients, and is funded entirely by the Foundation.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
Master Gardeners are participants in the 12,000 Rain Gardens Initiative, a partnership between WSU and Stewardship Partners. Rain gardens are designed to capture and filter pollutants from water that would otherwise leach into our ground and surface water and ultimately find its way into Puget Sound. The Master Gardener Program began to offer advanced training about rain gardens to a group of our volunteers in 2012, and that training will continue in 2013. Those trained Master Gardeners in turn will educate the public about the importance and value of adding rain gardens to yards and teach ways to incorporate rain gardens into existing landscapes.
One of our most effective public outreach programs is through our demonstration gardens, outreach gardens and youth education gardens, where we can demonstrate good, sustainable gardening practices. Most of these gardens have been in operation for many years, and need significant improvement or renovations. The Foundation generally collaborates with municipalities or other non-profits to share the cost of these projects. For example, the Foundation, together with the Seattle Parks Department and other non-profits, recently provided funding to our Children’s Garden in Magnuson Park to improve safety and function by replacing and relocating the valves for their irrigation system, bringing the entire system up to current plumbing codes. Similar renovation work will be required this year at the Bellevue Demonstration Garden (where we collaborate with the City of Bellevue), Cesar Chavez Demonstration Garden (where we again collaborate with the Seattle Parks Department), and Shoreline High School Culinary Arts Garden (where we collaborate with the Shoreline School District and receive support from other non-profits).