For almost 40 years, the Master Gardeners have helped Clark County residents maintain their gardens and landscapes. A local group of 250 volunteers answer questions, teach sustainable gardening practices, help homeowners reduce pesticide use, conserve water, and make Clark County just a little more beautiful.
Lillianne Barrett volunteers at the Answer Clinic and responds to a wide variety of inquiries. Diseases and pests are popular topics, but every day is different.
“The last time I volunteered, I was asked to identify a spider, which turned out to be a false black widow,” Barrett shares. “I enjoy tracking down plant identities. The bugs are a little creepier, but I know it is just as important to get those right, too. I am a born researcher. I trained as a historian and I like solving mysteries.”
Master Gardener volunteers complete 70+ hours of college-level, WSU-certified coursework and a year of on-the-job training before becoming certified. This experience gives volunteers a wide knowledge base of local plant communities and pests, but that doesn’t mean their job is easy.
“One of the plant identifications I worked on was especially difficult because the woman brought in a brown and shriveled up example of the plant and no picture of it actually blooming,” Barrett recalls. “But her verbal description of its small, yellow flowers and distinctive seeds helped me track it down on a state website. Turns out it was a particularly invasive plant that she should not allow to spread in her yard.”
“If we don’t know the answer to a question immediately, we take all of the particulars, enter the information into our database, and get on with the job of tracking down the answer. Sometimes more than one of us becomes involved, and we may need to ask for additional pictures of the subject,” continues Barrett.
Barrett became a Master Gardener in 2014 after hearing about the program from a neighbor. “In 2010, my husband and I bought an old house with a fantastic, but overgrown, garden. As we worked to bring it back to life, I wished I knew more about what I was doing, particularly with all of the pruning,” she says.
A few years later, Barrett retired and signed up for the volunteer training program. “I thought, ‘I could become a Master Gardener. It would benefit me and my garden and, in turn, benefit the community. It’s a win/win!’” she says.
In addition to volunteering at the Answer Clinic, Barrett writes a column for the Master Gardener’s quarterly newsletter and works in the Heritage Farm greenhouse preparing herbs for the Master Gardener Foundation’s Mother’s Day plant sale fundraiser. Barrett also helps out in the Master Gardener’s booth at local events like the Clark County Fair.
Learn more about how to become a Clark County Master Gardener volunteer. Applications for the 2018 training session open on April 1, 2018. Gardening experience is not required, just a passion for plants, a desire to learn and availability to volunteer at least 50 hours per year.
Master Gardener volunteers help residents of Clark County:
- Manage their gardens and landscapes in a science-based, sustainable manner
- Understand water conservation and water quality protection
- Reduce the impact of invasive species
- Learn more about healthy living through gardening
- Explore area nurseries and gardens
About Master Gardeners
The Master Gardener Foundation of Clark County (MGFCC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that raises money to support the Master Gardeners. A few of MGFCC’s activities include the annual Mother’s Day Weekend Plant Sale at Heritage Farm and grants to community horticulture programs.
Follow the Master Gardener Foundation of Clark County on Facebook or visit the Master Gardeners workshop and event schedule.
Master Gardeners Answer Clinic
If you have questions about indoor or outdoor plants, growing fruits and vegetables, or problems with garden pests, certified Master Gardeners are available by phone, email or in person to answer your questions — for free. Learn more about the Master Gardener Answer Clinic, including the clinic location, hours, how and when to bring a specimen and soil testing instructions, by clicking here.