A snapshot

• 2,955 Master Gardener volunteers completed 82,595 hours of training (basic and advanced). Volunteers provided 214,984 hours of service, valued at $4.9 million and equivalent to 103 full-time employees.

• The program directly reached 105,811 Oregonians: 74,718 pounds of produce were donated to local food banks and food pantries, much of it produced in 49 community gardens and 41 youth gardens across Oregon.

I think most of us are looking wide-eyed at the calendar and wondering where the year has gone. I know for a fact that as the birthdays pile up, the distance between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31 seems to get shorter. The hours are ticking off and time is running out to proclaim resolutions that supposedly improve our life, making it less stressful and more productive.

I confess, over the years I could have filled a book with written resolutions with good intentions in mind, but dismissed them all before the end of the month.

The only resolution I have made and kept over many, many years is my resolve to continually be an encouragement to those who think they would like to start digging in the soil. It is really a two-part commitment of encouragement, writing articles for The Bulletin plus continued learning and research by recertifying with the Oregon State University Master Gardener program.

I learned that the first Master Gardener program was founded in 1973 by the Washington State University Cooperative Extension in Seattle to meet the demands for urban horticulture and gardening advice. Master Gardener programs now are in all 50 states and in many Canadian provinces.

This summer, the Oregon Master Gardeners Association hosted an International Master Gardener Conference in Portland. Two busloads of conference attendees came to Central Oregon to visit our gardens and learn about our gardening climate.

The Master Gardener program involves attending a weekly six-hour class for 10 weeks from January through April. The classes will be held on Fridays this year at the OSU Campus in Bend.

After the class work is completed, trainees are required to volunteer to help at the plant clinic desk in one of the three extension offices for a total of 32 hours between April and September and to volunteer 28 hours for community outreach projects. With the completion of the plant clinic and outreach hours, the trainee is awarded the coveted orange OSU Master Gardener pin.

The following year the recertification process requires attending specific advanced training classes and working at the plant clinic desk.

Learning to garden

On March 7, 1983, a letter from Deschutes County extension agent Marvin Young arrived, giving the schedule for a Master Gardener training. My husband and I had heard of the program and decided to apply.

We joined the class along with Gary English and Cindy Jeffers (Landsystems Nursery), Dave Kimmel (Dave Kimmel Nursery), Doug Stott (Redmond Greenhouse), Anne McDonald (a driving force of the Redmond Garden Club), a Tumalo couple who wanted to start a strawberry farm, and I’m sure there were several others. My husband and I wanted to grow and sell tomato plants that would produce in Central Oregon.

Before any of us could pursue our goal, we had to better understand soil management, plant pathology, vegetable gardening, insect management, and the list goes on and on. The classes were taught by OSU horticulture staff, professionals in the industry and master gardeners who have a penchant for teaching a specific subject.

I would never have been able to garner all the knowledge that has benefited me without the Master Gardener program. Where else would I have learned about the historic 10 frost-free days called the golden days that occur in July and August, or why I shouldn’t kill every insect that makes its way across a leaf or up a stem?

Every year the classes provide an ongoing education with new methods and product research to be explored. There are days in early spring where I wouldn’t begin to consider working in my own garden, but willingly add another layer of clothes to be part of a work crew at the OSU Demo Garden in Redmond.

The camaraderie of fellow gardeners and the sharing of knowledge cancels out the discomfort of cold winds and light rains. I can truthfully say that there isn’t a workday that I don’t learn something.

I keep a journal of inspiring garden quotes.

Gertrude Jekyll offered advice to new gardeners that every gardener should pay heed to. “Each step becomes lighter, less mud-clogged until, little by little, the postulant becomes the novice, the novice the fully professed.”

If you have been interested in the OSU Master Gardener program, now is the time to make a resolution to go for it.

You will never regret the time or money, and you will be making a difference in your community, be it your neighborhood, organizations, family or your own personal thirst for plant knowledge and research.

There is still time to apply. Classes begin Jan. 19. For more information, call the OSU Extension Service at 541-548-6088.

— Reporter: douville@bendbroadband.com