MY IDAHO: Volunteer master gardeners solving plant-related problems across the state

Posted at 9:00 AM, Apr 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-18 20:07:11-04

BOISE, Idaho — Spring is in the air, and that means it’s time to garden. Whether it’s help with identifying a weed or deciding when to plant your seedlings, local master gardeners are just a phone call away.

“It’s just starting now because it’s starting to warm up and people are out working in their yards and gardens,” advanced master gardener Jan Veatch said. “That’s when we get the calls!”

Veatch has been solving plant-related problems in the Treasure Valley for more than three decades, after getting involved with the master gardener program in 1986.

It’s a nationwide volunteer-based program that’s run locally by the University of Idaho Extension in Ada County.

“We’re just trying to just get everybody growing and enjoying plants out there,” University of Idaho horticulturist Susan Bell said.


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Whether it’s questions about trellises, trees, house plants, or hedges, master gardeners undergo hours of in-class and hands-on training to help.

“We teach them everything from flowers to frogs and teach them about fungus and fertilizers, you name it and we’re going into that subject,” Bell said.

A big portion of current contacts comes from transplants settling into their new homes in the Treasure Valley after living in drastically different climates.

“They buy a house and they don’t know what the plants are,” master gardener program assistant Jean Spinazola said. “They’ll bring us pictures of the different plants in their yard and we’ll help them identify them and make recommendations on how to take care of them.”

“We’re getting a lot of people moving into the area who haven’t lived in a high desert before, and learning how to water their plants correctly is a real biggie,” Bell said.

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Community involvement is also huge for the program. Volunteers work with local libraries and hospitals to set up landscapes and maintain community gardens.

Snowball bush

Although it’s a passion for plants that brings these gardeners together, it’s their love of people keeping them involved year after year.

“There are wonderful people out there in gardening and they share plants, they share produce, they share their ideas, they share recipes,” Bell said. “They’re really wonderful people to work with.”

If you’re interested in applying to the program click here for more information. To ask a plant-related question, call 208-287-5900.