The Masters

Get to know your local Master Gardeners

The Thurston County Extension Service is one of the hundreds of county extension services in the United States that are provided by each state’s land-grant colleges or universities. The original land grants were established by the Morrill Act, named for US Representative Justin Smith Morrill who proposed the act. The act was proposed to make higher education available to the industrial classes and it opened the doors to college for many Americans.

The Morrill Act sought to provide a college education “without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactic, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.”

Additional land-grants were added via amendment in 1994. In Washington, the land-grant colleges are Washington State University and Northwest Indian College.

The Smith–Lever Act of 1914 added federal funding of cooperative extension, with the land-grant universities serving as agents in virtually every county in the United States. Today, the mission of cooperative extensions is to “advance agriculture, the environment, human health and well-being, and communities.” Cooperative extensions use a research-based approach to improve health and well being.

When it comes to being a gardener, there are many resources provided by cooperative extension offices. This is a great way to get information on proven methods for your area. As is true in many counties across the U.S., Thurston County offers a Master Gardener training program. Master Gardeners go through an intensive training program to learn about the best gardening practices for the country where they live. Once upon a time, I went through the training in another county and the main thing I learned is that you very often have to unlearn what you have learned when you move to a new place. What worked in one place may not help you in another.

After the training, Master Gardeners commit to ongoing volunteer work to train and advise the public on best practices, garden and pest troubleshooting, and they help maintain demonstration gardens.

Demonstration gardens provide great plant and layout ideas for novice and experienced gardeners alike.

In Thurston County, there are three demonstration gardens:

  1. Dirt Works Demonstration and Composting Garden in Yauger Park
    Located in West Olympia near Capital Mall.
    Open Tuesdays,  9 am- 1 pm, April–October and on select Saturdays. Check the website for details.
  2. Closed Loop Park Demonstration Garden at the Waste and Recovery Center
    Hours:  Closed Loop Park is open the same hours as the Waste and Recovery Center. Visit  for hours. When available, Master Gardeners staff the garden April-October, Fridays and Saturdays, 9 am to noon.
  3. Olympia Farmers Market Garden. Located on the east end of the Farmer’s Market in downtown Olympia.
    Hours: The garden is open from dawn until dusk, year-round. When available WSU Master Gardeners and/or Thurston County Master Recycler Composters staff the garden during the days and times the Market is open April-October, Thursday through Sunday 10 am – 3 pm.

WSU Extension also provides an online library on many topics including gardening. For example, see this PDF download on bumble bees in the home garden. Yay, pollinators! There’s a lot to learn at the extension site and it’s a great way to get specific gardening questions answered.

And, if you have a composting question, you can call the “Rot line”: 360-867-2163 or email

Happy gardening, composting and learning!


Today’s weather: It was another build the ark day. Temps in the low 40s each time I looked.

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