Last year’s Lewis County Master Gardeners Gardening for Everyone event was among the myriad events suddenly canceled last year at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jason Adams, program coordinator for the WSU Lewis County Extension Office’s Master Gardener and Master Recycler Composter programs, recalled they had posters up and speakers ready, but the event, like so many others to come, would not happen.
This year’s Gardening for Everyone event will reflect the new normal that the Master Gardeners and many other nonprofits, organizations and clubs have embraced by moving their interactions online. Gardening for Everyone, planned for Saturday, March 13, will happen entirely over the Zoom platform.
“I think what really makes it beautiful is how many people we can reach,” Adams said of the virtual format for Gardening for Everyone. “This is going out to not only people in Lewis County but people in other counties, other communities, can access it.”
Gardening for Everyone is a free community education event that has been hosted by local Master Gardeners for dozens of years and has always been touted as a way for Master Gardeners to pass on their expertise in many subjects to the public. Some of the subjects for the classes come from suggestions from the Master Gardeners themselves, while others are suggestions from Gardening for Everyone participants. This year’s class subjects are: planning a vegetable garden; growing tomatoes; rhododendron 101; and low maintenance gardening.
“It would set someone up with what they need to set up their garden this year,” said Master Gardener Sharon Peterson, organizer for this year’s Gardening for Everyone event.
Gardening for Everyone was among more than three dozen WSU Lewis County Extension programs planned for in-person workshops and events that had to be canceled because of the COVID pandemic. Even for a time, the program’s beloved demonstration gardens were shuttered because they were not considered essential agricultural activities, so volunteers could not care for them.
“To have to tell someone that they can’t volunteer their time, that’s really hard,” Adams said.
Adams said adding options to connect with community members online was something he had been interested in for some time before the pandemic started. He explained that for residents in communities in East County particularly, driving into Chehalis to participate in a class or training can be a burden. Over the past year, the Master Gardener program has offered its popular plant clinic in a virtual setting, held an online lunchtime learning series that has reached hundreds of people and moved Master Gardener and Master Recycler Composter classes to a virtual platform, except for the program’s required volunteer hours.
“I would say it’s been the catalyst that’s caused us to be more innovative,” Adams said of the pandemic. “Online anything didn’t really exist for us before this.”
Those who would like to participate in this year’s virtual Gardening for Everyone classes need to pre-register for the event by sending an email to Adams. They will receive an email response with a link to the virtual event. Another advantage of holding Gardening for Everyone virtually is that while indoor venues across the state remain either closed or at limited capacity, depending on their location, the virtual event can welcome a large number of community members.
“I can have up to 300 people on my Zoom, which would be fantastic,” Adams said.
Peterson said that plans are cautiously optimistic for this year’s Master Gardeners plant sale, which at this point is planned for May 15-16. Last year, the sale that usually draws hundreds of shoppers and is the program’s largest fundraiser for the year was canceled because of COVID restrictions. The Master Gardeners held a smaller plant sale in the fall, which successfully used COVID safety measures and social distancing while allowing shoppers to purchase plants in person. Peterson said there are also contingency plans being made in case an in-person plant sale cannot occur that would allow shoppers to purchase their plants online and then drive through to pick them up. It is hoped that other traditionally in-person offerings such as plant clinics and educational events may be able to move back into in-person as soon as they get the green light that it is safe to do it, Adams added.
“They are more than eager to start doing in-person anything at this point,” he said. “But the big word is hybrid. Even when we do go back to whatever normal, I think this hybrid system is going to continue.”
More Information: Gardening for Everyone
When: 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. March 13 via Zoom
• 9-10:30 a.m. — Planning a vegetable garden with Don Enstrom
• 10:45-11:45 a.m. — Growing tomatoes with Barbara Eastman
• Noon-1 p.m. — Rhododendron 101 with Karen Servey
• 1:15-2:15 p.m. — Low maintenance gardening with Mary Ann Albenesius
Classes are free and open to the public. Pre-registration is required by emailing Jason.firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, go to lewis-mg-mrc.org or join Lewis County Master Gardeners on Facebook.