Cultivating Second Chances: Benton-Franklin MGs Empower Incarcerated Youth

In this episode, I have a conversation with Alice Allison, a WSU Extension Master Gardener in Benton-Franklin Counties, about their work with the local juvenile justice center.The Benton-Franklin County WSU Extension Master Gardener Program won the David Gibby Search for Excellence Award in the youth category at the 2023 International Master Gardener Conference in Overland Park, Kansas for this project.
Cultivating Second Chances with Incarcerated Youth - Episode 004

Episode Description

In this episode, I have a conversation with Alice Allison, a WSU Extension Master Gardener in Benton-Franklin Counties, about their work with the local juvenile justice center.

The Benton-Franklin County WSU Extension Master Gardener Program won the David Gibby Search for Excellence Award in the youth category at the 2023 International Master Gardener Conference in Overland Park, Kansas for this project.  

But first, I go through the gardening calendar for October.  It’s time to put that garden to bed!

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Video Showcasing Benton-Franklin Juvenile Justice Center project

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[00:00:00] Erin Landon: Welcome to the Evergreen Thumb. I’m your host Erin Landon, a Washington State University Extension Master Gardener since 2015, and a certified permaculture designer and modern homesteader. I’m here to share up-to-date research-based horticulture and environmental stewardship knowledge to help you grow and manage your garden, and to share what the WSU Extension Master Gardener Program is all about. WSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteers are university-trained community educators who have been cultivating plants, people, and communities since 1973. Are you ready to grow? Let’s dig into today’s episode.

Welcome to the Evergreen Thumb, episode number four. My guest today is Alice Allison. And Alice is a Benton Franklin County Master Gardener, and she’s here today to talk to us about their Juvenile Justice Center project. Before we get started with Alice, I wanted to take a moment to go through our October gardening calendar.

October Gardening Calendar

For maintenance, make sure you winterize bird baths and garden art by removing water. To avoid chips and cracks from freezing, it’s time to drain or blow out your irrigation system and insulate valve mechanisms to prevent them from freezing cover rhubarb beds and asparagus with a mulch of manure and/or compost to protect them from freezing and fertilize for spring.

October is a great time to clean and sharpen tools and prepare them for winter storage. It’s a good time also to prune out the dead fruiting canes in raspberries. And after the first light frost, dig up and divide or store summer bulbs such as dahlias, gladiolas, and lilies. Lilies should not be stored.

Gladiolas can be dug up and stored or replanted though dahlias, if you’re in a wetter winter area, can rot. So it is recommended to store them over the winter for planting and propagation. It’s a great time to dig and divide rhubarb, which should be done about every four years. It’s time to plant garlic for next summer’s harvest.

It’s a really good time to plant trees and shrubs, and divide ground covers. For pest monitoring and management. It’s a good time to remove and dispose of windfall apples that might be harboring apple maggot or coddling moth larvae. Make sure to rake up and destroy diseased leaves. It’s important that if you compost them, it has to be very hot compost in order to kill any pathogens.

Monitor landscape plants for problems, but don’t treat unless you have identified a problem. And if you do identify a problem and aren’t sure what to do about it, contact your local W S U extension office to get in touch with your local master gardener volunteers to help identify the issue and how to treat it for houseplant and indoor gardening.

It’s time to move fuchsias where they won’t freeze but wait until spring to cut them back and check other house plants or plants that need to be overwintered indoors for insects before bringing them indoors, so you’re not bringing the insects in as well. Now we’ll switch gears to Alice Allison. Alice, welcome to the show.

Cultivating Second Chances: Benton-Franklin County Juvenile Justice Center Project

[00:03:21] Alice Allison: Thank you.

[00:03:23] Erin Landon: So to start off, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and your gardening experience, how you came to be a master gardener?

[00:03:29] Alice Allison: Well, I’ve always been involved in gardening. I was in 4-H and, uh, even when I hardly had any land, I would have a garden. And so when I retired I decided it was time to be a master gardener.

And I’ve been the education chair since the second year I was there, and I, I joined in 2010. So been doing a lot of things.

[00:03:55] Erin Landon: Okay. So what inspired Master Gardeners in Benton Franklin County to work with incarcerated youth?

[00:04:03] Alice Allison: Well, we had a master gardener who was actually employed at the juvenile justice center, and so she was looking for projects that the kids could do that would inspire them.

So they started with an outdoor grow area. Okay. And then they discovered that, oh, some kids weren’t allowed to go outside, so they took an old housing area that they weren’t using and converted it into an indoor grow area. And I didn’t get involved until that was all established.

[00:04:41] Erin Landon: Okay. Okay. So can you tell us a little bit more about the facilities that grow room and the, or the garden beds and how they, how you use them with the kids?

[00:04:51] Alice Allison: Well in the indoor area, the, we first started with just some bench work and some grow lights around it, but we soon, uh, outgrew that. So we just took and got some LED lights that we put over the cement area that they had used as beds. So we had grow lights in two of those areas. We’ve used up all the electricity that’s in there, so we can’t expand anymore.

But what we had to do this year was the heat wasn’t working, so we put ’em out in the hallway. So we’d just go everywhere. And then outdoors, uh, they had built some beds, but they didn’t work very well. The Bermuda grass won. So they took those down and we have 10 beds that the master gardeners helped build.

And so then the work crew has mostly been keeping those alive because there are very few kids that can go outside right now. And I’ve been working with the the indoor kids because what we do is we have a program where we give five gallon pots to. Head Start families and, and a plant. So the juvenile justice kids have been growing peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes that fit in containers.

And when we have outdoors we have a, what was an exercise area that was covered with plastic. And it’s a nice hoop house. It has a fan and it has drip irrigation. And so it’s a wonderful place to harden off all those plants that they’ve been growing.

[00:06:38] Erin Landon: Do you wanna learn more about gardening, meet new people, and make a difference in your community? The WSU Extension Master Gardener Program may be just right for you. You’ll gain science-based knowledge to tackle the yard and garden problems that matter to you, your friends and neighbors, and to your community.

With WSU Extension’s Master Gardner training, you’ll learn about soil health plan identification, pest management, sustainable gardening practices, and so much more. Unlock the secrets of successful gardening and make a positive impact in your community. Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to become a certified Washington State University Master Gardner Volunteer.

Visit today to learn more about the program and how to apply.

All right, so what do the kids in the Justice Center and the Master Gardeners gain from the experience of working together?

[00:07:34] Alice Allison: Well, we really enjoy, I mean, they’re youths and we like working with them and we like seeing that they really respond to us. There have been kids who we know that have had some real problems, but when they’re in that grow room, oh, you are our best gardener. And so, uh, they just, they like the, we accept them as gardeners and we have them enrolled in a group 4H program. So we go over 4H values and remind them that, hey, They’re in 4H and that’s a cool thing.

And we just, we love seeing how they, they respond. It’s funny, it’s, a lot of times it’s hard to get anybody to say, yeah, I wanna try that program. But once they’re in, boy they, we fight for chances to, to take turns being with the kids.

[00:08:32] Erin Landon: Great. So can you share a story about how a particular youth was impacted by the project?

[00:08:39] Alice Allison: Well, our, our best story is when we ran into some kids that had left the facility and in the grocery store, and they were all over us to tell us about how they were growing things at their house.

[00:08:53] Erin Landon: Oh, that’s great. So what kind of partnerships or collaborations have been established to support the project?

[00:09:03] Alice Allison: We don’t have a lot, but the community does support our fundraising efforts, which, uh, we mostly do through the Seed Money project, and we have cooperation with Headstart to distribute them and just kind of a lot of, you know, we try to publicize it here and there, but basically we, we haven’t needed a ton of other support than just what we can get with our Master Gardener Foundation.

[00:09:36] Erin Landon: Do you have suggestions for other organizations or other master gardener programs that would be interested in implementing a similar program?

[00:09:45] Alice Allison: Well, the, the main thing is, is that each of the places where people are incarcerated have very different rules.

So, you know, you, you need to find out what the interest is. I know that the people in charge of our juvenile justice have tried to publicize this around the state because they think it’s a really, uh, helpful program. Uh, but it’s never gonna look the same in a different county because they all have different rules about how they deal with and facilities, I mean, I know Yakima has an outdoor grow area that’s working for them, but we struggle because we can’t get any kids outside.

[00:10:31] Erin Landon: I had seen a photo of ribbons that some of the kids had won. Was that at your county fair?

[00:10:40] Alice Allison: Yes, because we have them in group 4-H then they, uh, are able to make some entries for the fair. So we, we have them all sitting there waiting for the fair on the 21st.

We’ll take them over there, but, uh, they make mostly dish gardens of various types. Um, so they, you know, we bring in different plants and then they make selections and get them going.

[00:11:10] Erin Landon: So, so, and then you facilitate getting it to the fair on their behalf?

[00:11:15] Alice Allison: Yes. Yes.

[00:11:16] Erin Landon: Great. So, one thing we haven’t mentioned, um, is that the Benton Franklin County Master Gardner program has won an award for this program.

You wanna tell us a little bit about that?

[00:11:32] Alice Allison: Well, uh, at the International Master Gardner Convention in Kansas this last summer, uh, we won the search for excellence in the youth category. That’s why we made a video and It was really fun. There were several of us that were able to attend to accept the award.

[00:11:52] Erin Landon: That’s great. And we will have a link to that video in the show notes. So is there anything else you’d like to share about your Juvenile Justice Center project?

[00:12:03] Alice Allison: Just that it always amazes me that. It’s so interesting to us. We, we never know from time to time sometimes, oh, the, the teacher will email us and say, oh, there’s going to be you know, eight kids there and we get there and there’s four.

So, you know, it’s always a surprise.

[00:12:29] Erin Landon: Where can listeners find the Benton Franklin County Master Gardner program online? Do you have a website?

[00:12:36] Alice Allison: Yes, we do. It’s a little tricky ’cause there’s one that’s linked to the foundation and another one that’s linked to the extension. But when you do go to the state one and you scroll down to click on the county, that link is working.

[00:12:55] Erin Landon: Okay. Well, we will add that link to the show notes as well so they can. Find you. Is there anything else that you’d like to add? Just

[00:13:04] Alice Allison: that, you know, we’re, we’re glad that, that we can publicize that, you know, juvenile justice kids are kids before they’re criminals.

[00:13:16] Erin Landon: Okay, so as I mentioned the links will be in the show notes.

Um, so you can connect with the WSU extension Benton Franklin County Master Gardner program and see the video they submitted in order to, compete for the award that they received at the International Master Gardner program. Thank you, Alice, for joining us today and sharing the WSU Extension Benton Franklin County Master Gardner program and their Juvenile Justice Center project.

Thank you for joining us on this episode of the Evergreen Thumb, brought to you by the WSU Extension Master Gardner Program volunteers, and sponsored by the Master Gardner Foundation of Washington State. We hope that today’s discussion has inspired and equipped you with valuable insights to nurture your garden.

The Master Gardner Foundation of Washington State is a nonprofit organization whose primary purpose is to provide unifying support and advocacy for WSU Extension Master Gardner programs throughout Washington State. To support the Master Gardner Foundation of Washington State, visit

Whether you’re an experienced master gardener, or just starting out, the WSU Extension Master Gardener Program is here to support you every step of the way. WSU Extension Master Gardeners empower and sustain diverse communities with relevant, unbiased research-based horticulture education. Reach out to your local WSU Extension office to connect with master gardeners and tap into a wealth of resources that can help you achieve gardening success.

To learn more about the program or how to become a master gardener, visit If you enjoyed today’s episode and want to stay connected with us, be sure to subscribe to future episodes filled with expert tips, fascinating stories, and practical advice. Don’t forget to leave a review and share it with fellow gardeners to spread the joy of gardening. Questions or comments to be addressed in future episodes can be sent to

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed by guests of this podcast are their own and do not imply endorsement by Washington State University or the Master Gardner Foundation of Washington State.