Saturday, May 14, 2011

Learning Gardens at 60th and Duke

As an intern Master Gardener, part of my training includes 66 hours of hands-on work. Some of this work is "direct service",  like staffing the MG clinic office phone or answering questions at a farmers market, the zoo, etc. Some of the service hours are considered "indirect". To satisfy the indirect hours I have been spending a few hours each Tuesday morning working at the Learning Gardens located at 60th and Duke in southeast Portland.

It's a huge place with five greenhouses, and myriad activities including the two I'm involved with: the Multnomah County Master Gardener demonstration garden and the Lane Family Gardens program. Also happening here are Portland Public Schools programs, Portland State classes and even a greenhouse I'm told is used by Lan Su, the Chinese classical garden (I'd love to see inside but the walls are opaque.)

Here's a shot of the Multnomah MG demo garden. Veteran Master Gardeners planned the bed contents earlier this year, and one serves as the Garden Guru to direct each day's activities. They, and we interns, do all the tasks required to keep the garden growing and productive, including sowing, transplanting, watering, weeding, mowing etc.

In addition to the vegetable beds, there's a blueberry bed...

A rose bed...

And an herb bed, complete with scarecrow.

Right now, there's lots of lettuce and cool weather crop activity.

Pok Choy is doing nicely after being transplanted out about three weeks ago.

Featured for the first time this year is a Square Foot Garden. This is a system for intensive and successive planting in a very small area. The raised bed has been divided into square foot sections and a specific number of seeds or seedlings are planted in each section.

In just three weeks, the spinach, pok choy and lettuce seedlings have filled in, and the seeded radishes and carrots are sprouting. The rear third of the bed is reserved for something to be grown up a trellis later. This productive bed is only 8x3 feet, so it's a method that can work for people with only a small amount of land to garden.

To go with the Square Foot bed, two tomatoes are planted in large plastic containers and are keeping warm with a Wall-o-Water.

Doesn't this one look cozy?

Rubarb is one of the few perennials in the vegetable garden beds.

Potatoes are hilled up inside an old horizontal blind - there's a shoestring budget here so there are lots of good re-use tips for the public.

Across the driveway from the demo garden are the Lane Family Gardens. This program provides a plot, seeds, seedlings, hand tools and expertise - all free - to help families in the community learn grow vegetables.  I've been matched with a young family as their mentor, but honestly, they have more recent experience than me in vegetable gardening, so I'm more of a cheering section and backup waterer, so far.

Here's the father of the family planting seeds in their plot a few weeks ago. I enjoyed his Roman reclining planting style.

We planted out lettuce seedlings, and four kinds of beans.

Yesterday, I checked on "our" plot. The lettuces are doing well, and lots of the seedlings have sprouted. We've been lucky with the rain and the family hasn't needed to do a lot of watering yet.

 Greenhouse 5 is the indoor base for both the activities I've been involved with, and the warmth inside has been a boon on these wet, cold Tuesday mornings.

Inside, what initially looks like chaos is actually efficiently managed by the various users.

Young basil seedlings wait for enough warmth to be planted out in the demonstration garden.

Plastic-covered seeds stay moist to encourage sprouting. Sometimes a heat mat is used to warm them just enough to germinate.

After the warmth of Greenhouse 5, the second thing that hits you when you enter is the intoxicating scent of lemons! This old lemon tree has obviously been here awhile and it smells heavenly this time of year.

Last year, the Multnomah County Master Gardener Demonstration Garden produced over 1,100 pounds of food that was donated to food banks and Lane school. The garden is open to the public and staffed by MGs each Saturday morning from 9 to noon. If you're interested in seeing what and how they grow veggies, or have a question for a Master Gardener, stop by and chat with them. Veteran MGs have a lot of the answers, and we interns are working hard to learn and catch up to them.


  1. Great post! And funny I never thought to put my tomato cages around the plant while the wall-o-water is on it. I always try and wrestle them on after I take it off, not so easy!

  2. That's a great resource. While we do have some great locally funded public gardens in the DC area, it seems we're lagging on outreach, teaching, and learning! At the Arboretum, we have the Youth Garden, funded by the Friends of the National Arboretum, which is a wonderful program and reaches thousands of school-age children every year. Maybe we need to try harder with families and adults!

  3. Amazingly neat and tidy, no wonder it's so productive. I think that relaxed Roman style of planting probably derives from a bad back. Nice to get a report on your MG activities.

  4. Neat and tidy is right. Everything looks fabulous. I love the raised beds and the square foot gardening. Nice job. Kudos to you.

    BTW, my blog address is NOW I'm just letting everyone know. Thanks!

  5. So THAT is what a garden can look like when patrolled by an army of volunteers.
    You do have a way with words...that "Roman reclining planting style" looks something like my weeding style by the end of a long day.

  6. I love the MG program. I went through it about '95 and they were just starting to transition towards IPM methods - I still used to hear guys manning the phones next to me telling callers to just spray chemicals all over their roses, before they even knew what was on them! Now, they always recommend starting with the least toxic products first. It's a fantastic program.


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