Master Gardener's Demonstration Garden: Veggies for Those in Need

Today, let's visit the Multnomah County Chapter of Master Gardener's Demostration Garden, a place I love and find to be a very valuable community resource. 

This past January I began my adventures as a future master gardener primarily to gain knowledge in areas I felt I was lacking (soil science, pruning, insect control, etc.). Classes are finished, and I'm well in to my 66 hours of required volunteer time to complete the course and be deemed a "Master Gardener" (although I just consider myself an ongoing student with a huge binder full of ... plant facts and resources). The Demonstration Garden is where I put in volunteer hours alongside some very fabulous, warm and generous people. 

The Demo Garden, located in Southeast Portland, is used to produce vegetables, fruit and herbs. It is part of a 12-acre site owned by the Portland Public School system; the area of the Demo Garden is approximately 1900 square feet in size. The garden was created in 2008 and has been cranking out the food ever since. Organic food is produced for Meals on Wheels and local schools, and everything grown is delivered to these and similar organizations. There are work parties twice a week through the whole growing season as well as planning meetings. What does all this yield? As an example, on September 12 we harvested and donated 135 pounds of food to Lents Meals on Wheels and the Kelly School SUN food bank. How cool is that? This alone is reason enough to consider becoming a master gardener. 

Mulch Maid, a garden blog I follow, posted about it here in May 2011. Not much has changed, but it is nearing the end of the harvest season so thought I would share some of the bounty produced by this wonderful place and by its wonderful volunteers.

Strawberries, pumpkins and the hoop house.

Here are some cucumber beds about at the end of their productivity cycle.

Veteran master gardeners plan each year for next years' crop by taking on individual beds and planning carefully for the following season. There is seed sowing and planting and as veggies grow and are ready for harvest, that becomes the first and most important task of the day - harvesting what is ready. We harvest as much as we can, carefully weigh and log each item and from which bed it came. We also record any special observations. Everything is then delivered by 11 am, and we continue on with other chores such as watering, weeding, planning and general tasks laid out by the guru for the day. I tell you, there couldn't be nicer people to work with. Many of these gardeners have been doing this for years and are quite dedicated, which will keep me coming back to help again in the years to come. 

My friend Mimi harvested some flowers to donate, along with Jean, the fabulous "Guru for the Day". We agreed that the food feeds the bellies, the flowers feed the soul.

After each day spent working in the garden, the "Guru of the Day" calculates the many pounds of produce donated and work hours spent and sends out a daily work report. I must say that this is the most organized bunch of people with whom I have ever worked. Here's an excerpt from last Thursday's emailed report by Garden Guru Extraordinaire Jean:

What a great day in the garden!  Despite the anticipated high temperatures 10 gardeners, interns and vets, came out and harvested over 58 pounds of produce.  Some people arrived at 8:00 to beat the heat.  Fortunately, a breeze kept us cool and the real heat did not start until we were ready to leave.  

The total delivery with ours, PSU, and MG donations from personal gardens was slightly over 135 pounds which went to Lents Meals on Wheels and the Kelly School SUN food bank.  What a rewarding way to help people get good fresh produce!

Along with this written report, a detailed excel spreadsheet was attached with many, many details. Now that we know the Demo Garden's purpose, let's tour around some of the garden.

 The whole 12-acre site is much more than the Demo Garden. There are the PSU gardens, the learning classrooms, greenhouses and so much more.

Other tasks for the Demo Garden volunteers are to improve soil quality (get your soil tested!), composting, mulching, develop scheduling (a monumental task), i.d. and deal with garden pests and diseases by using IPM or integrated pest management.

 Weighing just a few of the 70 or so odd pounds of tomatoes harvested that day.

 Flowers and veggies combined. So lovely!

 The work buckets some of the veteran master gardeners bring along. I have yet to earn mine.

 Part of the Square Foot Garden.

 Beets! My husband's favorite.*

* No way! says the husband.

Harvesting beans for next year's crop.


So many different kinds of veggies are grown here: potatoes, onions, leeks, tomatoes, beans, herbs of all kinds, carrots, parsnips, beets, radishes, blueberries, raspberries, squash, cucumbers, chard, lettuce, kale, strawberries, basil, plums, broccoli, rutabaga, and I'm sure others I cannot recall.

 Beans! Prolific, wonderful beans.

 I've learned so much about veggie gardening here, it's amazing.

 The rose bed - Rugosas and others, really lovely.

 Fabulous volunteer and veteran Master Gardener John. What a wonderful man! A Texas transplant and so enthusiastic and helpful. A real treasure.

 Heidi, the Garden Goddess and most helpful Guru. She's great! They all are!

 Inside the greenhouse.

Year-to-date Demo Garden donations: 1,379 pounds of food. If you are interested in becoming a Master Gardener, I highly recommend the program. Having a place such as the Demo Garden for a real hands-on learning experience is priceless, the food donated is much needed, and the people you work with are the reason you'll come back. 

A lovely sentiment on the path leading into the gardens. My thoughts exactly. 


  1. fifi la fontaine8:35 AM PDT

    Wow, what a great place, T! The gardens look so tidy and well tended. I am especially keen to learn more about the Integrated Pest Management part of the deal, he he.

    1. Hey Miss Fifi! It IS a tidy and well tended place, a real gem! You bet, I can copy off info I have in my "binder full of garden facts" ....hahah...


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