‘Master Gardeners’ finally allowed back into their garden

The Multnomah County Master Gardeners say they’re happy to resume gardening, but have a lot of catch-up work to do …

Trained by the OSU Extension Service Master Gardener program, members of the Multnomah County Master Gardners™ hope soon to be able to share their knowledge, here in their Demonstration Garden, with people all over outer East Portland.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Between the last day when they were allowed to work in their own Demonstration Garden, March 23rd and June 23rd, the volunteers from Multnomah County Master Gardners™ (MCMG) – trained by and affiliated with the Oregon State University Extension Service – weren’t allowed back inside the gates.

“That’s why we gave away all of the seedlings we grew for our planned spring crop,” explained MCMG volunteer Linda Goldser, on July 7. She was part of a ten-person “work party” in the garden that morning.

MCMG volunteer Linda Goldser shows how the Demonstration Garden became overgrown while the gardeners were locked out, and the positive results of several days’ work to clean it up.

“We were able to apply to open our garden when Multnomah County went into Phase 1,” Goldser told East Portland News. “We received approval, because our garden activities directly support food production which the state – and OSU sees that as critical function because we support food security and address hunger.”

MCMG volunteers must nonetheless rigorously follow the current rules handed down to them, including:

  • Only allowed 10 gardeners in the garden at any time;
  • Only certified Master Gardeners can be in the garden;
  • All volunteers must take COVID-19 training, mandated by the state and OSU;
  • Volunteers must all wear masks, maintain social distance, and abide by proper hand-washing and tool-cleaning; and,
  • Keep records of who is there and when, in case “contact tracing” should later be needed.


In their “new” Demonstration Garden – in a location hidden away in the northwest part of the property, and no longer visible from SE 60th Avenue –16 raised beds are used for edible crops, as well as blueberries, grapes, and an herb bed.

“Five of those beds will remain fallow this summer, due to the limit on volunteer hours we are allowed to have,” commented Goldser.

One of the MCMG volunteers, Master Gardener Claudia Groth, takes on the never-ending task of pulling weeds in their Demonstration Garden.

“We also have 14 ‘Native Perennial Beds’ that we have planted and care for. Plus the maintenance that it will take to get our garden back to the condition we left it in when we had to abandon it. All of that will take more hours and gardeners than we have right now.

“We are hoping when our county goes into Phase 2 that we will be able to open the garden to all gardeners and to the community.”

While the Master Gardeners are disconsolate that they’ve lost 3½ months of growing food for those who need it, “even more, we’ve lost a whole year in our quest to be able to implement an educational program here at the garden, because all of our events have been cancelled,” sadly said Goldser.

“But, the timing of our return was lucky, because we are now able to get a summer crop in, at pretty much the last minute, due to Portland’s growing season.”

MCMG volunteer Rich Becker shows off their “xeriscaped” section of their Demonstration Garden – which reduces or eliminates the need for supplemental water by irrigation.

Since their return, the garden has seen 194 volunteer hours contributed over 10 work days; and so far, 22 gardeners out of a maintenance crew of 26 have worked to bring the garden back into mid-March condition.

Asked why they do it, Goldser replied, “Because we love to play in the dirt, to help other gardeners with their gardening questions, and to watch things grow!”

Find out more about this growing program at their official website: CLICK HERE.

© 2020 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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