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Social Soils

 Community gardens yield a bounty of benefits to local neighborhoods

Organic produce is all the rage in Oregon, and there’s no better way to ensure your veggies are toxin-free than to grow them yourself. But building a home garden takes work and planning. You need to clear a large enough space to grow in, construct the beds, truck in wheelbarrows full of nutrient-rich dirt, install irrigation—and that’s before a seed even touches the soil.

Enter your community garden. Whether you’re an apartment dweller without a yard, or a homeowner who doesn’t want to alter your existing landscape, you can get your organic greens fix by turning to one of the many community gardens scattered about Central Oregon.

Even if you have room enough for a garden, there are plenty of good reasons for going communal with your cabbage plots. In some yards, explains City of Bend Volunteer Coordinator Cheryl Howard (who helped create one of Bend’s newest gardens, Franklin’s Corner), Mother Nature is working against you. “Established neighborhoods have established trees—big junipers and monster ponderosas.” Those evergreen trees can alter the soil biology with their dropped needles, and a cluster of towering pines can cast enough shade to keep sun-hungry vegetables from flourishing. If trees don’t pose a problem, the grazing deer probably will, and many neighborhoods have strict covenants against the construction of unsightly fences and barriers.

Community gardens provide deer-safe, sun-filled plots of rich earth so you can get on with the growing. You simply pay your yearly space rent (less than $50 a year for most gardens), put in some group prep-work with your brothers- and sisters-in-soil in the spring, then you sow.

Sow what, you ask? You can ask an expert for help. Mike Duarte, Bend Parks & Recreation District Landscape Manager, says a plot at BPRD’s Hollinshead Park Garden doesn’t simply come with dirt and irrigation; you also get access to the Oregon State University Master Gardener program. “We own the garden, but the OSU Master Gardeners actually manage it. So people have that resource available to them, that professional knowledge.”

In addition to the utilitarian benefits of community gardening, there’s a social element that can’t be ignored. “When you put these gardens in,” says Howard, “you create this cool sense of community. People get to know each other and help each other out.” Howard has heard stories of gardeners meeting their neighbors for the first time after years of residing in the neighborhood. The gardens regularly host gatherings, workshops and work parties (including a few mandatory hours for spring and fall cleanup), so gardeners have plenty of opportunity to get to know their plot-mates. The people who share garden space also tend to be generous folk, giving excess produce from bumper crops not only to each other, but to the less fortunate in the community, thanks to weekly pickups by local non-profit food bank, NeighborImpact, and its “Grow a Row” program.

And, of course, the gardens themselves are downright gorgeous to behold when they’re abloom in the summertime. Anybody who’s visited the Hollinshead off-leash dog area knows well that part of the park’s appeal is the rows of turmeric-tasseled cornstalks, orange glowing sunflowers and pink flowery peas—all of which screen the park from 12th Street traffic.

Step into the Hollinshead garden and you’re in for a primal delight. Fat zucchini and plump cucumbers lie close to clusters of rosebud-like lettuce, all basking happily in the sun. A full spectrum of flowers, buzzing with bees, fills the corners of the raised beds. And everywhere in between are people: gathering, sharing and munching on food fresh from the earth alongside one another. That’s something you probably won’t find in your home garden.

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Find a garden near you

Are you intrigued by the idea of rubbing elbows with your neighbors as your green thumbs dig in the soil? It’s not hard to find a community garden in Central Oregon. Every major city in the area has at least two, with Bend boasting seven of its own.

While city municipalities run a few of the gardens, many more are owned and managed privately by neighborhood associations, churches and other non-profits. We’ve provided a list of the locations to find the garden nearest you. Then you can visit the High Desert Food & Farm Alliance website (there’s a link below), which has contact information for each garden. In no time at all you’ll find a place to grow your greens, along with new friendships.

Just keep in mind: some gardens have more applicants than plots, so mark the signup date on your calendar and arrive early to get in line—literally. In addition to first-come-first-serve policies, many gardens require plot payment up front, so be sure to bring your cash along with you.

Happy gardening!

For community garden contact information, visit www.hdffa.org/community-gardens/

Hollinshead Community Garden

1237 NE Jones Rd.

Franklin’s Corner Community Garden

NE 8th St and NE Franklin Ave.

Nativity Community Garden

60580 Brosterhous Rd.

Miller’s Landing Community Garden

80 NW Riverside Blvd.

Kansas Avenue Community Garden

16 NW Kansas Ave.

NorthWest Crossing Community Garden

2600 NW College Way

COCC Collaborative Garden

2600 NW College Way

REDMOND

Redmond Community Organic Garden

724 SW 14th St.

St. Alban’s Episcopal Church

3277 NW 10th St.

PRINEVILLE

Prineville Presbetyrian Church

1771 NW Madras Hwy.

Ward Park Community Garden

1143 NW 9th St.

SISTERS

Sisters Community Garden

15860 Barclay Dr.

Plainview Community Garden

17509 Paradise Alley

(between Sisters and Bend)

MADRAS & METOLIUS

The Margaret Dement Garden of Eatin’

395 SE C St., Madras

Willow Creek Community Garden

C St. and 11th St., Madras

Metolius Community Garden

Fifth St. and Adams Ave., Metolius

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