The Parks Bureau is taking applications for plots in the new Community Garden, being prepared now at the east end of the city nursery yard in Mt. Tabor Park. If you are interested, you’d better hurry. Waiting lists form quickly for these much desired plots, especially in SE Portland.
Currently, there are 47 gardens located throughout the city, More than 2,000 plots are rented by the city to Portland residents, and about 3,000 people work on those plots. Six of the gardens are in inner Southeast, with two to six-year waitlists, according to Laura Niemi, community gardens program coordinator for the Parks Bureau.
Parks will let applicants know by February if they have been assigned a plot in the Mt. Tabor garden. Apply on-line by filling out the “Garden Plot Request Form” at www.portlandonline.com/parks/index.cfm?c=52116. If you don’t have Internet access, call the Community Gardens office at 503.823.1612 for assistance.
“We expect to have 84 plots at the garden, four of which will be Americans with Disabilities Act accessible raised beds,” Niemi said. (The ADA plots have raised beds to accommodate people in wheelchairs.) “We will assign plots to people in the order requests are received. Once we assign all of the 84 plots, the waiting list forms and we will assign those people plots as they come available.”
The other 80 plots will be ground level and vary in size and prices, from $10 for a “starter” plot (approximately 50 square feet) to $43 for a ”standard” plot (approximately 200 square feet). ADA accessible plots cost $20 and encompass around 32 square feet. The overall garden occupies a little over a half-acre. The only structure in the plan will be a communal tool shed.
Plot fees include water and access to the tool shed. Gardeners are responsible for providing their own seeds, plants, hoses and tools. To learn more, visit www.portlandonline.com/parks/communitygardens.
Community gardening advocates say the gardens strengthen communities by creating a sense of place, bringing people together and even reducing crime in some neighborhoods, all the while providing good, affordable food for families.
“The gardeners grow all sorts of veggies,” says Niemi. “If it will grow in Portland, someone will be growing it. I see a lot of tomatoes, squash, salad greens, dahlias, herbs, onions, peppers, broccoli, kale, cucumbers, green beans and more.”
Allen Field, president of the Friends of the Portland Community Gardens (FPCG), a volunteer support group, says, “We are very fortunate that the city has invested resources and funds to expand the program. Inner SE and NE gardens have the longest waiting lists, several years long, so there is a huge demand and need for more gardens in Southeast. The opening of the new garden at Mt Tabor is very significant and timely.”
Field shares a plot at the Sewallcrest Community Garden, SE 31st Ave. and Market St., where he is a co-manager. He is on a waiting list for a plot of his own. Three of the SE gardens have waitlists of more than 100, attesting to the popularity of the gardens in that part of the city.
Another FPCG board member, Bret Perkins, said that while community gardening is not necessarily unique to Portland, “I do think what is unique is the amount of support we get from the community and the city. Community gardens are really something that everyone can rally behind, because we all know, especially in the Pacific Northwest, the value and importance of having access to local, healthy, organic foods.”
City Commissioner Nick Fish, in particular, has been a staunch supporter and proponent for FPCG and community gardening in Portland, Perkins said.
The Parks Bureau also offers two gardening classes a year, in partnership with Oregon Tilth, a research organization that certifies organic farmers.
“One in the spring is on how to get started planting your garden and one in the fall is on how to put your garden to bed for the winter,” Niemi said.
“Gardeners often will share their knowledge with fellow gardeners and each site has a volunteer garden manager who helps new gardeners get started. There are also lots of local organizations that provide education and resources for new gardeners such as the Master Gardeners, Oregon Tilth, Zenger Farms, and Growing Gardens.”