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Garden tour promotes yard produce

Forest Grove group shows folks how to grow food in the smallest of spaces


by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTOS: CHASE ALLGOOD - The Organs decided to try growing an almond tree by propogating a branch, and now its full and healthy. Just plant something — anything.

That’s Forest Grove resident Mark Organ’s advice.

“If we can do it, anybody can do it,” said Rachel Organ, Mark’s wife. “People are scared to try and don’t think they’re good at it, but I want to encourage them.”

The couple has worked to transform their 900-square-foot yard from a bleak, bark-dusted lot into a productive, bountiful kitchen garden.

The Organs’ yard will be featured on Dairy Creek Community Food Web’s Farm Your Yard: Kitchen Garden Tour this Saturday, July 12.

Tour tickets are $10 when purchased ahead of time and $15 the day of the tour. Buy tickets at the Crafty Fox, Corner Antiques and the Forest Grove/Cornelius Chamber of Commerce. Attendees meet at the Forest Grove Senior & Community Center as early as 9:45 a.m., receive a map and head out to local gardens as they please.

Metro representatives and Oregon State University Extension Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer questions.

“This is an interactive teaching/learning tour,” said organizer Corinne Gosnell.

Tourists can ask gardeners questions about techniques, successes and failures, plant varieties well adapted for this region, small spaces, harvest uses and more. Attendees will also receive copies of favorite recipes at each stop.

Each garden on the route illustrates how people passionate about growing their own food make the most of their space.

Gosnell lives in a duplex and has transformed her yard into a miniature orchard. “I can’t afford to buy fancy plums and quinces and persimmons and all the things I love,” said Gosnell. “And I don’t need to because they’re readily available in my yard.”

It’s much more financially feasible for Gosnell to make a one-time investment in fruit trees, she said.by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTOS: CHASE ALLGOOD - Mark Organ uses his wheat harvest to make his own bread.

Gosnell said the tour will “demonstrate what you can do with what you have,” she said. “I’m excited for people to see all the different things growing and the practices people use to ‘up’ production.”

Gosnell is a big fan of using even the most neglected spaces, by say, planting dwarf fruit trees in the strip between a sidewalk and street.

“Lots of folks haven’t tried all the local produce there is to offer,” said Gosnell, a horticulturist for Ponzi Vineyard in Sherwood. “Hopefully the tour will expand their food horizons and inspire people.”

Gardening can inspire more than just an increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, though. The Organs have turned their yard into a learning space for their young children, an icebreaker for strangers and a therapeutic respite from the daily grind.

It’s Mark’s “dirt therapy,” said Rachael, who does not have a green thumb and describes her role in the garden as preventing kids from destroying plants.

But she does enjoy experimenting a bit with new flowers and meeting passersby who “ooo and ahh” when they see how the Organs have turned their small property into a fruitful oasis.

Mark grows mostly perennials, which he sticks with because they are low-maintenance — and because he saves money not having to buy new plants every year — including berry bushes and fruit trees, as well as rhubarb he uses to make jelly.

Mark also grows wheat and hops which he uses to make his own bread and beer.

“I see it as a responsibility to own land, not a right,” Mark said. “You have to be a good steward of what you do have.”

That’s why the Organs don’t use any pesticides or sprays.

On the tour, they’ll share some methods of sustainable gardening and bread recipes.

“Just grow something,” Mark said. “Once you do, you’re hooked.”

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