Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites


Community garden plots, waiting lists growing like weeds

Share

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - The Sellwood Community Garden waits for spring to begin. Spring is here and you feel like gardening, but don’t have a plot?

If you live in inner Northeast or Southeast Portland, you may be out of luck trying to find a plot at one of Portland Parks & Recreation’s Community Gardens.

The wait for many of those popular gardens is about three years, and as long as eight years at Sellwood Community Garden.

However, if you’re willing to commute to your veggies — or if you live in parts of East Portland or North Portland, you’ll find you’re in luck.

About 25 garden plots are still available this spring at seven gardens:

• Berrydale Community Garden, 9004 S.E. Taylor St.

• Clarendon Community Garden, North Newark Street and Van Houten Avenue.

• Furey Community Garden, 11820 S.E. Reedway St.

• Madison Community Garden, 2735 N.E. 82nd Ave.

• McCoy Community Garden, 9399 N. Newman Ave.

• Pier Community Garden, North Iris Way and Barr Avenue.

• Vestal Community Garden, Northeast 81st Avenue and Everett Street.

The Community Garden staff is now taking Garden Plot Request Forms, matching gardeners to plots through June at these gardens and as other vacancies come up.

A program of the parks bureau, the Community Garden now offers 2,200 plots at 50 gardens citywide, twice the size of a few years ago after a big “1,000 Gardens Initiative” led by then-Parks Commissioner Nick Fish in 2012.

As part of the city’s Climate Action Plan, one of the goals was to increase the consumption of local food.

The program added gardens by identifying underused parcels of land throughout the city, and celebrated the accomplishment on Oct. 24, 2012 — National Food Day.

Now under Commissioner Amanda Fritz, the Community Gardens program is focusing on stabilizing itself and finding balance, program coordinator Laura Niemi says.

Community gardens have been part of the city since 1975 as a physical, health and social benefit for residents.

As far as the long wait lists at Sellwood and other spots, there was a focus group several years ago that tried to propose solutions.

One was to set a limit on how many years a gardener could keep their plot.

It didn’t go over so well; in fact, it “scared people,” Niemi says.

There hasn’t been any more talk about mandatory turnover since then, Niemi says.

A less offensive strategy has been to split plots at popular gardens in half whenever they come available, increasing the number of gardeners who can participate at that location.

At Sellwood, “A lot of people are really long-term gardeners there,” she says. “They love it, and they’re not leaving any time soon.”

The garden is small — just 27 plots in all.

Some are still 400-square-foot plots, as they were originally. But when they become available, they’re divided, and divided again. The majority are 200 square feet, and 20 percent have been split into 100 square-foot plots.

Niemi says that the 1,000 Gardens Initiative created gardening opportunities for a lot of people who couldn’t participate in the past, and increased the diversity of participants.

Many are now gardening for sustenance, rather than hobby.

Niemi says Community Gardens program leaders have been examining their policies to make sure they’re inclusive and don’t exclude anyone based on cultural practices, and ensure that things are translated, including having interpreters for events like “gardener gatherings” and work parties.