kids building trellis

Summer in our Learning Garden

Thank You Volunteers!

Last week we wrapped up another great summer season of volunteering in our Kansas Avenue Learning Garden! Our Happy Hour in the Garden open weekly volunteer series is how we are able to get a lot of things done in the garden during the growing season, and collectively those volunteers contributed almost 300 hours to our garden! Some people came just once. A handful came almost every single week. One came very pregnant, and some came while on vacation. The beauty of an ongoing drop in is that anyone can contribute, and we’re so thankful for them all.

Win-Win Volunteering

One family that has volunteered the past 3 summers would regularly bring their whole clan of teenage kids and sometime their friends. This year they sanded and painted a weathered picnic table, beautified our signs, installed seed storage shelving and more weekly garden tasks along the way. In addition to getting some great work done for us at our garden, they’re getting credit towards their daughter’s orthodontia work. Have a kid with similar dental needs? Get credit to offset costs by volunteering in our community! Learn more at Smile Central Oregon.

Happy Hour Sponsors

Happy Hour in the Garden would not nearly be as happy without our beverage sponsors! A shout out to Worthy Garden Club, Boneyard Beer, 10 Barrel and Deschutes Brewery for their delicious beer, and many thanks for Brew Dr Kombucha and especially Caboost Kombucha, whose weekly growler fills kept us going all summer long!

Boys & Girls Club in the Garden

So what do we do with all the food we grow? Well first off, since it is a learning garden and not a farm, we are not really a high yield producing garden. Thank goodness, because we actually get a lot of shade from the surrounding trees and would have a lot of disappointed CSA members if that were the case! So while we don’t grow a lot of food, what we do grow is often quickly eaten  by weekly visits of youth from the Downtown Boys & Girls Club. Since the inception of this garden we have had a relationship with the B&G Club. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, as it adds some diversity to their programming and offers the kids outdoor garden space that isn’t possible at the downtown club. For us, it gets kids in the garden when school is out (i.e. MOST of the growing season!) and gives more kids the opportunity to connect with nature through food.

For the past number of years our summer programming has been a collaboration with OSU Extension Nutrition Education Program. This past summer, 2 dozen kids walked over to The Environmental Center and spent 2 hours immersed in planting, working, building, harvesting, cooking, eating and exploring the Kansas Avenue Learning Garden for 3 weeks in a row. All in all, about 100 kids in grades 3rd through 6th spent a total of 6 hours immersed in the garden. Half the time they spent with us doing garden activities, lessons, explorations and projects, and the other half of each time that harvested, prepped, cooked and ate a fresh Food Hero recipe with Ashley of OSU Extension. (The peach salsa was a hit!)

Some highlights for me this summer include testing out our new system for using reusables in the garden with youth (they loved washing dishes!), our first real blueberry harvest (happening now – get down here!), finding an actual pumpkin in the garden today (all summer long it was just all blossoms, today there are 3), building a trellis with middle schoolers, creating a special harvest celebration meal at the end of each session, and experiencing the changes that happen around us in the garden over the course of a summer.

Coming Up…

  • Fall Programming: We’ll be inviting Amity Elementary School back to the garden soon to dig up the roots and tubers, pull dried beans off the vine, harvest ripe tomatoes;, check out the three sisters garden, and discover that no watermelon ever grew. We might make a big soup with all the fall ingredients if it works out.
  • Fall Bulb Fundraiser: Beautify your garden while supporting ours! Visit The Environmental Center through September 18th to view the garden catalog, place, and pay for your order with cash, check or card. (We’re located at 16 NW Kansas Ave. in downtown Bend.) Bulbs will be available for pick-up at our Fall Garden Work Party on Saturday, October 5th or at The Environmental Center by appointment between October 8th -11th. If you can’t make it by but have an idea of what you want (ex: daffodils!) we’re happy to help you out over the phone as well. Just give me, denise, a call at 541.385.6908 x14 and I can tell you about the options, and then take a card over the phone. You get some bulbs for your garden, and we get some bulbs and money for our garden too. It’s a win win!
  • Fall Garden Work Party: Join us in the garden for our Fall Garden Work Party on Saturday October 5th from 10am-12pm. We’ll be in the Learning Garden doing typical fall garden stuff, including some early winterizing projects. We’ll have coffee, juice, and snacks on hand. Tools provided, and there will be some family friendly tasks available.

Happy Hour in the Garden

Volunteer for an hour or two in The Environmental Center’s Learning Garden and be rewarded with beverages during our weekly volunteer drop in series! May’s beverages are sponsored by Worthy Garden Club & Brew Dr. Kombucha. Each week volunteers drop in and help maintain the garden through weekly tasks that shift throughout the growing season, in addition to special projects that pop up as needed. Happy Hour in the Garden is every Tuesday from 4-6 pm, May through August. No experience necessary, families welcome.