Oregon State University

OSU Master Gardeners provide urban solutions.

The increasing numbers of farmers markets nationwide coupled with the corresponding local food movement has inspired many novices and experts alike to seek out their inner green thumb and grow their own food.

Those living in the urban areas of the Portland metro don’t need to feel left out. In addition to the 50 farmers markets in the metro area, the city itself boasts 47 community gardens, demonstrating a culture that values local produce and redefining the meaning of urban space for its citizens.

“[Urban areas] tend to have a surplus of vacant land, not being utilized for positive purposes, that could be turned into a garden to benefit the entire neighborhood and the city, at large,” says Gail Langellotto, Master Gardener statewide coordinator. “Urban areas are fantastic places for gardens and garden education programs.”

With the help of educational resources offered by Oregon State University, city dwellers can learn to cultivate their own urban garden.  

Those interested in a comprehensive training in the art and science of gardening can take part in the OSU Extension Service Metro Master Gardener™ program, designed for residents of Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties. Backed by horticultural research and administered by Oregon State faculty, the 11-week program covers botany, soils, composting, container gardening, pest management, plant disease diagnosis and safe pesticide use while giving participants the opportunity to become certified Master Gardeners and serve as volunteers.

In 2012, 1,313 trainee and veteran Master Gardeners working in the Portland metro region contributed 42,098 hours of volunteer service and an additional 58,030 public contact hours.

The program recently received the largest gift in its history. (http://osufoundation.org/news/pressreleases/current/0716_master_gardener/) The $1.2 million will create the Y. Sherry Sheng and Spike Wadsworth Endowment Fund, ensuring the program will continue its work and growth.

A vast majority of those contact hours were spent educating others about the art and science of gardening as well as teaching others to appreciate the story behind their food.

“Urban residents are often most likely to be disconnected with their local food system, and garden education programs that support their efforts to grow their own food generate an appreciation of where food comes from,” Langellotto said. “Garden education programs help folks have more direct access to fresh foods, where they can control the chemical inputs and they can know exactly what went into their crops.”

Metro-area residents looking for the extensive Master Gardner education can also enroll in the certificate track and participate in onsite training, while those looking for a more flexible option can also enroll in Master Gardener Online, offered by Professional and Noncredit Education at Oregon State. Like Metro Master Gardener, the online program allows participants to either enroll in the volunteer or certificate track—both offering continuing education in sustainable gardening practices.

Ease into the world of gardening with the Master Gardening Online Short Course Series, which offers the same research-backed course content in individual, self-paced modules. Those looking to learn how to produce compost can enroll in the Soils and Compost course, or develop an understanding of how to grow produce with the Vegetable Gardening course.

Other online gardening courses offered by Professional and Noncredit Education can teach new and experienced gardeners how to conserve water, utilize permaculture methods, develop a system for diagnosing plant problems and landscape with native plants—no matter the size of their yard, garden or patio. 

Continuing education: Online gardening courses

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