A Garden-ship in Oregon City

[Photo: Residents of Clackamas Heights public housing complex in Oregon City gardening.]
Residents of Clackamas Heights public housing complex in Oregon City gardening.

How does your garden grow? Rich soil, of course, and water and fertilizer and seed and lots and lots and lots of tender loving care.

A good partnership helps, too. Like the partnership - or, better still, the "garden-ship" - that quickly took root after the Clackamas Housing Authority asked residents of its Clackamas Heights public housing complex in Oregon City if they'd be interested in starting a "people's garden."

"I'd hardly gotten the question out of my mouth," said the Authority's resident services coordinator Jane Brown, "and folks seemed to already be rolling up their sleeves."

The idea, explained Brown, came from a "people's garden" planted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture - described as the "people's department" by President Lincoln when he established it in 1862 - on the National Mall. "If it was good enough for Honest Abe and good enough for the National Mall, it was good enough for Clackamas Heights."

In short order, residents developed a design for the garden. The housing authority provided the parcel. The City of Oregon City awarded the project a Metro Enhancement Grant to help cover the costs of supplies and equipment.

Camp Fire's Family Club created signage and art-work. A local neighborhood association and the Oregon State Extension Service offered advice on the "how, what and when" of growing things. Oregon City schools began using it as an outdoor classroom. Local merchants began offering discounts on garden supplies.

And, thanks to workforce investment funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Community Solutions of Clackamas County was able to hire a crew of 10 young people and an adult supervisor from C-TEC - the Clackamas Technical Education Consortium - to install a fence around the parcel, to build a tool shed, benches, bird feeders, mulch and compost bins and raised garden beds and - whew! - prepare the soil for planting.

Seeds first hit the ground in August. By October, the harvest already had begun. Beans. Kale. Onions. Radishes. Sweet peas. Potatoes. And, of course, zucchini. In fact, Master Gardeners, Master Canners and a good cook or two from the Extension Service have started sharing recipes on how to preserve and how to prepare meals that make full use of the bounty.

"This is one of those great "ground-up" projects that you only wish you'd started four or five years ago," explained Brown. "Our people's garden has given old neighbors new ways to work with and get to know each other, and given the residents a chance to show the world why they are so proud to call Clackamas Heights home. And the kale," she added, "is to die for."


Content Archived: December 23, 2013