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Sarah Smith admits it is unusual for the Campbell Community Garden to be one of the six gardens on the Everyday Living Garden and Art Tour on June 21, but says she considers it to be a wonderful opportunity to share gardening techniques with visitors.


“They will see 28 different ways to plant a vegetable garden all in one spot, and they will see a lot of ways to maximize planting areas,” said Smith, the director of the community garden, located behind now-closed Hector Campbell Elementary School in Milwaukie.

by: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Sarah Smith, director of the Campbell Community Garden, checks on the progress of peas. The garden is one of six on the upcoming Everyday Living Garden and Art Tour.Smith’s own front garden, just around the corner from the community garden, also will be featured on the tour, which is a benefit for the Sara Hite Memorial Rose Garden, located in North Clackamas Park.

A year ago, Smith and her husband tore out a chunk of their front lawn and replaced it with mostly edible plants.

“It is an edible garden on a different scale. We chose edibles that are hard to find at a grocery store and are easier to grow,” she said, noting that visitors on the tour will see quince, honeyberries, gooseberries, currants, lingonberries and trellis-planted borlotti beans, which have pink and green variegated pods.

Tickets for the tour are $10 and are available weekdays at the Milwaukie Center Gift Shop; visit milwaukiecenter.com for more information.

Campbell Community Garden

Smith is the owner of The Gardensmith, working with clients who want to learn how to be better gardeners or who want to make their outdoor spaces more usable. She has worked for 16 years, helping clients enjoy spending time in their gardens, but noted that the community garden has been the most rewarding project she has ever done.

The elementary school closed in 2011, but the Hector Campbell Neighborhood Association approached the North Clackamas School District about building a community garden behind the school. In 2012 the garden came to fruition, thanks to the efforts of many dedicated volunteers, Smith said.

The Campbell Community Garden has more than 4,000 square feet of planting beds divided into 28 plots for neighbors to rent, and four plots dedicated to growing produce to share with neighbors in need through local food pantries and social service agencies.

Most of the gardeners are neighbors who live within walking distance. The main entrance to the garden is near the walking path at the intersection of Adams Street and 47th Avenue.

One of the things that sets this community garden apart from others is the harvest-donation program that was built into the plans of the garden right from the start.

“Community gardens have the potential for a lot of waste. New gardeners don’t realize that some crops come in all at once,” Smith said.

So on Thursdays the four communal beds are harvested, and all the produce is given to Esther’s Pantry, in the Providence Milwaukie complex. Any excess produce from the individually worked beds may be donated to the pantry as well.

“We have given 230 pounds of produce to the pantry since January,” Smith said, adding that gardeners are encouraged to work the plots year-round.

She also pointed out that many of the plots have colorful flowers interspersed with the edibles to “provide nectar and pollen for beneficial insects.”

“It's so great teaching people to grow stuff, and because everyone has different passions, I have learned so much from each person,” Smith said.

“Some people are perfectionists and some just throw stuff in to see what will happen,” she said.

Last week Cheryl Custer was working on her plot, where she is growing lettuce, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots and beans; a patch of purple pansies was attracting plenty of bees.

Custer and her husband, both retired, live near Southeast 82nd Avenue and Johnson Creek Boulevard, but drive to the community garden because they love gardening, but don’t have a sunny spot at their house.

She added, “This is our second year, and what I love best about it is meeting the other people.”

Community support

It was truly a community effort to construct the garden, Smith said, noting that half the initial cost of $11,000 was funded by city of Milwaukie neighborhood grants.

“Hansen Family Farm, a vendor at the Milwaukie Farmers Market, donated all the tomato plants, the 24 new blueberry plants were all donated, the lumber for the raised beds was paid for by a grant and the Clackamas County Master Gardeners give us a grant every year.”

Because the gardeners wanted to be self-sufficient, they put in their own water meter, Smith said, noting that Landscape East and West donated all the water spigots, and employees from that company donated their time to install all the water lines.

Each of the gardeners pays between $30 and $55 rent per year, which covers the water bill and helps defray the cost of upgrades. Gardeners also must commit to four hours of volunteer time per year, Smith said.

Black Gold donated the potting soil and fertilizer and Renee’s Garden donated hundreds of seed packets. Other major garden sponsors include Wichita Sanitary Service, Milwaukie Lumber, Celebrate Milwaukie Inc., and the Hector Campbell Neighborhood District Association.

As for future plans, she would love to see fruit trees added to the mix and thinks it would be great fun to have a community wood-fired bread oven on the site, for neighbors to bring bread dough for baking.

There currently is one space still available in the community garden, and donations of tools are always most welcome, Smith said, noting that anyone interested should contact the website.

Everyday Living Garden and Art Tour

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 21

Where: The tour visits six gardens in the Milwaukie area, including the Hector Campbell Community Garden and Sarah Smith’s front garden, just a block away.

Details: Tour tickets are $10. All proceeds benefit the Sara Hite Memorial Rose Garden in North Clackamas Park, near the Milwaukie Center. Tickets are available in the gift shop at the center or may be purchased the day of the event at the entrance to the park on Rusk Road. Visit milwaukiecenter.com or call 503-653-8100 for more information.

Details: Find out more about the Campbell Community Garden at campbellgarden.org and learn more about The Gardensmith at thegardensmith.com.

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