Master Gardeners sprout new ideas

The Master Gardeners’ annual spring plant sale has been postponed, but the group is thinking up ways to serve the community in the meantime. (News-Times file photo)

Group shifts focus after events canceled, plant sale postponed

The annual Master Gardeners spring plant sale has been postponed due to coronavirus, but the group is still finding ways to get plant starts, gardening expertise and fresh food into the hands of community members.

“Everything’s getting canceled, and that’s just kind of how it is right now,” said Pami Monnette, agricultural field faculty with the OSU Extension Service, “so we’re having to re-envision how we educate gardeners and interact with gardeners, encourage folks to start (a garden) of their own if they haven’t before. I think our mission kind of stays the same, it’s just changed a little bit. This year will definitely be more focused on food production.”

One way the Master Gardeners are looking at distributing vegetable and herb starts is by dropping them around the county with “free vegetables/herbs” signs attached. Another option being considered is donating plant starts to the food bank, which would then be distributed at the food pantries around the county, or to distribute printed materials with gardening information.

“OSU’s really just trying to provide guidelines on how to do it safely at this point,” Monnette said. For the educational component of their work, OSU is offering a free, online gardening class through the end of April. The class typically costs $45, but the university is offering it without charge for those who can’t afford it during these difficult times. For more information about that program, visit https://tinyurl.com/qt7rnb3.

The biggest push that the gardeners are making is to encourage people to “rally and try and provide fresh food for everybody in a time of crisis,” Monnette described. They’re calling it “victory gardens with a social-distancing twist,” and asking that gardeners try to grow extra fresh food for their friends and neighbors, and the Master Gardeners will do the same.

“More people will probably be food insecure as a part of this whole crisis,” Monnette said, “and so we’re trying to figure out then how to not only encourage more people to garden, but how can we support it with physical vegetable garden starts and/or just a bigger donation of fresh food to the food bank or just our neighbors and our community.”

As for the postponed plant sale, Monnette said that will likely occur in the fall.

“If we do it early enough, we’ll be able to do winter vegetable gardening starts,” Monnette said. “So that would be a new thing for us, that would be kind of fun encouraging folks to try gardening through the winter.”

The Master Gardener plant clinic is still available for now — gardeners can ask a question from the comfort of their own home by emailing [email protected] or calling 541-574-6534 ext. 57414. Additionally, more resources can be found on the Master Gardener website, https://www.orcoastmga.org.

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