Vet returns to local roots after gardening worldwide

Woman in her 50s-60s, wearing pink top in outdoor setting.
OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteer Debbie Lauer.

Meet Master Gardener volunteer Debbie Lauer. A native Oregonian, Debbie has gardened worldwide during her upbringing in a military family and during her own military service. Debbie has volunteered over 4,000 hours as a Master Gardener volunteer since 2001 and has been an Oregon State University Extension Service Master Gardener volunteer since 2006. We spoke in June 2018.



OSU Extension: Tell us about an early gardening experience.

Debbie Lauer: My dad would always plant petunias and it was my job to pick off the dead flowers. I used to hate it because they were so sticky. If you look in my garden today, you will find very few petunias – I am done with it. Dad also was in the army and planted a garden everywhere we travelled. We had gardens in Alabama, Kentucky and Texas. Also in Panama, where we grew pineapple.

I come from farming families. My grandfather was a dairy farmer by what is now the Albany airport…. Mother’s dad was a Shedd grass seed farmer. Both sides of the family had flower and vegetable gardens, so it is ingrained all the way through.

OSU: I recall that you also had a military career. Where have you had gardens?

DL: In Germany where I was stationed…we had balcony tomatoes. I would plant tulip bulbs where the landlord would let you. I also gardened in Texas …the standard little window boxes would melt by noon so I figured I’d better join Master Gardeners and learn what would grow there. I had gardens in Alaska, that’s where I really got into it. Up here (back home in Oregon) I have been challenged by the breadth of the plants you can grow.

OSU: What’s a favorite garden memory—a sound, sensation, smell or taste associated with a favorite garden in your life?

DL: My “favorite or most memorable” moment came when I was in middle school, then it was called junior high.  My dad was in Viet Nam, we were living on Colorado Lake Drive. We went out to my Grandparents farm in Shedd.  We were walking through the vegetable garden and my mom pulled a carrot from the ground took it to the water faucet and rinsed the dirt off and broke off a piece of it and gave it to me to taste it.  I had never eaten anything harvested so soon before and I will never forget the earthy smell or the wonderful taste of that warm carrot.

Another memorable moment came the second year after my MG class in Oregon. Don (my husband) pulled out his first potato, a huge one, from the dirt. From the look on his face I knew in that instant he had just become a vegetable gardener for life.

OSU: What does being a Master Gardener volunteer mean to you?

DL: Being a Master Gardener is about sharing gardening with other people. I have learned so much since I first became a MG in TX in 2001. The longer I volunteer the more I enjoy sharing my experiences in the garden and helping other people come to appreciate the joys and understand the challenges of gardening.