Millersburg gardener shares produce to connect with neighbors

Jesse Garcia joined the OSU Extension Master Gardener Program of Linn County in 2018. Jesse balances a full time career with volunteering and gardening. Raised in Oklahoma by a family of gardeners, he is now at work on creating a garden where he now resides in Linn County. Jesse shared his story in October of 2018.

Man in sunglasses greeting visitors at a garden tour.
Master Gardener volunteer Jesse Garcia greets visitors at Through the Garden Gate in 2018.

Elizabeth Records – OSU Extension: What can you share about an early gardening experience?

Jesse Garcia: My earliest gardening experience would be when I was very young, early grade school age in my hometown of El Reno, Oklahoma. I would go into the garden with my mother. I often asked her questions about the different types of plants, such as tomato, watermelon, and peppers. My mother displayed lots of patience in answering my questions. I truly believe this early experience is what directed my curiosity in gardening that I continue to this day.

ER: Tell us about your current garden – who, what, when and where?

JG: I currently do not have a home garden. I moved to Oregon in December, 2016 and recently bought a house in Millersburg (July, 2018). I am still in the process of landscaping our yard, which is a work in progress. I do plan to continue my home garden. I will put into practice the knowledge/training that I learned from the OSU Extension Office’s Master Garden program. In the past, I grew a vegetable garden for many years in Oklahoma. My garden consisted of many varieties of tomatoes, potatoes, onions, green beans, snow peas, squash, kale, spinach, lettuce, and peppers.

ER: Describe one plant that you grow which reminds you of home.

JG: Growing tomatoes has always reminded me of the times that I spent in the garden with my mother. But my father also influenced my gardening habits. Many years ago, he gave me some Amaryllis belladonna bulbs (also known as “Naked Ladies”) from the family flower garden to transplant in my own garden in Oklahoma. At the time, I only focused on vegetable gardening. “Naked ladies” are now included in my gardening. I hope that I will have some success with them in my future garden even though the growing conditions in Oregon are not similar.

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

JG: As a very young boy, I was asked to deliver vegetables from the family garden to our neighbors. To this day, I do continue taking vegetables from my home garden, door to door. I do this as a way of getting to know my neighbors.

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

JG: I talked with volunteers at the Master Garden booth (Corvallis Farmer’s Market, July 2017) they encouraged me to apply to the volunteer program, even though I currently work full time. I am so glad that I took the time to complete the application and was accepted into the program. I was able to attend all training sessions and to complete my required volunteer hours for the program.

The class has provided me a very good foundation for gardening in the Pacific Northwest. The Master Garden volunteer experience has been a very rewarding experience. I continue to build upon my gardening network with some of the local fruit growers. I enjoy meeting new people at the Master Garden volunteer events.

ER: What’s one thing that people might be surprised to know about you and/or your garden?

JG: I would have to say my culinary interests. I often try new recipes on the grill and I have become somewhat experienced in smoking meat such as ribs, chicken, brisket and everyone’s favorite (do not laugh) bologna. Yes, in Oklahoma the true pit masters like to include smoked bologna with their finest cuisine.

Did you know that numerous Master Gardener volunteers balance work and volunteering? Learn more about joining us in Linn or Benton Counties.

Planting gardening ideas

Neighborhood Planters Kiosks help build thriving communities


A young woman and a dog check out a Neighborhood Planters Kiosk
Community members get gardening ideas from a Neighborhood Planters Kiosk.

Neighborhood Planters Kiosks (NPKs) look a bit like Little Free Libraries, but instead of sharing books, they offer seasonally relevant, research-based gardening tips. NPK is a collaboration of OSU Extension Benton County Master Gardeners, the Corvallis Evening Garden Club, the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition, and the City of Corvallis Civic Beauty and Urban Forestry Group. OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers Christina Clark and Kathleen Rochester contributed to this story. Learn more at the NPK blog.

Elizabeth Records – OSU Extension:  For someone who has never seen an NPK before, describe what it looks like and where it might be found.

Neighborhood Planter Kiosk team: NPKs (Neighborhood Planters’ Kiosks –a word play on the NPK composition of fertilizer) are bright painted wooden boxes. They are mounted on posts in volunteers’ yards where they can be seen from the street. They can be found in parks, community gardens, and front yards all over Corvallis.

ER: Who is the intended audience for NPKs?

NPK: Our intended audience is anyone who is interested in or might become interested in gardening, sustainable living, and enjoying our outdoor spaces.

ER: What are some sources of inspiration for this project?

NPK: We’d like to build community and share the love of gardening. We’re continuing to try to reach a greater audience with research-based information. Some of the misinformation out there  can lead to discouragement, wasted time and money, or negative effects on our environment.

Gardening is such a fun, healthy, vital part of our lives that we’d like to encourage others to also benefit. We also believe that growing our own food is one of the healthiest things we can do for ourselves, our loved ones, and our planet. Sustainability is never more fun than when we learn to grow something for ourselves!

ER: How do NPKs help fulfill the mission of OSU Extension Service?

NPK: We plant gardening ideas to help build thriving communities! While OSU Extension supports a variety of programs, we focus on gardening education and related community events. Much of the information we share starts with tips from OSU Extension’s monthly gardening calendar. Then our writers add photos and resources to engage our readers. Links on our blog connect them with additional Extension articles that help them get more in depth.

We provide another way to link Extension and all its expertise and knowledge with anyone on the street or in front of a computer. We hope to engage people that may not know how much free, but valuable research-based information could be at their fingertips.

ER: Is there a story that stands out to you about someone interacting with NPK kiosks or blog posts?

NPK: We’ve had views from all over the world. We had one email come in from Victoria in Omaha, Nebraska. She was part of a group trying to start a similar program in their neighborhood; trying to find funding and figure out how to build the kiosks. It was great fun to share our enthusiasm and many building tips and photos.

Have you visited a Neighborhood Planter Kiosk for garden information or inspiration? Share your story with elizabeth.records(at) and we’ll post it in future updates. Check out the NPK blog anytime.



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.