Welcome to what’s coming for Parker Learning Gardens! Below we have outlined several projects that are… who we are. Explore and discover where we are going, and where you can join us along the way!
Wetland Habitat Restoration
“An Ecosystem in Need of Balance” We have a wetland that runs through and divides our 33 acre farm replete with native trees, annual waterflow, small ponds and resident beavers. It is a beautiful habitat that attracts wildlife, cleans water and builds the soil. Unfortunately, an abundance of Himalayan blackberries are choking the sloped edges, converging further every year. Parker Learning Gardens seeks to remove these invasive blackberries, add back a diversity of native plants, and create observation areas for our visitors to view and learn about local native ecosystems. We are planning a future fundraiser (in combination with a challenge grant to match funds) to raise support for plants, tools, organized work parties and the costs of continued maintenance for this project. If you have interest, insight or anything to contribute to this effort please connect with us () or leave a comment at the bottom of this page.
The “Amazing Bus of Science!” Renovation
“A Bus in the Kid’s Science Garden? Awesome!” Science is exciting, and linking science lessons to the garden creates impressions that last a lifetime. What better way to stoke this excitement for curious young minds than with a cool bus turned into a garden laboratory! Our Amazing Bus of Science! will house tools and instruments for making observations and taking measurements, bug nets, science books, and so many more things to peak the imagination. To help fund this project we have launched a GoFundMe campaign! Consider this: How might you be able to lend a hand in this incredibly unique project that, when complete, is sure to instill lasting memories for science, gardening and creativity for a lifetime?
“Science is the best idea humans have ever had.” – Bill Nye
Habitat For Human Collaboration
“A Network of Connection Simply Designed” Parker Learning Gardens has been fortunate to host AmeriCorps crews for several work days over the last few years and it has proven transformative to receive organized labor at that scale for our extensive 33-acre farm. Now we seek to expand upon this resource and create the facilities to sponsor AmeriCorps teams for 3 to 13 weeks at our farm in the warmer seasons. This project will also enable us to host and promote the educational exchange of WHOOFers (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms)! To make this work, we intent to build a series of simple covered tent platforms within our Linden Tree Grove, in addition to a few other temporary-stay amenities. We are currently seeking building supplies (lumber and metal roofing) and outreach support to further develop this opportunity. Connect with us:
Hedgerow Diversification & Restoration
“A Living Biofilter for our Organic Farm” We have an existing hedgerow that circumvents nearly the entire perimeter of our 33-acre farm here at Parker Learning Gardens! Unfortunately, its primary understory is invasive Himalayan blackberries. By diversifying our hedgerow’s flora we intend to: improve its ability to filter out and buffer against chemical drift from our neighboring conventional farms, provide more privacy, protect against wind, reduce roadway noise, enhance energy conservation, create a better wildlife and pollinator habitat, increase species diversity, and beautify the surrounding landscape. We are seeking resources for native plants that will grow well in our Willamette valley ecoregion and we are actively propagating plants onsite for this project.
Bamboo Forest Trail Upkeep
“Loose Yourself Within The Bamboo” With nearly 40 varieties on 3+ acres, we grow a lot of bamboo! Each variety grows differently: green and tall, yellow and bushy, mottled brown and green, jet black… Some varieties are better suited for structural use, others are better suited for crafting functional pieces like native bee houses, epic walking sticks or natural fishing poles. A trail system is maintained within the 3-acre bamboo forest block to provide an opportunity for visitors to explore and learn about this fascinating plant. Parts of the trail system are so enclosed with densely growing bamboo the daylight can be blocked out entirely. For younger children the bamboo forest is an exciting adventure that can completely remove them from the familiar flora of the Pacific Northwest. Maintaining this trail system is an ongoing project.
(Insight: Bamboo is known for being the world’s tallest grass species partly because of a unique rhizome-dependent system. This makes bamboo is an excellent choice for Phytodepuration. Bamboo grows four times faster than most plants and it can draw in more carbon than trees. Additionally bamboo will reduce our extreme pressure on the forest by being a substitute for wood in furniture, floor panels, fiber panels, and many other products.)
“Fruit Everywhere!” We have over 500 mature fruit trees throughout the farm: apple, pear, Asian pear, plum, quince, persimmon, fig and pawpaw. For several months in late summer and early fall delicious fruit can be found hanging in abundance wherever you turn. We host 100- 150 sheep every winter in our fruit orchard for annual upkeep. They stay for 4-6 weeks to naturally maintain the grass, blackberries, and eat all the windfall fruit.
Sun Tunnel & Seasonal Garden
“Fresh Food” This garden is intended to extend the growing season for fall and spring crops and demonstrate how to grow certain vegetables year around. The Sun Tunnel is covered with new plastic, but it lacks side and end walls. Spring planting is underway…
“Always Open” We are actively developing our Farmstand to be a beautiful stop for visitors to find and buy what we grow and create at the farm. We plan to stock everything from jam to bamboo to biochar… There will be a unique lineup of organically grown produce to ancient skill crafts. The Farmstand will also be a hub of information about what we do at Parker Learning Gardens. (Version 2.0 is currently in development after our original Farmstand burned down. We have since learned to be extra carful with the storeage of biochar, or else it may once again spontaneously combust!)
Linden Tree Grove
“Huge And Majestic” This is a well known tree in Britain, and gaining recognition here in the US. Known for its light, yet strong wood, basswood is easily carved and used in crafts. The name “basswood” originates from the inner fibrous bark of the tree, known as bast. Bast fibers were historically used to weave clothing, sacks, mats, shoes and many other crafts. The flowers in the early summer offer medicinal properties, and are used in tea for their soothing and relaxing qualities. The leaves are edible. The Linden tree is clearly a natural resource more people should be accustomed to.
The trees of the Linden Grove are tightly spaced, forming an expansive tree canopy alcove that is conducive to inspiring awe and inspiration as a outdoor classroom environment. This area will be further developed to naturally receive groups of people for hosting carving/fiber workshops.
Stations For Learning
“A Table of Sand…” There is a near endless variety of learning/play stations we envision to sprinkle throughout our gardens and farm. Natural objects arranged in a functional and inspiring creation, small tables for close-up interation, climbing logs placed along pathways, etc. Help us create spaces for young minds to flourish in exploration.
“Old, Wild & Wise” The hazelnut orchard is full of old trees that have not been selectively pruned to have one lead trunk. The trees are very shrub-like in a grand sense. Together they form a near continuous canopy with many hollows that make for great gathering places and covered trail-ways between different areas of the farm. Our Produce Washing Station is recessed within the hazelnut canopy.
“Fire!” With the regular maintenance of our bamboo forest trails and our fruit and hazelnut orchards we generate a significant accumulation of woody biomass. This material provides the fuel for our “Ring of Fire” biochar kiln. (Biochar is charcoal produced by the burning of biomass in an oxygen-limited environment.)
The biochar is incorporated into our composting operation to be inoculated by beneficial microorganisms. This links the growth of our farm’s woody vegetation back to the garden as an amazing soil amendment with a net result of carbon sequestration (long-term removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere).
Visitors of all ages are drawn to the whole process of loading and operating the kiln. Learning all of the benefits (improving the soil’s fertility, microbe habitat, water retention. etc) of biochar, plus the fact that it sequesters carbon for up to 10,000 years, makes a strong impression on all participants.
Compost Station – “Microbe Island”
“Compost Happens…” With a diverse farm consisting of many perennial and annual garden plants, plus our on-site biochar generation, our composting operation receives an array of beneficial inputs. Set up to demonstrate the various cycles of decomposition, kids and families can observe and better understand how the different aspects of the farm connect to result in healthier plants and food.
The composting station includes a large vermicomposting (decomposition by worms) operation that exemplifies the benefits of worms in gardening (higher production of plant nutrients, improved soil structure, increased water retention, etc.). We love our worms!
Hoop House Workshop Space
“Let’s Gather, Design, Craft & Create!” With a covered footprint of 30′ x 85′, the large hoop house is a great location to conduct crafting workshops (bamboo, gourd, fiber, etc). It also serves as a large gathering space for inclement weather. The structure is covered in an opaque overwintering white greenhouse film which diffuses the light to provide for a uniform temperature for days of sporadic sunshine.