Growing organic produce is an enriching and dynamic process offering innumerable benefits to individuals and the community. Oakland’s Office of Parks and Recreation is underscoring these benefits with a new demonstration program at its Lakeside Park Demonstration Garden located in the Gardens at Lake Merritt.

Community organizations bring expertise to these demonstration plots with missions including: teaching self reliance; combating issues of hunger and violence; and growing and making herbal remedies. Special emphasis is  placed on optimizing a garden’s potential through plant selection and growing techniques.

Hundreds of volunteers nurture the plots under expert guidance with each organization featuring free monthly demonstrations, workshops, and volunteer opportunities to design, plant, and harvest from these edible gardens. There is no fee to join these community organizations to work together and harvest together.

For more information on the EdibleGardens, or one of the fifteen other garden locations provided by City of Oakland, please contact Community Gardening Coordinator Carla Jasso at communitygardens1870(at)gmail(dot)com or visit http://www2.oaklandnet.com/Government/o/opr/s/cgardening/index.htm

Kudos to the following organizations for sharing their knowledge and commitment with the community

ALAMEDA COUNTY MASTER GARDENERS: Committed to growing plants that thrive in Alameda County. Their workdays are every second and fourth Saturday from 11am to 1pm and every Wednesday from 11am to 1pm where they are available to answer garden related questions. On the last Saturday of the month from 12 to 1pm you can expect some scintillating lectures on various gardening topics. For a complete schedule visit their website at: http://acmg.ucdavis.edu/Demonstration_Gardens/Lakeside_Trials_Garden/

MERRITT COLLEGE: Grows food for community food banks and offers free classes in urban community gardening every Wednesday from 9:30am to noon. http://merrittlandhort.com/urban-community-gardening

VICTORY GARDEN FOUNDATION’S PEOPLE’S VICTORY GARDENS: These gardens meet the need for communities to be more self reliant and learn to garden with a purpose. There are three (3) garden plots: 1) Small Spaces Garden where you learn how to grow edibles in a variety of small spaces for little to no cost; 2) Food Pantry Garden where it’s a different garden style: Square Foot Gardening and the volunteers harvest and send their abundance to an Oakland food pantry; and 3) Edible Landscaping Garden where you learn to design a sustainable food forest integrating edibles into an existing ornamental garden space.. Mentored work days and education  sessions  are every first and third Saturday from 9 am  to 12 pm and every second and fourth Wednesday from 1pm to 2:30pm.Visit their website for topics and schedule changes: http://www.peoplesvictorygarden.org/apps/calendar

TODDLER GARDEN:  Garden Demo schedule for 2014:

April 26 — Seeds
May 24 — Using Our Senses in the Garden
June 28 — Ladybugs
July 26 — Colors of the Garden
August 23 — Worms
September 27 — Pollinators
October 18 — Pumpkins GARDEN CLOSED THIS DATE, DEMO WILL TAKE PLACE OUTSIDE THE FENCE
November 22 — Winter Vegetables

All activities are scheduled for 10:00-10:30 a.m., and are designed for kids ages four and under. For more information, to be added to the email distribution list, or to apply for a plot, please contact ToddlerGarden@hotmail.com.

ST PAUL’S SCHOOL: Middle school students growing produce for low income seniors and learning to care for the earth as part of the school’s service learning curriculum. Their workdays are every Tuesday and Friday from 2:10pm to 3:15pm.  During the summer months, youth enrolled in programs with the City’s Office of Parks and Recreation tend this budding garden space.

PLANTING JUSTICE: Dedicated to economic and food justice through support of sustainable local food systems. Their workday is the second Sunday of the month. Check out their website for more information: http://www.plantingjustice.org/

FURIOUS DANCING GARDEN: The New Bill Barham & Co. Multicultural Gardeners and Poets Collective is putting in motion the literary soul of planting, nurturing and ever-changing garden landscape conversation. They are preparing to launch their season of workdays and demos, which will consist of literary events in the garden, beginning in April 2013.  Contact Bill if interested in helping with his garden work by email at williamebarham@sbcglobal.net.

COMMUNITIES ROOTING TOGETHER: Bringing the Cambodian Women’s Group together to plant food crops from their native home. Workdays are every Friday from 10am to 12noon and demos are the first Thursday of the month from 10am-12pm.  Contact Zack Reidman for involvement: zackreidman@gmail.com

CHEF ROBERT DORSEY III: Cultivating gardens with the youth ofOakland’s “Junior Chef Society” as a peaceful solution to combat issues of hunger and violence inOakland communities. Workdays are every second and fourth Saturday from 11am to 1pm.  Contact Chef Dorsey for more information at rd3@chefrobertdorsey.com

HOPE COTTAGE: Sets of seniors with their grandchildren steward this garden plot adjacent to the South entrance of the Gardens at Lake Merritt.  Their plot mixes flowers, herbs, and vegetables to present an attractive display to all who enter – regulars and first timers alike!  Contact Sharon for more details on volunteer participation: sharonbrostrom4@yahoo.com.