Return of the Demo Garden

Years and years ago, before the Washoe County Cooperative Extension office moved from Mill Street to Energy Way, it featured a demonstration garden. The space was called the Cliff Fout’s Memorial Demonstration Garden, and it was planted and maintained each year by Master Gardener Volunteers. The garden was open to the public and served as a source of inspiration. From the garden, many pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables were harvested and donated to area food banks and other nonprofit organizations to help feed Reno’s hungry.

But, when the office moved, the garden was left behind. The office moved because it was in the flood plain, and its lease was not renewed to turn the space into a more appropriate use for an area prone to flooding– a park. Plans were to include the garden in the park so that the green space would not go to waste. However, right about then the economy tanked and plans changed. The garden is still there, no park yet, and it has run wild.

Since the move, Master Gardener Volunteers have done without a demonstration garden to plan, plant and nurture. They have missed it. Area gardeners who sought inspiration there as well as local charitable organizations too have been missing out. But no longer. The demonstration garden returns. It returns with the help of Rail City Garden Center who held a garden tour last year to raise money for the garden.

Here is what the space looks like so far. It’s much smaller than what was had at the old building, but small spaces don’t stop gardeners. And, in an urban area like Reno, a small demonstration garden is more realistic. Apartment, condo and small-lot growers will appreciate the space-saving yet productive design.

The garden beds are strange in appearance. Part of the reason is because this picture is taken as they are now, in progress. A nice wooden ledge piece will be installed to hide the seams and provide a more traditional look. But, the main reason they look different is because they are. They are made not from traditional materials, like redwood or cedar, but from cement and particle board. They will last 25 years. This is important because Cooperative Extension is frequently underfunded. It received a 72 percent budget cut from the University just a few years ago, and that funding has not been restored. If other less durable beds were installed, the organization may not have funds later to repair or replace them as they wear and tear.

Looks aside, the garden will function just as any other garden. It will include both ornamental and edible plants. There are plans to put a kitchen garden theme bed near the staff door. Employees will be able to snip fresh greens and herbs for their lunches straight from the garden.

Curious about the demonstration garden? Stop by to see it for yourself. It is located at 4955 Energy Way in Reno.

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