Licking County Master Gardener Volunteers have created an awe-inspiring Learning Garden located behind the Agriculture Center on East Main Street. Every year on the 3rd Saturday in July, they create an Open House event in the gardens adorn with garden flags, fairy gardens, colorful umbrellas, music, free food and activities for young visitors. Visitor’s enjoy the many different educational plots including a Certified Monarch Waystation, a cutting garden, dahlia garden, pioneer garden, container garden, phenology garden and much, much more. You are welcome to visit anytime as the gardens are open dawn to dusk. Would you like to book a tour of the gardens with your group? Call 740-618-6334 to set up an appointment. Visit and be inspired!
History of the development of the Demonstration Garden, now called the Learning Gardens by Member, Kaye Alban.
The Membership in 1998 had many meetings and ideas on what they wanted in the garden and what was its purpose. There were only 2 gardens to begin with and those were started in 1998. The Butterfly Garden (which is now the cutting garden) and Herb Garden.
We began having the Children’s Garden a year later. The purpose of the Children’s Garden was to educate kids to be lifelong gardeners and raise awareness in the community to know who we are, and we are a resource for gardening questions. We developed 30 plots that were 3' X 12', and the children and their families committed to Saturdays from 9 – 12 to tend the garden from seed to harvest. They could choose either to grow flowers or vegetables. We charged the kids $10.00 which covered all supplies, and each child received a t-shirt. We had a "theme" each year with activities and T-shirt with that theme printed on it. They weeded first, then do the scheduled activities and because they found so many rocks, they lined their plots with the rocks. The day always ended with a treat.
After a few years passed, the home-schooled kids started to come for their science education. The last 3 years fewer kids came...so we let the moms have a larger plot to grow vegetables for home. In 2009 it was decided to discontinue the Children’s Garden because of little participation. The Membership decided to use the garden to teach horticulture practices by having tours and programming in the garden.
The size of the garden was about 1/8 of what it is now. We had no fence and no water; so, we dragged a hose from the Agriculture Center each time we needed to water the garden. In 2010, Commissioners graciously paid for a water line to be installed from the Agriculture Center to the gardens because the Center parking lot was being regraded and paved. This improvement allowed watering the gardens a much easier task.
The garden has expanded several times with the last improvement in 2019 by adding the Pantry Garden in the back of the garden. Water lines were extended into the center of the Pantry Garden and paid for by an Operation Round-Up donation.
Once upon a time someone started a hop garden in the Learning Garden. However, as sometimes happens, that person was no longer involved with the master gardener program so the hops were left alone. Hops, when left to their own devices, become rather unruly. These hop plants were growing all over the place and looked like a big tangled mess.
My husband had created a small hop yard at our house to support his home brewing hobby. He had a few years experience so he knew how to tame and train hops so that they could grow in an orderly and efficient manner. He kindly volunteered to help get the Learning Garden’s hops back in shape with, of course, my meager assistance.
Since no one knew the variety of hops that had been growing in the garden, those plants were removed and were replaced with Cascade hops. At first, we used the existing structure for the hops to grow up. However, it really wasn’t tall enough. The hop plants were too condensed which impacted air flow and promoted disease. A taller structure has now been built. Hops can grow over twenty feet tall! Now the hop plants get much better airflow.
Once the hops are harvested in late August, they are donated to a local brewery. The brewery makes a special batch of beer using these fresh hops. Under the brewmaster’s guidance, they consistently make tasty brews with our hops. The past couple of years these special locally sourced beers have been very popular and sell out quickly.
When you visit the Learning Garden look for the tallest structure there and you’ll find the hops. If it is early summer you will see the bines (the name of the vines of the hop plant) twisting around twine, growing up to one foot a day. By late summer the plants are twenty feet tall. Look closely and you’ll see their flowers. Those are the hops that are used to make beer. They resemble small, green pinecones. If you can reach one, and it’s close to harvesting time, take a whiff. You may be able to smell a beer brewing!
The Licking County Master Gardener Volunteers have donated the produce grown in their Learning Gardens to the Salvation Army Food Kitchen for over 12 years. As time has passed and personnel has changed in both organizations; the tradition has continued. In the Spring of 2019 a new Intern Class of Master Gardeners developed and planted a new garden area addition to the existing Learning Garden specifically designed to demonstrate how to grow weed free organic vegetables. 2650 pounds of produce was donated in the first year of this new plot. Then Covid-19 occurred! OSU shut down the Learning Gardens for over a year. Everything in the garden was left unattended and overgrown. 2020 was a lost year for volunteers. Spring 2021 arrived without hopes high to begin again. Opening the garden to volunteers was not without limits and requirements. But with planning and patience; members slowly started to enter the garden one at a time, space requirements and wearing masks to clean up and repair. A new deer fence along with wooden gates were built and installed by Master Gardeners Volunteers. Plots were mapped out and the dreamers started coming quietly. A new group of four volunteers took on the Food Pantry Garden. They dubbed themselves the Food Panty Army! After all, it was going to take an Army to clean up the space and tackle the task at hand and the food was being donated to the Salvation Army. They even had Camo T shirts made so that the Salvation Army food staff knew them when they arrived. Blessings flowed in many ways this year. OSU gave the volunteers permission to open the gardens completely by the middle of May, just the perfect time to plant vegetables and flowers. The weather gave us the perfect growing season. The entire Learning Garden beamed with inspiration, color, creativity, and activities. The Food Pantry Army grew and donated 2203 pounds of produce in 2021.
the sun garden
Formerly known as the Perennial Garden, this year it was to become the Sun Garden, showcasing five different garden beds. Unfortunately, the Learning Garden was closed at planting time, so new plants weren’t installed, but plans are in place for next year.
Each bed will be a display of perennials, shrubs, and annuals that are readily available for the home gardener to adopt for their home landscape. Designing a pleasing landscape bed involves planning and paying attention to plant heights and spreads, bloom times, colors, amending soil when necessary, fertilizing, and watering.
From daffodils in the early spring to chrysanthemums in the fall, the well planned garden bed will display color throughout the season. This doesn’t always need to be flowers. Shrubs and trees also provide color and texture through their leaves and structure. Since perennials usually bloom for a short time, we plant annuals to provide color when perennials have finished blooming.