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By and For the Community

By Office of Communication Services    Published on 04/14/2016 More stories >>

UGC
volunteers display the flourishing plants they have tended and will sell at an
upcoming Second Saturday at the Garden event.

UGC volunteers display the flourishing plants they have tended and will sell at an upcoming Second Saturday at the Garden event.

The Urban Garden Center (UGC), an expansive 30-acre site in Pearl City, serves as a one-stop outreach educational center where the public can get help and inspiration for home gardens through school tours, workshops, and demonstrations. Techniques showcased include home-garden irrigation solutions, xeriscaping, grafting, and companion planting. The center often hosts the O‘ahu Agriculture and Environmental Awareness Day for students. The collection of subtropical fruit trees, besides providing samples for visitors, also serves as a Giving Orchard, producing over 7000 pounds of fruit donated to the Food Bank this past year.

None of the UGC’s activities would be possible without its volunteers. Some work in particular areas, such as the orchard, the bonsai collection, the Hawaiian herb plantings, or the rose garden. Some join huis, or working groups, for pruning, grafting, growing plants from seed, and vermicasting. Some engrave plant signs or repair buildings or equipment; still others serve on advisory boards and at Peace Day celebrations. Many participate in the Center’s monthly plant sales held from February to November.

Volunteers tend to the Urban Garden Center’s Native
Hawaiian plantings.

Volunteers tend to the Urban Garden Center’s Native Hawaiian plantings.

The volunteers are as varied as their activities: some are certified O‘ahu Master Gardeners, others just home gardeners with green thumbs; there are professionals like teachers, plumbers, electricians, and engineers; students; members of the military; and Youth Challenge cadets. What they all have in common is an interest in helping in the gardens and a belief in the work that the Center does.

“One reason I started is the space,” admits a volunteer, who lives in an apartment in which he grows an impressive array of vegetables, fruits, vines, and even trees. He volunteers to get more scope for his green thumb and love of growing. He’s also hoping to become a Master Gardener, getting his foot in the door while waiting to take the next class by putting his already ample knowledge of plants to good use.

At the monthly Second Saturday open-house, visitors buy plants donated, tended, and sold by the volunteers; get advice from Master Gardeners on plant problems; and tour the UGC, led by volunteer guides, getting new ideas for their own gardens. “We have a sign-up for a volunteer orientation workshop after Second Saturdays for those interested in being part of our ‘ohana,” Extension agent Steve Nagano explains. Many are intrigued enough to come back. And that’s good news for the UGC, because its volunteers are essential in making it great.