Community meets academia at Lake Merritt's garden

On a recent Wednesday in Oakland, Master Gardener Aixa Gannon shows off the Lake Merritt Trials Garden. Vertical structures are filled with crawling bean plants, while the vines of squash plants stretch across mounds of soil. Master Gardener Margaret Wang arrives to tend to her roses and check up on a dry farming experiment. 

Here, Bay Area home gardeners can ask trained plant doctors their microclimate planting questions every Wednesday from 11am to 1pm. It's a 3/4-mile walk from 19th Street/Oakland BART station. 

Lake Merritt Gardens

“We go through a lot of training from the best advisors and plant science specialists in the state from the University of California system” Gannon said as she brushed against some medicinal herbs. But this Lake Merritt location offers more than one-on-one gardening advice.

At the Lake Merritt Edible Demonstration Garden, community meets academic research for healthier gardens and more public plant information. Anyone can access their research results on their website or ask questions in person, and attend their workshops in the garden.

Lake Merritt Gardens

Tucked away between the sensory garden, pollinator garden and Japanese bonsai garden, certified master gardeners run experiments to test varieties of plants that thrive in the immediate Oakland microclimate. They try using household materials such as plastic water bottles to create a greenhouse effect, use string to make trellises and dry farm with ollas to test different types of tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and more. 

Aside from the experimental research and public postings, this demonstration garden is also a space for monthly garden workshops in the summer.  

On Saturday, Aug. 25, from noon to 1pm master gardeners will share their research and tips on how to grow citrus in the Bay Area. Topics will include:

  • What varieties of lemons that thrive in our climate
  • How to increase mandarin yield success
  • How to spot a treat dangerous lime tree diseases

A full list of upcoming events can also be found online. After these workshops, attendees can follow a self-guided tour of the garden with a labeled map that shows and explains various projects like their composting system and allows participants to give feedback.

Lake Merritt Gardens

The role of master gardeners in Alameda County is to provide resources to the public to be able to garden successfully with a lower impact on the environment, according to Gannon. 

“For example, a high volume of bugs in our yards are beneficial insects, and non-specific pesticides can do more harm than good," she said. "Master gardeners have knowledge on integrated pest management and can provide more specific and less harmful treatments."

From pollinator’s favorite plants to vertical gardening structures, the master gardeners at Lake Merritt are the Town’s experts to Bay Area home gardening.  

Lake Merritt Gardens

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