Learning Sustainability From History at the Fort Vancouver Heritage Garden in Vancouver, Washington

By Yolanda Vanveen

Fort Vancouver just across the river from Portland, Oregon was one of the first Army depots west of the Mississippi. The gardens fed nearly 2000 people a day with glass houses filled with citrus and many herbs as well as beneficial plants like marigolds and chives to control damaging insects.

The current garden uses many of the same techniques from history as a demonstration garden teaching the public how to grow organically.

Canvas is used to stop rabbits from getting in the beds and pieces of wood tied towards the top serve as a simple trellis.

The heirloom roses along one side of the garden fill the air with an intoxicating fragrance from long ago.

The hops tunnel not only looks and smells good but is used to make beer by garden volunteers.

The chives, mint and marigolds serve as companions to the vegetables attracting pollinators and warding off damaging insects.

The view of Mt. Hood across the Columbia River is gorgeous. Pearson Airfield and museum is right next door.

Prior to 1940 most gardens were organic. Visiting heritage gardens and castle gardens in Europe and Japan has taught me more than any book on sustainable methods. We can learn so much from history.