KIMBERLY - The fertile river loam soil along the North Fork John Day River near Kimberly has become home to the Riverside Gardens, which is in commercial production for the first year. It is located just a quarter mile south of the Kimberly Center and junction to Highway 402 which leads to the adjoining Thomas Orchards.
Owners Paul Boughton and Debbie Reid began developing a half acre of their 16-acre property into a huge garden three years ago.
Originally, the name was Frogs and Flowers, two things Reid loves, but neighbor Larry McGraw (who operates his own experimental garden with a wide variety of fruit trees) tossed out the name Riverside Gardens, and it stuck.
Today, Riverside Gardens produces tons of pickling cucumbers, green beans, tomatoes, cantaloupe, watermelon, ornamental gourds and a variety of squash - spaghetti, zucchini, crookneck, butternut, acorn, patty pan. This season's overflow has found its way to markets at nearby Thomas Orchards, Chester's Thriftway and Naturally Yours in John Day, Top Banana in Redmond and stores at Long Creek, Spray and Fossil. In other words, the business has taken root and its marketing circle is definitely growing.
In addition to veggies, there are everbearing strawberries, herbs, lavender and an array of colorful flowers. About 400 volunteer sunflowers popped up this spring, with some now towering at 12 feet.
At the Grant County Fair in August, the green-thumb duo entered 70 items and came away with 50 ribbons. Boughton was awarded High-Point Gardener, adult; Green Thumb Award, most points in men's and adult divisions; and King of Flowers.
Both have evolved dramatically from their earlier careers.
Boughton spent nearly 40 years in Shasta Valley, Calif., where he worked seasonally for the Forest Service and State Highway Department. He was born at Prineville, but was relatively unfamiliar with Eastern Oregon until he moved to Grant County about three years ago.
Reid was born at Lebanon and lived in the Willamette Valley, including Eugene and Tigard, where she was a medical technologist. After her move to Grant County seven years ago, she was employed at Blue Mountain Hospital, while taking on temporary work at the Hermens Ranch near Monument and Thomas Orchards at Kimberly.
They both have an interest in geology, and Reid displays and sells many geologic specimens - agates, jasper, thundereggs, Heppner opal, obsidian, limbcasts, crystals, Brazilian geodes, pigeon blood from Utah, carnelian from Sweet Home. Also for sale are antlers, petrified wood, seeds and plant starts.
Riverside Gardens clientele come from near and far, the couple said. From the customers, Boughton and Reid have learned much - growing techniques that work and what people want. Next year they plan to expand the green bean and tomato sections and plant a 100-square-foot cornfield along with pumpkins.
Boughton said his near-vegetarian diet has dramatically dropped his triglycerides count. And of the seemingly never-ending job of picking the harvest, he said, "It's a great workout." He also joked about a friend who has been invited to come to Riverside "Retirement" Gardens - under the auspices of "come to relax" only to end up working full time.
Being "in tune" with nature is a bonus, Boughton said. The couple has become more aware of the river flows and weather conditions, activities of birds and fish, and more educated about pests.
Tending the garden is a full-time job. From early spring when seeds are planted/transplanted to summertime watering/weeding/harvesting to marketing, selling and preservation. In addition, Boughton and Reid attend various sales and bazaars including the Grant County Home and Garden Show at Trowbridge Pavilion where herb, flower and strawberry starts are available, as well as Christmas bazaars that feature decorative gourds.
During the slower winter months, summer sales records are scrutinized as the couple figures exact poundage sold for each product. This process helps them plan for next spring's planting. And there is a flurry of excitement at their home when the seed catalogs arrive.
In the lull of winter, Reid also crafts pine needle baskets and beadwork and catches up on indoor activities. Boughton fashions their homegrown gourds into birdhouses or decorates with woodburning and painting. But that leisure time is still a long way off.
For more information, call Riverside Gardens at (541) 934-2091.