As a follow-up to part-one of our Beginners Guide to Gardening in Portland, in which we address some basic gardening questions with local professional greenthumb Adria Sparhawk of NE Portland’s Thicket, here are a few more of Sparhawk’s pointers for maintaining a healthy garden throughout the season, and a few great local resources she recommends to make sure the greenery is thriving.
Maintaining a Healthy Garden
N&C: How can I maintain the health of my veggie garden soil throughout the growing season?
Adria: A great thing you can do is mycorrhizae. Doing mushroom beneficial fungi is a really amazing thing to add to your soil. And there are some really great products out there now. Just powders and liquid forms and so you can kind of just buy them. A lot of soils come with it. I’m really excited that people are finally finding out how important mushrooms are. I mean, the big thing is that they really help with root development and then nutrient uptake, so they’re finding all of these corresponding beneficial relationships between fungi and plants.
What tips do you have for maintaining the health of the plants throughout the summer?
There is definitely a bit of maintenance involved. The main thing here [in Portland] is that we usually have some pretty dry summers, so watering is really important. You don’t have to go out every single day and water, but in the height of the summer you definitely have to check it at least a couple of times a week. And the other thing is weeding. You will have so much more productive, healthy plants if you give them the room that they need and take out anything that’s getting too competitive.
Do you have any recommendations for natural pesticides?
Actually the best defense against pests is a healthy plant. An unhealthy plant is going to be more susceptible to diseases and pests. So one that’s been really dried out or hasn’t been given any nutrients is going to be a little weaker. And so if you start with healthy plants and you make sure they are given enough food and water they’re going to be a lot more resilient. There are lots of options for natural things. Sometimes if you see an infestation of bugs you can just hose them off. Sometimes that can be enough if you kind of just disperse them. The second line of defense is you can take a biodegradable dish detergent and mix it in a spray bottle of water and just mist your plants. That usually takes a couple of times. You can also do things like live ladybugs for aphids, especially. Or praying mantis which are really cool. But you have to get them early in the year.
3433 NE 24th Ave.
7 days a week, 9am-6pm
Conveniently located in inner Northeast Portland, Garden Fever! is a great boutique neighborhood nursery. In reality, any nursery can be a great resource if you’re a beginner gardener, so stop in and chat with as many people as you can. They all have a variety of useful information.
Naomi’s Organic Farm Supply
3454 SE Powell Blvd.
7 days a week, 10am-6pm
Not only is Naomi’s a great place to get bulk soil and amendments, but this place is well-known for it’s incredibly helpful and knowledgable staff and great selection of healthy, locally sourced veggie, herb and other plant starts. Plus, they have cute little rabbits and chicks for sale in shop for you to adore while chatting with staff about your gardening plans.
Woodstock Ace Hardware
4430 SE Woodstock Blvd.
Mon-Fri 8am-7pm, Sat 8am-6pm Sat, Sun 9am-5pm
Not every nursery will be equipped with all the tools you may want for starting and maintaining your garden. Sometimes your best bet may be a nearby hardware store with a garden center. The Ace Hardware on Woodstock, for example, has a great big garden center and staff as helpful as any nursery, plus you can get nearly any tool for the project you can think of. Get it all in one place!
Grow Portland is a local nonprofit urban-gardening and agricultural organization dedicated to empowering the community to grow healthy food. They offer gardening classes, manage many local community gardens and farms (join one if you don’t have the space to garden in your own yard!), and have a seed club so you know you won’t be planting anything branded by the devil himself, Monsanto.
There is also endless useful information about gardening to be found on the internet. Just remember to not let yourself get too overwhelmed by everything may not make sense to you yet. As a starting point for further research, check out this seed planting chart and this veggie calendar for gardening in our region.