Archive for May, 2010

The People Behind the Gardens: Faubion’s Heroes

In our second year of our partnership with Faubion K-8, we wanted to recognize two of fabulous people who have helped the Faubion School Garden flourish:

Amanda Hill, the Faubion Garden Coordinator and parent of a 4th grade student, has committed immense amounts of time to the garden over the past two years.  Her strong teaching skills, creativity, and initiative, have made a giant impact on the Faubion Garden. This year Amanda has made great strides in improving the garden space, increasing the visibility and presence of the garden at the school, and engaging students in the garden club with exciting new lessons.  During a regular week at Faubion you might find Amanda teaching garden club students about the importance of bees and other pollinators in the garden, or helping students make tea out of dried flowers and herbs.  You might find Amanda and Colleen, our Youth Grow intern, talking with students about seeds and seed dispersal, or helping students make paper decorated with seeds and flower petals. Or you might find Amanda out in the garden, preparing for a work party and planning tasks for folks to accomplish on a rainy morning.   Amanda has also contributed her crafty skills to Youth Grow and GROWINGGARDENS, including sewing some excellent costumes for Earthworm Tag.  She is overall an amazing woman (she also makes AWESOME baked goods) and we have greatly appreciated working with her.

And then there is Ashley. Ashley Coltin, the Faubion SUN Manager, has also made some fabulous contributions to the Faubion Garden Program the past two years.  As anyone  working with an after-school program knows, Ashley has an immense number of responsibilities and has still chosen to commit her time and resources to the garden program.  In particular, Ashley has been a strong advocate for the garden as a school staff member, and has actively participated in all garden committee efforts (along with several other excellent parents and teachers).  She has also been willing to take on responsibilities tied to the garden, including regularly participating in work parties, helping to repair the cob bench, coordinating the development of a garden sign and bulletin board at the school site, and facilitating valuable partnerships with community members, like Concordia and Oregon Tilth, that have helped the Faubion School Garden thrive.   We have greatly appreciated her involvement in the garden and her positive spirit.

It is sometimes easy to take things for granted and forget to acknowledge the people making the difference in our communities.  Amanda and Ashley,  have each made Faubion an even better place for students to learn and grow, and we at GROWINGGARDENS have been grateful for the opportunity to support and learn from them.  Many thanks to Ashley and Amanda for their hard work at Faubion!


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GG’s Latest Dig (A taste of everything)

May has been a busy time here at GROWINGGARDENS.  Over the past month, we had our first Dawn of the Bed Installation Day, our annual Plant Distribution Day, and GROWINGGARDENS staff members were found at numerous events across the city.  In addition, one of our AmeriCorps members recently returned from participating in the National Farm to Cafeteria Conference and the planning summit for a new AmeriCorps program called Food Corps (check out their website here and a recent Oregonian article here).

While we’re preparing our posts about Dawn of the Bed and Plant Distribution Day, we thought we would give you some interesting links to snack on:

  • Check out a great post from Civil Eats about the development of the urban farming movement (and what it will take to create a longer term impact).
  • Have an overabundance of fruits and veggies? Visit to find local food pantries interested in donations of fresh produce and watch this video about the founder of the amazing website.
  • A few weeks back many Portlanders had the opportunity to see a special screening of a new movie called Play Again.  The movie features one of our partner schools (Vernon) and some great Portland folks working to get kids playing and learning outside.
  • Finally, this week marks the beginning of the annual City Repair Village Building Convergence, including projects at several school and community sites, as well as workshops on gardening, natural building, and other cool skills. Check out the schedule for more information.

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Spring Planting Tip #2: It’s time to get planting!

Each Wednesday,  KBOO Community Radio hosts a gardening program called The Dirtbag.  We were inspired to write this post by this week’s show titled “Gardening All Things Edible.”

The average last frost date in the Portland area is around April 23rd. (If you are located somewhere else in Oregon, a good resource is Victory Seed’s Average First and  Last  Frost Dates for Oregon). During May, soil and air temperatures are finally warm enough for most vegetable plants, and the danger of a cold snap has passed (hopefully!). Soil temperatures also are warm enough to germinate bean, cucumber, squash and corn seeds.  We usually wait May 15 to June 1st to transplant heat loving peppers, eggplants or basil starts – or give them protection of a cloche or mini greenhouse until outside temperatures get warmer. They are generally a little less hardy than tomatoes.

This Saturday May 15th is Growing Gardens’ annual Plant Distribution Day. Over 2500 plant starts grown by farmers and volunteers will be given out to over 200 limited income families enrolled in GG’s Home Garden Program! Extra starts will be delivered to our Youth Grow program sites for Youth Grow students to take home and plant in their school gardens.

Here are some easy steps to transplanting vegetable starts:

  • Water your plants well before transplanting.
  • Dig a hole in the soil slightly larger than the container the plant is in.
  • Carefully remove the entire plant (including the roots and soil) out of the pot.
  • Gently place the clump, roots down, into the hole.
  • Fill the remaining space in the hole with soil and gently pat down.
  • After transplanting, water the soil around the plant, but avoid getting water on the leaves of the plant.

Tips for Transplanting Tomatoes:

1. Bury the tomato stem down to the first healthy-looking leaves, so that the leaves are just barely above ground. The fuzz on the stems of tomato plants will turn into roots when underground! The deeper the stem is buried, the deeper the roots will be!

2. Put a tomato cage or trellis around the plant right after   planting—it is hard to get cages over plants once they have grown big.

3. One common tomato disease includes blossom end rot. Enough calcium and consistent moisture will  prevent this disease from occurring. Check out this Cornell blossom end rot fact sheet for more information.

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A Quick Parent-Child Workshop Photo Essay

On April 17th, GROWINGGARDENS staff and volunteers presented the first parent-child workshop of the season at Parkrose Heights Community Garden.  Five families attended (including 8 children) and spent a cloudy Saturday morning learning about garden planning/design and planting seeds.

Check out the photos below (taken by the lovely Jane Turville of the Parkrose Heights Garden Committee)! And many extra thanks to Jane and Bill Gates of Parkrose United Methodist Church for being amazing workshop hosts.

Acting out the plant life cycle:

Little sprouts

Baby leaves: Cotyledons for those asking…

And a few fallen fruit.

Some excellent garden designs for everyone.

(Including many watermelons and strawberries).

A quick story about seeds, and then on to the best part…

Planting some seeds together.

A great way to spend a cloudy spring morning.

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