Archive for June, 2010

Summer Gardening Tip #1: Summer Watering

As the ground dries out from the winter and spring rain, your seedlings will need careful watering for the best summer and fall harvest. In honor of our first first real week of summer sunshine, we thought it would be good to provide some information on summer watering.  Take a look below!


We recommend watering in the early morning. This gives time for the water to soak down to the plants’ roots before the sunniest part of the day. You may also water in the late afternoon, just before sunset, unless you have mildew or fungus problems. If you water in the middle of the day, you will lose water because the moisture will evaporate in the sun. You can also cause leaf-burn if wet leaves sit in bright sun.


  • Seedlings and young plants need lots of watering to keep the soil and root systems moist. Water seedlings and young plants at least once a day.
  • Older plants can be watered less often. Most gardens in Portland will need watering once every 2 or 3 days in the summer. When it’s very hot out, they may need watering every day.

To figure out whether or not your garden needs water:

  • Try the “Finger Test”: Stick a dry finger into the soil to your 2nd knuckle.
  • If the soil feels moist, don’t water. If it feels dry—water!

Do this every day, and you will get an idea of how often you need to water.
If your plants are wilting, they are not getting enough water. If your plants turn yellow, they may be getting too much water. Be careful not to over-water, as waterlogged soil is not good for the soil or for your plants.


  • Water the soil at the base of the plant, not the plant itself.
  • A gentle sprinkle of water is better than a strong stream. If the soil gets pushed around when you’re watering, try turning down the hose pressure, or water closer to the ground.
  • Avoid getting water on plant leaves. Drops of water on leaves can cause sun-burn. Wet leaves also can encourage fungus problems.


Container gardens have to be watered more often, because containers hold less water than the ground.

  1. We suggest watering containers every morning. When you see a little bit of water coming out of the holes at the bottom of the container, it has enough water. If lots of water comes out of the holes, add less water next time.


As the temperatures rise, it is important to take steps to conserve moisture in your garden beds (and protect our important freshwater resources). Here are a few tips to consider:

  1. Mulch! Cover any bare soil in the garden with some kind of mulch (leaves, wood shavings, straw). This can help hold the moisture in your soil, and keep water from evaporating in the sun.
  2. Collect Rain Water: Save rain water and use it in your garden! You can use 55 gallon barrels, or clean trash-cans. Remember to cover them after they’re full, so they don’t attract mosquitoes!
  3. Use a Soaker Hose: Soaker hoses are lined with little holes that slowly drip water onto the soil. String the soaker hose so that all of your plants are 1 foot or closer to the hose. Turn it on low for 20 minutes every other day. In the peak of the summer, you may need to turn it on once a day.
  4. Visit this Oregon State Extension page for more info on conserving water in your vegetable garden.

We wish you lots of good luck in your summer garden.  Stay tuned for some tips on summer planting for a great fall harvest!


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GG’s Latest Dig: Eat your veggies version

A few links to get your week started:

We have first hand experience with the potential kids have to make a difference in our food system, but it’s always nice to hear stories from other places.  Check out this article on “Kids Radically Changing the Food System.”

With the first hearing in the House on Child Nutrition Reauthorization taking place on July 1st, we thought it would be helpful to provide some additional info on school food.  Here is a great School Food Cheat Sheet from Culinate.

The 2010 government dietary guidelines were released last week, and guess what?  We should eat more veggies…. Luckily, our Home Garden and Youth Grow programs can help!

Community Greenhouses?  What a cool idea! We Oregonians even have one of our own, in Keno, Oregon.


Our fabulous Youth Grow Manager, Caitlin Blethen, is featured as part of the Quillisacut Farm School’s School Garden Workshop.  Caitlin will be presenting on developing a school garden master plan and setting up a school garden committee. The Quillisascut School Garden Workshop is scheduled for Saturday August 14th, through Wednesday August 18th.  If you plan on being in the Seattle area in August (and can’t participate in our awesome School Garden Coordinator Certificate Training) this could be a great opportunity for you!

Our Annual Tour de Coops event is coming up quickly, so mark your calendars!  On July 24th, 2010, chicken owners throughout Portland will open their yards and coops to the community. Visit our website for more information and for a list of locations where you can purchase your tour booklets!

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The People Behind the Gardens: Meet Kathy Barry

Our slogan here at GROWINGGARDENS is  “planting seeds for good food, healthy people and strong communities… we help people GROW!” Our mission and programs often bring us into contact with amazing people and we have been extremely lucky to work alongside many of the individuals helping our community grow.  One of those people, native-Oregonian Kathy Barry, brings our slogan to life. Growing up in Portland, Kathy remembers harvesting fruit for pies and preserving and eating home-grown tomatoes right off the vine.  As an adult she has enjoyed sharing fresh grown foods with her family and community through her involvement with Growing Gardens.

Kathy with her son and daughter in the Alder Garden

Kathy was first introduced to the organization through her daughter, Kelsey, who participated in Growing Gardens’ Youth Grow After-School Garden Club at Alder Elementary’s Schools Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN) program.  Kathy and her family then enrolled in our Home Garden Program and two garden beds were installed in their backyard. They quickly added more beds and were very excited about all the fresh vegetables they were growing! Kathy says the garden at home  “enhanced [her] life.”  Seeing how much her daughter enjoyed garden club, Kathy became involved at Alder by volunteering to water the schools’ garden over the summer.  She then began volunteering as an assistant Youth Grow Garden Club Teacher. After Growing Gardens’ three-year partnership ended at Alder, Kathy was hired by the SUN program to teach Garden Club classes on her own. And, in spring 2009, Kathy participated in Growing Gardens Pilot School Garden Coordinator Certificate Training (SGCCT).

Kathy teaching an insect activity at the School Garden Coordinator Certificate Training

Now, Kathy is sharing her love of gardening with over 60 children a season through four after-school SUN Garden Club classes!

At Alder Elementary,  98% of students participate in the free or reduced lunch price program. Many families at Alder face extreme financial challenges and access to affordable healthy food is real community need. Kathy’s Garden Club classes provide Alder students the opportunity to participate in hands-on garden activities and to taste fresh fruits and vegetables. In Alder’s Garden Club, both students and plants grow in the garden.

Kathy’s favorite garden-based activity is the life-cycle of a plant because students seem to grasp the lesson so quickly, particularly when they can watch a bean seed germinate and grow before their eyes.   Kathy is constantly looking to develop and set-up a variety of garden activities to best engage the students.   In addition to her regular Garden Club classes, Kathy recently taught a Service Learning class in the garden, in which students served their community by providing Alder families with seeds, soil, organic fertilizer and donated plants from Growing Gardens. Kathy and the students hoped that these supplies would enable these families to grow some of their own food.  In turn the students felt empowered by the sense of community.  Kathy explains, “[The class] greatly impacted them with the value of helping someone else through their learning and generous help. [And]  to see who they were helping was of great value to them as well.” Check out Kathy’s Service Learning Plan for growing starts for families at Alder.

Kathy is an extremely generous woman, both in terms of her strong commitment to her family and local school, as well as her involvement with Growing Gardens.  We have been grateful for the opportunity to learn from her generous spirit, as well as from her capacity to link her own family, especially her son and daughter, to her work in the community.  Growing Gardens is constantly striving to support connections between students, families, and the broader community, and Kathy Barry has served as a great inspiration for our work.   GROWINGGARDENS thanks Kathy for all of her hard work and dedication to garden-based learning at Alder!  We have enjoyed watching her grow!

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GG’s Latest Dig: Quick bites

A few tastes from around the web:

  • Gardeners around Oregon are talking about a fruit-damaging fly (the spotted wing-drosophila) that may cause trouble for the summer harvest.  Check out this great article and informational video from Oregon State Extension to learn how to detect the flies in your garden. And, for some general info on how to use bugs instead of pesticides in your garden, check out this cool video taken from the Huffington Post.
  • An Oregonian article about the growing trend among foodies to encourage folks to eat more fruits and veggies (including some great recipes).
  • Finally, planning on having an abundance of fruits and veggies in your garden?  Here is a neat guide to canning food at home from the USDA and the National Center for Home Food Preservation.  The guide includes lots of info on how to safely preserve food from your garden.  Before you know it, it will be time to get canning!

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Plant Distribution Day: Photos of our Home Gardener Community

May was an exceptionally busy month for our Home Gardens Program, and we wouldn’t have been able to do it without the help of our great volunteers.  In fact,  during the month of May, the Home Gardens Program had 138 volunteers who put in 666.25 hours of service. A big thank you to all!

In honor of our busy month, we also wanted to share some great photos from our Annual Plant Distribution Day on a May 15th. This year, nearly 100 of our Home Gardeners attended the Plant Distribution Day to pick up their plants starts for their new and ongoing home gardens.  During and after Plant Distribution Day, we were able distribute over 3,000 plant starts to our Home Gardeners, as well as materials such as tomato stakes.

A special thanks to Aireen Joven for these beautiful photos of Plant Distribution Day 2010.

For more information about our Home Gardens program, please visit the Home Gardens page on our website.  We would love to get you growing and eating some homegrown fresh fruits and veggies!

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Garden Scavenger Hunts: Explore the garden with your kids, and give your plants a helping hand!

Spending time in the garden gives most people a sense of calm and tranquility.  It is a sanctuary, especially within an urban context, where it becomes natural to breathe deeply and slowly.  The garden space can be a place of therapy, a reminder of patience when waiting for the harvest, and of silence and reflection as you work with the earth.  Take a closer look, however, and you will discover a world of energy and activity as well.  The habitat of your garden space is full of movement: Bustling bugs pass tunneling worms, leaves exchange sunlight for food in the process of photosynthesis, living organisms and bacteria feed, help decay, and build soil in an endless cycle.  Following the life of a seed alone demonstrates the commotion in the garden.  From seed to seedling, then flower to fruit and back again to seed.  The goings-on include exchanges, growth, decay, and the reciprocity of life. What better way to enjoy all of the activity then to get down close and observe it!

A favorite game in the garden with kids is an insect scavenger hunt!  Have children carefully inspect the soil and plants for insects, identify the bugs, and then discuss whether the found creature is beneficial or harmful to the garden. Make the scavenger hunts productive by implementing organic methods of ridding the garden of harmful pests. The best organic methods include preventing pests BEFORE they become a problem like building healthy soil by composting, planting a diversity of crops, practicing crop rotation, adding organic soil amendments, planting flowers that attract beneficial insects, and paying attention to the soil, air, and water.  However if pests persist here are some ideas to try in the garden:

  • Soap sprays dry out and kill soft-bodied insects like aphids and white flies.  Insecticidal soap sprays are available in stores or buy a mild liquid soap (not a detergent) and make your own. It is recommended to use a mild, bio-degradable soap such as Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps. For homemade sprays mix a mild liquid soap 1:100 parts with water. Put into a plastic spray bottle and spray your plants once a week if pests are persistent or as needed.  Note that sprays will wash away in the rain so be sure to reapply after a downfall.
  • Other homemade soap sprays using strong smelling roots and spices such as garlic, onions, horseradish, ginger, rhubarb leaves, cayenne and other hot peppers, which are all known to repel insects.  Add a handful of roots and spices to the bottom of a mason jar. Cover with the boiling water, screw on the top, and let set overnight. Strain, and add to the Soap Spray.
  • Garlic spray helps detour insects as well as deer and rabbits since these animals dislike the strong the smell of garlic.  Simply blend a head of garlic in a blender with about two cups of water; let sit for a day, then strain out pulp and dilute with about a gallon of water.  Add to sprayer and spray plants on tops and bottoms of leaves.
  • Slug traps and barriers for instance crushing eggshells around plants will help fend off slugs with their sharp edges. The calcium in the eggshells is a good soil amendment as well! Slugs avoid crawling over anything dry, dusty or scratchy.  Lime can be placed around the garden as a border to ward off slugs from entering. A proven trap is placing shallow bowls (pie tins work well) of stale beer or baker’s yeast dissolved in water throughout high slug traffic areas.  Set the top edges of the dish at ground level so slugs can easily get into the mixture.
  • Handpicking snails, slugs, caterpillars and other slow-moving insects can be very satisfying!

Another scavenger hunt idea includes giving children a leaf of a weed from the garden and then having them search the garden to match and identify the plant.  Help the garden out by pulling the weed as a reward for identifying it correctly!  Brainstorm other scavenger hunts with children and you are guaranteed a full afternoon of fun as well as great results if combined with productive means to keep the garden healthy.  There are many active ways to enjoy the garden with your family.  Scavenger hunts are simply one of many wonderful games that inspire discovery and discussion of the garden, which is teeming with life and movement.

(Many thanks to our lovely Youth Grow Intern, Andryce Anderson, for this post.)

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