GG Latest Dig: New Partnership With Earl Boyles Elementary School

Raised Beds in Earl Boyles Community Garden

The Youth Grow program is excited to announce our latest school partnership with Earl Boyles Elementary School! Earl Boyles is in the David Douglas School District, located on the same site as Ron Russell Middle School. The two schools share two plots in an on-site Portland community garden, where students and families will garden together. The school has recently established a garden committee, made up of teachers, parents, staff, community members, and the school’s  SUN coordinator. The garden committee has established two main goals for the garden program this year: to 1) involve families in connecting with their food at its source, and 2) supplement cafeteria salad bar for spring, summer, and fall at both schools. The committee has also developed a timeline and action steps to carry out the vision.   Becky Wandell, a teacher at Earl Boyles, is a graduate of Growing Gardens’ School Garden Coordinator Certificate training, and has been a leading force in bringing together the garden committee. Becky is leading an adult gardening class for families and is working on in-class garden education.

Eli Tinkelman and Nancy Gomez

This spring, Youth Grow after-school Garden Club will share  one of the large garden plots with the school’s new Green Team (4th & 5th graders), taught by Americorps member Nancy Gomez, as well as an after-school garden class at Ron Russell Middle School, taught by Eli Tinkelman. The three after-school classes will collaborate and share resources, creating some exciting opportunities for the spring term. Youth Grow will also  participate in the school’s Health and Wellness Fair this spring, teach a family workshop this summer, as well as provide a summer Garden Camp for students through the SUN program.  We are excited about the new partnership, and look forward to growing with the  Earl Boyles community!


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What’s Ahead for Growing Gardens

Our board adopted a new strategic plan in January for the next 18 months. We’d like to share our main priorities from this plan.


More people are growing their own food because of GROWINGGARDENS.


  • Expand geographic service area
  • Increase student enrollment
  • Establish citywide garden registry





GROWINGGARDENS is a go-to expert on home and school gardening.

  • Increase resources for Spanish-speaking community
  • Expand web-presence and activity.





GROWINGGARDENS is a healthy people organization.

  • Strengthen board capacity and increase opportunities for development
  • Improve staff workload with establishment of Volunteer Coordinator position
  • Ensure constituents reflect community diversity





GROWINGGARDENS is financially strong and growing

  • Maintain a financial reserve
  • Enhance fee-for-service revenue through trainings, installations, and more.







Your support makes it possible for us to plant the seeds for good food, healthy people and strong communities…to help people GROW! If you are not already on our monthly email list, please go to our sign up link so you don’t miss anything.

Finally, thanks to very generous support from Oregon Community Foundation and Meyer Memorial Trust, and a lot of help from Ben McKinnis, of Benco Commercial Real Estate, GROWINGGARDENS is moving to our new office in May.

Stay tuned for details, requests for moving help and a new office wish-list!

Thank you for your support.

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Garden Tips: Making a Garden Plan

Spring is around the corner, and empty garden patches are beckoning.  A little bit of planning now, though, can save you time, prevent confusion, and increase your chances of a successful harvest later in the season.  Here are some things to keep in mind as you plan out this year’s vegetable garden.

What should I plant?

Seed catalogs can be good sources of inspiration when you’re trying to figure out what to plant in your garden.  If the many options get overwhelming, think about this:

  • What do you like to eat?  Growing your own can be an exciting way to try interesting or rare new vegetables, but there’s no point in giving garden space to foods that you know you or your family don’t like.

    You can harvest leaves off one chard plant all season long.

  • What has done well in the past?  If there was something you really enjoyed growing last year, plant it again!
  • What will produce the most food?  You can keep harvesting from beans or greens over a long period of time.  Tomatoes will produce many pounds of fruit in a short time.  Corn or cabbage, on the other hand, take up a lot of space but produce relatively little.
  • What will save you the most money?  Tomatoes and salad greens are both expensive at the store or market, but are easy to grow at home.  Potatoes are cheap, so you might want to leave them out of your home garden.

When should I plant it?

Reference a Pacific Northwest garden calendar (here or here) or check out OSU Extension’s garden calendar to find the best time to plant a particular vegetable.  Check the seed packet for each vegetable’s “days to harvest”—how long you can expect it to be in your garden.

  • Remember that you can plant some fast growing crops like lettuces or radishes multiple times throughout the season, to have a continuous supply.  Other, cold tolerant crops can be planted once in early spring for a summer harvest, then again in mid summer for a fall and winter harvest.
  • Also note whether each plant can be planted from seed, or must be transplanted.    Tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers all need a longer growing season then our climate allows.  You need to give these plants a head-start by transplanting them into your garden as starts.

Where should I plant it?

A map of your garden can help you decide where to plant each kind of vegetable.  It can also help you remember what you planted, and where.  As you’re drawing your garden map, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Space plants according to the directions on the back of the seed packet. Although it can be tempting to put plants close together to squeeze more in, too-close plants compete for sun and nutrients.  Your garden will produce more if plants have space to spread out.
  • Think about using space vertically.  Pole beans, peas, indeterminate tomatoes, winter squash, cucumbers and pumpkins can all be encouraged to grow up trellises, stakes, cages or strings.  The plants often do better grown this way, and it opens up garden space for other crops.   Put trellised plants and taller plants on the north side of the garden, so they don’t shade shorter plants.
  • Some types of veggies grow better when grown together; others can actually inhibit each others growth.  Check out this chart to see who to pair with whom, and who to keep apart in your garden.

A map for two four by eight food garden beds

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GG’s Latest Dig: New wheels!

Growing Gardens is excited to finally retire our beloved, but old “Big Blue” van.  After serving us well for more then a decade, Big Blue stopped working last fall.

Thanks to a generous donation from Rocky & Julie Dixon, Growing Gardens was able to purchase a shiny new van! The new van is in excellent condition and has plenty of room for tools, compost and wheelbarrows.  We’re hoping to have our logo on the van in the coming months.  If you see a white van with a giant green sprout on the side, give us a friendly honk or a wave hello.  Now that we have new wheels, we need your help to name it.  Send us your ideas of perfect names for a garden van and we’ll announce the winner in a March blog post.

Thanks again to Rocky & Julie Dixon for your generous donation!

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GG’s Latest Dig: Spring is on the way… Or is it?

A few tidbits from around the web to help with those wintertime blues:

  • Thinking ahead to starting vegetable seeds indoors?  The National Gardening Association has a video that can help.
  • This past Saturday, January 29th, was National Seed Swap day. If you missed celebrating it this year, check out the Food Not Lawns website for some great advice on how to organize your own seed swap.
  • The current garden club teacher at Youth Grow partner school Vernon K-8, Sarah Canterberry, has partnered with two other inspiring women to start a new business: A CSA called Living City. This is not your traditional CSA-you get your weekly fill of fresh veggies by learning to grow them in your backyard! Check it out!

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Growing Gardens’ Latest Dig: Milk Debates and Garden Tips

Many thanks to volunteer Katharina Steinmeyer for collecting these news bits and garden tips from all across the World Wide Web:

  • Get the scoop on the flavored milk debate: This article questions if encouraging kids to drink milk by adding sugary flavorings to it really is better than them drinking no milk at all.  And 15 teaspoons of sugar in our kid’s school breakfast? Getting sugar out of schools means getting it out of milk too, says head of Harvard nutrition.
  • Finally, a garden journal provides a year-to-year record. Now is a good time, while gardening has moved into low gear, to start a gardening journal to reflect on what happened in 2010 and to begin planning for the coming season.

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Winter Blues Cure: Grow an Indoor Herb Garden

It’s easy to get stuck in the garden doldrums this time of year. January’s cold, dark, wet weather can make you wonder if warm summer days and home-grown veggies will ever return. There is one way to bring back the fresh and fragrant feel of summer, though: growing herbs indoors! Herbs are some of the easiest plants to grow in containers, don’t need a lot of care, and are a great addition to your everyday meals. Here’s what to do to keep your green thumb happy while waiting for spring.

Put a lid underneath your container to catch any overflow water.

What you’ll need:

Medium Size Containers: Cleaned yogurt cartons, clay pots, or any other container. Punch 3-4 pea sized holes in each for drainage.  You can put lids, saucers, plates, or shallow bowls underneath the pot to catch water.

Potting Soil: Any commercial kind will do, or make your own. Here’s a recipe from OSU Cooperative Extension.

Organic Fertilizer: Liquid fish emulsion, worm castings, or well broken down compost.

Drainage Helpers: A handful of gravel, broken clay pot shards, marbles, or crushed Styrofoam.

Herbs!: Look for seeds at garden stores, from catalogs or online. Having trouble deciding what to plant? Thyme, marjoram, basil, chives, mint, rosemary, oregano, and lavender are all excellent and easy herbs to grow. Check out this online guide for more information about these and other herbs.

You can also take fresh cuttings from already established herbs. If you decide to take cuttings choose an herb that has a soft stem rather than woody, as these are easier to start.  Basil is a good choice. Cut a stem 4-6 inches in length with new baby leaves forming at the top. Put the stem in a glass of water in a well lit area, but out of direct sunlight. You should notice tiny, hair like roots forming in 8-12 days.

Preparing a yogurt container


1) Place your drainage helper in the bottom of each pot so it takes up about 1/6th of the depth of the pot.

2) Add your prepared potting mix. Mix in any compost or worm castings you’ve got—a handful or two in each pot will carry your herb garden through the winter.

3) Fill your pot up about 2/3 of the way if you are transplanting, then carefully center and spread your plant’s roots, filling in with soil to just under the first leaves. Gently tamp down and add more soil to your pot until the top feels firm and stable. If you’re using seeds fill the pot with soil to about an inch from the top, spread the seeds over the top according to the directions on the seed packet, then sprinkle soil over seeds and lightly tap it down.  In either case, water once you’ve finished planting.

4) Once your herbs are planted, place in a well-lit location in your home away from drafts or drying heat, such as heater vents or drafty windows. The sill of a south-facing window works best. Keep your little garden consistently moist. You can add a teaspoon of liquid fish fertilizer to two quarts of water for consistent nutrition as you water. You may also want to pick up a spray bottle to give your herbs a quick freshening, as humidity in homes is much lower then out doors. Once your plants get established, feel free to pluck and trim a sprig here and there. Herbs love being groomed and will usually respond with rapid new growth.


-Written by volunteer Sara Dysinger

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