Wednesday, March 21, 2012

We are thrilled to welcome Abby Meadow as a guest this week at Tend.
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While tending plants has always been an enjoyable part of Abby's life, it wasn't until she and her partner settled into a home of their own that she fully delved into the world of growing food. On the temperate Oregon Coast, Abby enjoys organic gardening throughout the year, in the small garden plot that she and her partner created from a patch of weedy grass. A lot of other patches of grass have also been transformed, as the pair works to make their property a place full of edibles, medicinals and native plants; and a safe and healthy home to the many bees, birds and deer that share their space.

Just a little over a week ago, I was giddy with the energy that comes with those first soft, warm, spring-like days. I started cleaning up the garden and planting seeds, and was feeling so excited. It was so warm that I was even wearing shorts while doing so! I was sure it was time! And then... the impossible happened. The central coast of Oregon had a freak snow storm! We almost never have snow here, this close to sea level. Our garden, and every other green thing was flattened with a very wet and very heavy blanket of white.

Everything has bounced back pretty well, with just a few breakages, but it is quite cold out still. So, this past week I have had some time to *think* about gardening, in lieu of actually *doing* any real gardening. Our garden is 2 years old this year. It has come a long way from the grass patch it once was. In these last couple years we have learned a lot about growing food in our climate. I thought I would share a few of the things I have learned in the past couple years here.

- Always plant extra starts, and keep some aside, even after transplanting as much as you want in the garden. Spring can be fickle and slugs and bugs are hungry! You can always give away the extras. We lost whole plantings to slugs and root maggots last year.
- Consider the winter months when planting. We live in zone 8b and can grow certain things year round, but we have done best to have those plants already well established by August.
- Compost, compost, compost. Our soil is benefiting hugely from every bit of organic matter that we add.
- Create micro-climates! We have a lot of wind in the summer. Creating a wind block and/or placing a stone on the north side of a plant, can make all the difference in generating the extra warmth a young plant needs to get a strong start. Growing taller plants on the south side of those that appreciate some afternoon shade is another example.
- When planting perennials, don't forget about crop rotation of the annuals they might share space with.
- In a small space, grow up! There are so many plants that can be trellised up instead of left to sprawl. This year we will grow a lot more cucumbers and squash with this simple idea in mind.
- Tomato plants are heavy and they get big fast. This might seem like a no-brainer, but I didn't stake soon enough or strong enough last year and struggled with it all summer as a result.
- Interplant. Some plants are more susceptible to disease and pests, and as we know, other plants can help repel some of these offenders. But in addition to this, if you have a loss of a certain plant (for example, our crazy root maggot problem last year, that seemed to only affect radishes and broccoli), you will not be left with an empty bed.

Are there certain lessons you have learned, that stand out in your own gardening experience? I'd love to hear some! What might seem like the simplest thing to one, can be overlooked by another.


  1. Nice post!
    Some of the stand out things I learned in the last two years have been to really choose our seeds by climate - like really really if you are not planting in a green house or hoop house. It is easy to get swept up in the excitement of all those amazing things one sees in the seed catalogs but important to stay with what works for our area. The Hardiness zone map helps:

    Plant early and plant indoors to get a jump start.

    If building or planning a greenhouse or hoop house plan accordingly for high winds and heavy snow loads.

    Using worm casting is nice, yet making tea is better but getting a tea bubbler going is even better and this extends the amount of use you get out of the castings. Bubbler is on the list...

    Building an industrial sized (200 cubic foot) worm bin was well worth the effort. Imagine having 200 cubic feet of castings to add to garden beds for soil amendment!

    Making use of shaded areas and learning what is shade loving like ginger and ginseng also stands out.

    For survival foods, learning about bulbs we can eat was exciting. Like a bank account, just plant them and leave them alone. Over the years they multiply and will be there if you need them.

    The big one, what deer REALLY do not eat...

  2. Wonderful Post. I grew up in Tillamook, Oregon. My mom taught me some gardening as a young child and everything I knew about gardening was geared toward the PACNORWEST climate! My family just recently bought a small farm in New England and it's a very different gardening experience here. We are having to adjust and modify our gardening style, but oh my it's exciting. Good Luck in Oregon!!