I love Portland for its bastion of dedicated gardeners, green thumb heretics, and impassioned seed savers. For the pollinator habitats, rain gardens, and sheet mulching hacks happening on every corner. Though, for first-time gardeners, these polyphonic, horticultural practices can seem intimidating, if not overwhelming. While there are a myriad of fantastic resources in Portland, often, the first question I hear is: where do I start?
First, pdx.farm loves to help coach and co-steward your first edible gardens, helping you choose the varieties of greens most suitable to our climate while teaching you the essentials of soil health, compost, fruit tree cultivation, and seed saving.
Start small, concentrate resources.
In the process, we often encourage clients to start small and to concentrate their resources (whether these be time, finances, water, or otherwise). Starting small also allows new gardeners to bear witness to the micro-growths and symbiotic relationships embedded in plant cultivation. It allows gardeners to cultivate relationships with the plants they tend to, and to be in the practice of noticing – discerning when the soil seems over-saturated or when aphids are beginning to nest.
Meanwhile, we also help new gardeners decide where to grow their plants. While, in my mind, all soil was created equal, it’s also true to that not all plants like to grow in the same type of earth. So, have your played in your own dirt lately? Have you noticed whether the earth is sandy or compacted, clay-like or silty? It’s these first impressions that help us understand how to amend the soil, as well as to decide whether or not to build raised beds.
In general, raised beds offer a container for healthy organic matter (alive with fungi, and rich with a balance of compost, manure, and topsoil). They allow gardeners to bring in fertile soil and to provide an uncontaminated, neutral pH for their vegetables. Raised beds also keep warmth in the soil, offer a clean aesthetic, and allow gardeners to grow food where they might not have otherwise – for instance, on a deck with southern exposure. Conveniently, they also prevent pups from tromping through our sweetheart’s tomatoes… And at pdx.farm, we build locally-sourced, high-quality garden beds.
So, have you played in your own dirt lately?
That said, client’s also opt for unencumbered garden plots for a myriad of reasons. For one, they utilize your home’s native soil (waste not, want not), and they are more cost effective as they don’t require as many imported materials. Some also argue that in-the-ground beds keep more moisture in the soil, while encouraging the creative use of backyard space (simply, they get you to “think outside the box”).
Really though, there is no right or wrong way to start a garden. In truth, many of these decisions are led by preference or circumstance. At pdx.farm our greater hope is to get you excited to be in the garden and growing your own food. Just let us know how we can help!