Sunday, March 22, 2009

Getting it ready to go

Welcome to Courtney's PDX Garden blog!

I moved to Portland, OR about a year ago and this season I feel settled in enough to start a garden.  I moved here from Colorado.  While I lived in Durango, CO I was part of a community garden called A Shared Harvest.  It was great!  Unfortunately, I moved on from Durango so I could no longer be part of the community garden.  However, at my new digs I have a backyard.  So this year I'm going to run my own show!  I'm sure that I'm going to learn a lot and kill a lot of great plants in the process, but it will be worth it.
I do have a bit of experience working in "victory gardens."  As a kid I helped my dad work in his backyard garden in New Jersey.  He planned most of the garden, however I did have a little section where I planted some herbs.  In Durango, I was part of a gardening team, so I took orders and followed them.  But here in Portland, I'm the planner.  This blog will serve as my documentation of my first time in charge.
To add an additional twist, this is the first time that I will be growing in this climate.  Southwestern Colorado had an extremely short growing season (the frost-free date was June 15th!) so I am looking forward to the long growing season and the long hours of summer sunlight available in western Oregon.
The first weekend of spring marked the start of my garden.  I was able to pick out my spot in the backyard, test the soil, lay down fertilizer, buy plants and seeds, and prep my containers.

Above is my plot.  I placed my trowel on the left to give you a sense of scale.  The area is about 50 square feet.   I removed most of the weeks and added fertilizer (the lighter color stuff on top of the soil).  I used some broken tiles to make the border.

Soil tests:  Before I could select the right fertilizer for the soil, I needed to test the soil for (left to right) pH, nitrogen, phosphate, and potash.
The pH was neutral (7.0), so that was good.
The nitrogen and phosphate tubes (middle two) showed no or very little color, so I will need to add a bit before planting.
The potash (one on the right) came out as low to moderate.  It looks like I will need to add potassium as well.

Fertilizer: I went to Buffalo Gardens on NE Alberta street and made a equal by weight mix of Down to Earth's Fish Bone Meal (3-16-0), Fish Meal (10-4-0), and Greensand (0-0-3).  I weighed out two pounds of each and I spread the six-pound mix over the 50 square-feet area.  I watered the area down afterwards.  I will let this set in for the week and add my plants next weekend.

The previous owners of the house left behind quite a few plastic pots.  I cleaned out these three with highly-diluted bleach.  I flipped them over to let them dry out.  I will fill them with potting soil this week. I am planning to plant tomatoes in them.  I purchased some Roma tomato seeds, but I would like to plant some heirloom varieties as well.  Hopefully I can get some at a plant swap, like the Brooklyn Plant Swap on April 19th or through my YAHOO group that I joined.  I will also plant basil (for flavor) and marigolds (for pest deterrent) in the containers with the tomatoes.

This is our outdoor cat, Ripley.  He sniffed around at my garden plot after I laid down the fertilizer (he could smell the fish in the fertilizer mix).  I'm a little worried about him.  I don't want him eating the plants, digging things up, or peeing on the plants.  On the plus side, he will keep away rats, birds, and other pests.  I am going to plant catnip so he will probably prefer to hang out by that.  I will plant lavender (cats hate the smell of lavender) near the things that I want him to avoid.

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