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Growing Your Own


Food Gardening


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Crockett’s Victory Garden. Crockett, J.U. 1977. Little, Brown & Company. Boston, Massachusetts. pp. 326. (Book)

Dated by its use of lots of pesticide drenches, herbicides, and synthetic sprays, this how-to-garden book is easy to follow for anyone willing to get their hands dirty and garden intensively in the city. Consider it the basics of gardening on a small urban plot documented, directed, and carried out by none other than Crockett himself, the guru of gardening. Distinguished by the number and diversity of vegetables and plants that it covers, Crockett discusses gardening on a January-through-December schedule for over a hundred fruits and vegetables, perennials, and herbs. Sprinkled throughout the book are diagrams for building cold frames, hotbeds, and cloches.

Each chapter presents a checklist of monthly activities, an introduction to weather conditions and predictions, and notes on the general progress and expectations for the garden, the greenhouse, or the cold frame. In all chapters, there are separate listings, arranged alphabetically, for each crop or plant that needs attention, whether the job is planting or propagating or controlling pests.  Every chapter ends with a question answer section, suggestions of tested varieties, lists and diagrams of effective tools, instructions on how to construct tools, soil preparation, and a glossary of definitions. Although not specific to the Northwest (Portland’s latitude is 45° while Boston’s is 42°), it is an great resource and we highly recommend it. We have organized Crockett’s suggestions to make them relevant to the climate of the Pacific Northwest, condensed them, and then added some of our own recommendations like growing fungi and more fruit. All of this is condensed in an easy-to-use table included at the end of this section. As for the pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic materials, avoid them if you can.

The Chicken Coops of Portland. July 30, 2006. Portland Ground.

The City Chicken.com website encourages folks literally to “plunge into poultry” and features a list of current articles from Sunset Magazine, The Seattle Times, and the Oregonian on chicken stories. You can read testimonials from urban chicken owners on what to expect when raising chickens, other poultry pets, and how elaborate (or not) one needs to be in order to afford the little varmints. While the site isn’t exactly a “how-to” for raising poultry, from this site you can access some great books (Barnyard in Your Backyard) on products and information and visit some photos on chicken coops in and around the Portland area (even one with an ecoroof). Next time you get a chance, consider taking the Portland Tour de Coops in July for more hands-on experience.

Growing: Heirloom Varieties for Popping and Decorating. Ocone, L. June/July 2002. Garden Design. (Magazine article)

Colorful corn, heirloom tomatoes, and antique squashes, terms given to those vegetables grown decades ago and therefore less genetically hybridized through the years, all appeal to the palette as well as the vision. If you’ve never experienced growing the hundreds of varieties of popping corn (Zea mays ‘Bear Paw’, ‘Lady Finger’, or ‘Tom Thumb’) or the unlikely shapes, improbable colors, and rich flavors of squash, or the dozens of brightly colored (from purple to gold speckled to zebra-striped) and intense flavors of traditional tomatoes, you are surely missing something, and Ocone’s article fills the gap.

Off to a Good Start. Rocchia, A. April 7, 1989. Oregonian (Portland, Oregon). (Newspaper article)

Rocchia handles early indoor gardens like a garden pro, explaining types of trays, heating systems, sowing seeds, and the tricky task of transplanting (after sprouting). She even discusses the pros and cons of watering from the bottom versus the top. If you want to satisfy cravings for unusual greens not found at the market early in the year, check this out.

Maximum Growth. Soler, I. Garden Design. pp. 67-71. (Magazine article)

You can boast a large harvest on a small patch of land by utilizing your garage rooftop and reusing the heat build-up from that black rooftop to extend the growing season as much as one month on either side. Jimmy Williams owns a small 1920s bungalow and the roof of his garage is home to literally thousands of organic vegetable seedlings and a four-year-old organic heirloom vegetable business, the Hayground Organic Gardening Catalog. For pictures of his backyard and his setup that will give you some cool ideas, include this in your list of fun reads.

Getting Started. McCommons, J. March/April  2000. Organic Gardening. 47(2):29-32. (Magazine article)

Getting Started is a beginner’s guide to composting soil, planting organic vegetables, and reaping the benefits of a good garden! Modest tools are required: a shovel, hoe, hand trowel, steel-tined garden rake, and a spading fork. Advice includes tips on improving soil quality, weed and pest control, and types of plants to grow. Making a good home garden is easy but the advice here aims at helping you make the best garden possible. Growing your own vegetables saves energy. You don’t have to drive anywhere to purchase your food and the food doesn’t have to be shipped hundreds of miles to the grocery store for your purchase. Hence, fossil fuels from gas and oil are conserved, along with water resources and production costs that are associated with industrial farms. Also by composting you turn energy from your lawn materials and leftover organic materials from your food back into the fertilizer your plants need. Use this source along with the planting table we’ve provided in the back of this guide.



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Cover:  Illustration by Dianne Tolman, a small business owner of Big Pine Native Plants.

© 2008 Deborah Tolman, Ph.D., Michelle Lasley, and Joe Parker