Words by Skyla Patton
Did you know Eugene was the number one ranked city for urban farming by Redfin Real Estate News in 2016? As the weather gets warmer, the clouds start to disappear and the flowers start to bloom, leaving those of us with green thumbs a little twitchy. Whether you’re a newbie to the home agriculture scene or a seasoned Yard Crasher, the spotting of green sprouts pushing above ground is equally exciting. Check out these tips on starting your first garden, how to grow easy plants as a first-timer and even a few suggestions on where to head if you don’t have a luscious backyard that’s suited to gardening.
BONUS FACT (include this anywhere on the spread): Perennials come back every Spring after completing their seasonal cycle, whereas Annuals die after their blooms have finished.
Start-Up Garden Tips
- Pick Your Plot Wisely
- If you’re starting in your backyard or in a few miscellaneous pots you found at a garage sale, the rule is the same: location, location, location. No matter how good your soil is, or how bright the light can be (and vice versa) plants need a healthy, happy environment all around to thrive. This is especially true if you’re looking to grow fruits or vegetables: even a small step in the wrong direction can lead to a sterile plant. But fear not: it’s easier to do than it sounds. Pay attention to lighting, temperature and water exposure when choosing your location.
- Bonus Tip: Most seed packets or plant identifier tabs have basic information on what the species needs or best thrives in.
- Know Your Plant Better Than You Know Yourself
- Whether you’re tackling simple daisies or attempting a full-blown tomato vine, the whole process will come easier with a few days of research. After identifying the location for your future garden and understanding the conditions you’re working with, you can better pick and choose which plants will thrive and which will… well, die. A quick Google search of whatever you’re hoping to grow will give basic care instructions and give you a solid idea of whether or not it will be successful. Also, try consulting your local nurseries or online forums for tips from seasoned gardeners or advice on which plants really thrive in the local environment.
Plants Everyone Can Grow
- Mint: This delicious-smelling herb is a perfect addition to any garden and will flourish with next to no attention in any given Oregon environment. Rip a few leaves off to add to your water, chicken or even as a fun garnish for desserts.
- Strawberries: They’re naturally occuring in the wild, so it’s pretty darn simple to pick up a flat from a local nursery and throw a few strawberry plants in the ground or a small pot. While they can be a bit stingy with the actual fruit, the foliage is fragrant and most plants will produce at least a handful of juicy berries.
- Petunias: These gorgeous flowers are a garden classic and come in as many colors as you can imagine. The blooms last for months until the cold finally shrinks them up, but they are hardy as a flower can be and will add a nice pop of color to your plot.
- Lettuce: If you’re a huge fan of salads and hate paying for them, lettuce is here to save the day. This easy veggie is super simple to harvest (just pick the leaves!) and will provide you with fresh lettuce for weeks right outside your front door.
- Eugene Community Gardens
- There are six designated community gardens throughout the City of Eugene and the Community Gardens Program: Amazon, Mathews, Whiteaker, River House, Alton Baker and Skinner City Farm. The plots sell at three yearly prices points of 300 square feet for $60, 600 for $100, and a raised bed at the Alton Baker location for $25. Keep in mind that these prices include watering and access to proper gardening tools! Apply online at the city website or contact Amy Meeker for questions and inquiries.
- Seed to Supper
- Hosted by Food For Lane County, the six-week Seed to Supper course is an unparalleled tool for new gardeners to learn crucial tools and strategies for Oregon gardening. Students will learn how to cultivate, maintain, and later harvest with the help of trained volunteer educators who know their way around. Oh, and did we mention it’s totally free? After completion, you leave with seed starters, organic compost and whole load of skilled garden know-how. Check out this awesome program at FFLC’s Gardens page or contact Jen Anonia, the Gardens Program manager at (541) 343 2822.
- The Schoolhouse Garden
- If you’re looking to fulfill a few more credits for school and get your hands dirty at the same time, The Schoolhouse Garden course is the perfect answer. Offered during spring, summer and fall at UO, the class is a crash course through sustainable farming, landscape design and food insecurity — all the while working with eager students from Edison Elementary. All the food produced will be used to feed students in need and put towards local non-profit donations.
- Grove Community Garden
If you’re stuck in a dorm and aren’t satisfied with house plants, the Student Sustainability Center has your summer gardening plans laid out and ready to rock n’ grow. Located close to campus on 18th St. and Moss, the garden partners with the Urban Farm and provides affordable ($25 for a year) student plots for all your outdoor gardening needs. Apply for a plot online at the Student Sustainability Center website (scroll all the way down, it’s hidden but it’s there).