Growing Your Own Food
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Growing your own food is empowering.
Growing food in your own garden can provide day-to-day access to fresh fruits, vegetables, medicinals, and herbs. It can also connect you to new people, improve your diet, and save you money.
Select your site:
Do you have access to outdoor space at your home?
An ideal garden spot:
- Is south-facing (with minimal shade)
- Has space in the ground away from competing roots
- Has plenty of room around plants to keep air flowing
- Is accessible for routine watering and weeding
If space is limited, start small. Consider planting a windowsill herb garden or planting in containers. If you have more room and access to soil, you can create an in-ground or raised garden bed.
Prepare your soil:
Healthy plants depend on healthy roots and the right soil. Good soil will hold water and nutrients, allow excess water to drain through, and break apart easily to allow roots to grow.
Many urban gardens will need to make improvements to the soil before planting. Soils may be unhealthy due to compaction or pollutantsPollutants A substance that has negative effects on the environment..
You can improve the soil's physical structure by adding amendments (e.g. compost) and physically breaking it up with tools and elbow grease.
Be aware – urban spaces may have soil contaminants
Pollution can affect the health of your garden, even years after the initial soil contamination. You may want to conduct soil testing if the site has ever been associated with industrial properties, agricultural lands with pesticide use, dry cleaners, gas stations, landfills, major highways and heavily trafficked areas, or older homes with lead deposits from paint and plumbing fixtures.
If you aren’t sure what’s in your soil, check out this factsheet to learn more about Soil Testing Services..
Choose what to grow:
Grow food you like to eat!
Consider high-value crops
Growing crops like salad greens, tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and hard-to-find produce can help you save money at your next grocery store visit.
Select crops that grow well in your area
Most seed packets indicate the best time and conditions to plant, based on where you live. Washington County is in USDA Hardiness Zones 8a and 8b. Regional planting calendars, like the Growing Your Own Guide or the Portland Nursery Veggie Calendar, can help you determine the best time to plant and help you pick food that grows well in our area.
Free Seed Resources
Plant & maintain your garden:
Establish your garden
For almost any garden you'll want a pair of gloves, shoes or boots that can get dirty, a weeding and planting hand tool (such as a hori hori), a shovel, and shears.
Find your local plant nursery or landscape supply store to gather your gear, soil, seeds, and plants. Watch for affordable local plant sales.
Learn how to start plants of all shapes and sizes with our Let’s Get this Garden Started guide. You can level-up your gardening and save money by starting seeds at home.
Maintain your garden
To keep your garden happy and healthy:
Keep plants watered
Cut off dead or dying leaves
Remove weeds that crowd your plants
Support tall plants with stakes and trellises
Fertilize and mulch plants
Protect plants from frost and extreme heat
Enjoy your harvest
Check on your garden regularly (especially during hot weather events) and enjoy your harvest! You may find that there’s more to eat than what you would buy in a grocery store: carrot tops, radish greens, and squash flowers to name a few. There are so many ways to be creative with your harvest – enjoy!
Resources – Become a Garden Expert:
- Read about it
Grab your favorite mug of coffee or tea and sit down to read this Oregon State University guide to starting a garden: Growing Your Own.See the publication
- Watch the Food Hero video series
Oregon State University’s Food Hero program has a full video series: Stay at Home Gardening. These videos answer common garden questions.Watch videos
- Take a course with Oregon State University
Through the online Urban Agriculture program, you’ll receive a personalized start-to-finish roadmap for growing the crop of your choice in your unique site! Free self-paced courses and instructor-led courses (for a fee) are available.Learn about the Course
- Ask a Washington County Master Gardener
The Washington County Master Gardeners Association provides answers and advice to new and experienced gardeners.Ask a Master Gardener