Spring in Portland

It rains a lot in the Pacific Northwest but, if we stayed in the house every time it was raining, our gardens would never get planted. March is the month I start to get a few plants in the ground such as; my kitchen herbs (parsley, oregano, chives, and thyme), cover crop (red clover), greens (kale, spinach, arugula), sweet peas (my favorite annual flower), and beans. I begin to cut back some of my herbaceous plants and amend the soil with compost. I transplant any shrubs or herbaceous plants and divide ground covers.

The wonderful thing about the spring rains is you can count on the garden getting watered most days until July. Today, it was pouring down rain and Gus and I put on our rain coats and planted kale.


To protect newly planted seedlings, I save egg shells to crush and sprinkle around plants to deter slugs. They won’t crawl over any sharp surfaces, so, they will completely avoid the egg shells. When the shells break down, they supplement the soil with calcium, which plants love, particularly tomatoes.

In April, I start seeds in the house. I use empty plastic salad greens container because they are perfect for containing water, soil and the plastic keeps the soil warm enough to germinate the seed.


The key to germinating seeds is warm soil, sunlight, and water. You cannot let seeds or newly sprouted seedlings dry out and the seed starter mixes are not meant to retain moisture. If the soil dries out, likely, your plants will not thrive. Find a sunny spot in your house to place your starts and don’t forget to water them.

Many vegetables such as tomatoes , eggplant, squash, peppers pumpkins and melons won’t appreciate the cooler spring days, so wait until May or June to plant them in the garden. The same goes for basil and some other warm weather herbs.

Some rainy day, grab some coffee and start visiting nurseries and shopping for seeds, starts, and more plants. As I alway say, you can never have enough plants.

Garden Makeover

Ever notice a small section of your yard that you either don’t use, is tucked away in a shady corner or you don’t see often enough to put your energy into? While it makes sense to focus one’s limited time and resources to work on parts of your garden that are highly visible, there are some spaces you can transform into a more useful space without much effort. 

For example, in my yard there is a small, narrow corner between our property line and porch that has an ugly chain link fence along two sides. It has a mature white lilac hedge (gasp! Yes, white, it is criminal all lilacs should all be purple). A bird feeder hangs from one lilac making this a poplar spot for birds. I have a view of the area from a picture window in the living room and I decided this spring was time to give it new life and maybe find another spot for Gus’ plastic pool.


Lilacs are fairly invasive as they “sucker” and often preclude many other plants from growing around them. Today, my goal was to convert the area into a more inviting place for birds, snakes and insects. Snakes love to eat mice and slugs making them a lovely addition to any garden.

I cleared out the lilac suckers, a pile of old bricks and other debris I found hiding in there and relocated the plastic pool. The next step was to spread out fresh compost and add native plants such as nine bark, Oregon grape, mock orange, evergreen huckleberry and ferns (not yet planted) in between the lilacs. I placed some cherry firewood along the perimeter of the chain link fence to add character and prevent soil from eroding down the slope on both sides. I also placed piles of smaller sized logs to create texture and habitat. I moved a bird bath from the side yard over to this area so the bird’s food and water is in one convenient location.

This project took a couple of hours this afternoon. Prior to getting started, Gus said, “mama, let’s get digging” as he stood with his shovel ready to help. He was excited about the idea of creating bug and snake habitat and wanted to be part of the renovation. Gus found worms and got distracted by a little side project of washing them off in our kitchen sink before returning them to the garden. He said they were “dirty” and needed to be rinsed off.

This spring, identify a location in your yard that needs some love and could be repurposed from a place you don’t use to a place that is frequently used by other creatures. Use native plants to avoid having to water them once established and let them do what they do best, which is grow wild.photo 2photo-4