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Not too late: How to get your garden growing

Health and Wellness

The cherry blossoms have bloomed in Portland's Waterfront Park, and the Tulip Festival is underway at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm in Woodburn.

Signs of spring are all around us, including how fast the weather changes from rain and hail to sunshine and warm breezes.

If you haven't started your springtime gardening yet, it's not too late. In fact, April 14 was National Garden Day. It's the perfect time to break out the seeds and start a garden to provide a rainbow of homegrown veggies throughout the summer.

Home gardens: Fresh and fast

Growing your own vegetables can be a lot of fun for you and your family. Even if you don't have a garden plot, a lot of vegetables can be grown in containers on your porch or balcony.

Even beyond fun, any size garden can give you access to the freshest produce. And even better? It's much faster to walk to your garden and pick a few things for dinner than have to race to the nearest grocery store or produce stand.

Growing your own vegetables also gives you full control over what chemical and pest-control measures are used on your food.

What to plant in April

April showers bring May flowers...and June vegetables. With most risk of frost gone in the Portland area, you're safe to plant most seeds.

Now is a great time to get your tomatoes planted so they'll have plenty of time to ripen this summer. If you're planting in containers, be sure to add support for each plant. Cherry and grape tomatoes often produce all summer and make a great addition to your salads.

Speaking of salads, you can seed salad greens every week to keep a fresh supply all summer. Kale, spinach, leaf lettuce and mesclun salad mixes work well in the spring, before the hot sun of summer causes greens to get bitter.

Sun is also an issue for peas, so get them in the ground or container now. Most peas grow as vines, so be sure they have some kind of trellis support.

Swiss chard is also a green, leafy vegetable. Unlike tender lettuce and peas, it seems to do well all summer. The stems as well as leaves can be lightly sautéed for a side dish.

Eggplant and squash are easy to grow in the Willamette Valley, and it's a great time to get them started. They'll both work in containers if they have enough vertical support.

What else to do in April

As your garden begins to sprout, be on the lookout for slugs. These pests love to snack on fresh leaves, and they thrive in Portland's wet environment.

It's also important to don your rain jacket and keep up with weeds in your garden, yard and containers. If you catch them while they're small, you can avoid chemical herbicides later.

Rainy springtime weather is also a great time to add organic fertilizer-like composted manure-to your garden and containers. As the rain pours through the fertilizer, its nutrients seep into the soil like a tea for your garden.

A little work now for a lot of food later

April is a great time to invest in your garden, no matter what size, so that you and your family can look forward to a whole summer of fresh, nutritious vegetables.

A little work now will save you time and money later. You'll be reaping the benefits, quite literally, for months to come.
For more information about what to do in your garden each month, check out the Oregon State University Extension Service.