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March, 2017 Newsletter
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Food for Thought
a note from Chad Darby, Director
After a hard freeze this winter, I am so happy to see my shallots are now up and about 6” tall. I always think these are a great sign of shaking off the winter and getting back into the growing season. I am so excited to be entering our 4th year with Neighbors Nourishing Communities (NNC).
This year students at MITCH Charter School will be growing our plant starts again. Students at Bridgeport Elementary will be starting off with their new community garden, supporting school families and donating to the Tualatin Schoolhouse Pantry with support by NNC. Also, we are helping start a garden club at the Brookdale Senior Living community near Meridian Park Hospital. Residents will be raising plant starts so we can extend our offerings to include herb and flower starts. What’s so exciting about all of this is that a real community of gardeners is growing in Tualatin to address hunger, both for food and a sense of connectedness.
This year we hope to raise 2,500 lbs of food for donation in addition to supporting families to keep several thousand pounds more for themselves. We are offering classes at the Tualatin library on April 2 (Gardening and Nutrition) and May 21 (Container Gardening). We’ll continue to have fun events throughout the season and I look so forward to hearing all your garden wisdom. If you know someone that could use food assistance or would like to join us in raising food for others, please have them contact NNC at 503-523-7142 or neighborsnc@gmail.com.
Save the Date

March 18 
11:00 am - Seed Handout at 17660 SW Shawnee Trail (Onions starts, seed potatoes, and many types of vegetable seeds will be offered)


March 18 
9:00 am - Community volunteer opportunity at Hilltop Community Garden, Tualatin United Methodist Church, 20200 SW Martinazzi Ave. Come join their spring garden preparation!


March 25
10:00 am - Volunteers needed to rebuild NNC raised beds at Tualatin Park Veterinary Clinic, 8575 SW Tualatin Rd, (rain or shine)

Is Your Garden Ready for Spring?

We are now experiencing about eleven hours of light per day in the Pacific Northwest, and the pull of moist garden soil is getting hard to resist. However, record rainfall in February has saturated Oregon’s Jory soils, and taking care to make sure your beds are dry and warm enough to cultivate is paramount to a successful growing season.

Jory, the state soil of Oregon, is characterized by dark reddish brown clay that pervades its subsoil. Thus it is extremely water-retentive. The best way to figure out if your soil is ready to be worked in spring is to grab a handful, gently squeeze it together in a ball, and then drop it on the ground from about 3 feet, or try to crumble it apart with your hand. If your soil ball keeps it shape or only breaks into a few solid sections rather than into loose soil, it still needs time to dry out. If soil is worked too early, it will destroy the soil structure, potentially making an anaerobic and inhospitable environment for microbes and insects vital to soil life. Techniques for warming and/or drying your soil can be to mulch with straw that is free of seed or cover your soil with tarps, UV grade plastic, or landscape cloth.

To create optimal soil health for a productive growing season, soil tests are your best friend. A professional soil test will help you to determine what nutrients your soil needs, and prevent you from spending money on unnecessary amendments. There are many soil testing labs throughout Oregon and Washington. A&L Labs, Logan Labs, and Spectrum Analytic are a few. Concentrates, an organic farm supply company in Milwaukie, Oregon, will send your sample in to A&L Labs and provide a free consultation to help you figure out what and how much amending your soil needs. Most soil tests cost from $35-$45.

If you would rather skip the soil test and apply a general amendment to restore some fertility, compost can be a good alternative. Spread 1-2 inches of compost on the surface of your soil and work in to the top 2-4 inches with a hoe, shovel, or fixed rake. The shallower your till, and the less you walk around on your garden bed, the better. Preserving soil structure and preventing compaction are key to healthy microbial life and an abundance of available nutrients in your soil.

Once your soil temperature has reached about 45 degrees, it is safe to plant beets, carrots, cut leaf lettuce, radishes, arugula, cress, peas, and spinach from seed. Crops that are more successful when planted from plant starts are kale, cabbage, broccoli, parsley, chard, onions, and heading lettuces. Strawberries are good planted in late march from bareroot starts or potted starts. These seeds and plants can all be found at your local gardening or farm store, or even your local grocery.

Other good things go get done around the garden in March are pruning fruit trees, composting and mulching perennials, planting woody herbs, and turning compost. Below are some handy resources to refer to when getting your growing season started. The Oregon State University Extension Service is a wonderful resource, and is constantly conducting new studies in an effort to better understand organic soil systems. 
Resource Web Links:

Oregon State Soil Testing

Concentrates Organic Agriculture Specialists
 
Concentrates Fertilizer Primer


Soil Science
 
Sustainable Market Farming
 
Capital Press Agricultural News
Neighbors Nourishing Communities (NNC) is an organization of neighbors gardening to raise fresh produce for local families in need of food support.  We provide plants, seeds, instruction and site consultations in exchange for 20% of the produce raised.
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17660 SW Shawnee Trail, Tualatin, OR 97062

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Neighbors Nourishing Communities · 17660 SW Shawnee Trail · Tualatin, Or 97062 · USA

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