Archive | Garden Helpers

Garden preparation for May

Photo by Zack Dowell

Photo by Zack Dowell

What to do in the garden in May to get ready for all the plants that will be in the ground before you know it? May is an in-between month for many gardening zones. Too cold to plant your less hardy varietals that might be harmed by a late frost, but just warm enough to start prepping the soil for those seeds that can take a little colder weather. But regardless of what gardening zone you are in,  there are plenty of tasks to be done to prep your garden and give it the head start it needs to perform:

  • Rip out invasive plants while the soil is damp, before they spread even further.
  • Check out spring flowering trees and shrubs while they are in bloom and make notes for future purchases.
  • Ready your compost bin, turn it and add nitrogen or plant matter if need be.
  • Keep a watch out for asparagus beetles, aphids, cabbage worms, cutworms, scale, slugs & snails and any signs of fungal diseases.
  • Clean the flower pots with a solution of bleach and water to kill any lingering disease or mold if used from one season to the next. If you have Togetherfarm Blocks, you can simply toss them in the dishwasher for one cycle!
  • Seed cool season vegetables and root crops after mid-month (beetsbeanscabbagecarrots,chard, lettuce, onionspotatoesradishesturnips).
  • Start warm season melons and squash indoors, to transplant after Memorial Day.
  • Keep seeding lettuces, greens and beans.
  • Summer bulbs can be planted outdoors.

For those of you new to gardening this year, you can get a head start on the Spring weather by snapping your Togetherfarm garden beds together, add a good compost rich soil, and plant your zone appropriate veggies and flowers.

And here is a zone-specific garden “to do” list  from the USDA, and a task specific to do list for each zone at Organic Gardening.

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Behind the Scenes at Thicket


Today we thought we’d create a short photo essay taking you behind the scenes at Thicket – our local gardening center.  We showed up to create a quick video for our Kickstarter project but – as luck would have it – we were quickly hit with a classic Portland downpour.  Does this mean summer is officially over?

Here are some great shots of her space from the shoot:


We really like the recycled materials used to create this unique gardening center.  Note the blank chalkboard wiped clean by a few minutes of rain.


This gardening center took over a vacant lot and has transformed this space into a thriving neighborhood destination.


Adria Sparhawk, the owner of Thicket, has so many unique and wonderful plants; many I haven’t seen elsewhere.


Another unique plant in a very unique space.

Here’s a link to our Facebook page with a short video giving you an idea of how much rain came down on us:


And another short video (sideways – sorry about the iPhone malfunction) showing a cup filled by the downpour:


If you are in Portland, I highly encourage you to stop by and see Adria’s shop.  But be careful:  You can spend a lot of time looking at all of the amazing plants and garden accessories she has.  Oh, and bring an umbrella!

About Thicket:

Thicket is a garden boutique filled with a lush selection of flowers and plants along with a clever assortment of vintage ephemera and modern craft curated to inspire life lived in the garden.

Spring has sprung! We are now open
Thursday-Monday 11:00am-6:00pm

Address: 4933 NE 23rd Ave PDX 97211

TogetherFarm Blocks:  Kickstarter update!

Kickstarter Campaign for TogetherFarm Blocks

The TogetherFarm Team has been hard at work the past 4 weeks getting the word out about TogetherFarm Blocks. Our Kickstarter campaign continues to progress towards being fully funded and there’s still time for you to pledge and receive a garden kit of your own. The Kickstarter Campaign will end on September 23rd at about 9pm. So, hurry on over to the TogetherFarm Kickstarter page and make your pledge before it is too late. Be a part of a movement that is empowering more people to grow their own produce. Follow this link to make your pledge now:



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How to grow tomatoes and potatoes on one plant

This article will show you how to grow tomatoes and potatoes on one plant by grafting a tomato plant onto a potato plant. As summer slowly rolls to an end, we often find ourselves with an abundance of tomatos.  Many of the fruit remains green and not fully ripened.  I typically find myself asking, “What can I do different next year to get more fruit for my effort?”


It turns out there is an answer:  grafting tomato plants to potatoes.

How to grow tomatoes and potatoes on one plant

Grafted Plant Diagram (click image to see image source)

Over the centuries, smart gardeners and farmers have developed successful methods to use potato root stock to support tomatoes that may not otherwise be well suited to poor soil conditions in your garden.


This is a great way to save space in your garden!  You can start your potatoes early in the growing season to let them mature.  Leave some of the potato plants in place and perform the following grafting process to give your tomato plants a head start!


The process:

  1. Taking the potato plant (called the “stock”) cut the stem about 1-inch above the ground and split the stem in a V-shape.
  2. At the tomato plant (called a “scion”), cut the stem with at least 6 to 8 inches of length with a straight across cut.  I recommend choosing a tomato plant that has a stem roughly the same diameter as the potato plant rootstock.
  3. Shape the cut end of the tomato plant to a wedge shape so that it will fit into the potato plant stem’s V-shape cut.
  4. Carefully slide the tomato plant stem onto the potato rootstock.
  5. Wrap the graft location with grafting tape in order to hold the two plants together.
  6. The grafting tape needs to remain in place until the tomato plant begins to show new growth.


Here is an illustration of the grafting steps described above:

How to grow tomatoes and potatoes on one plant

Grafting Scion Section to Stock (click image to see image source)

Why does this grafting process work?  Tomato plants and potato plants are part of the family of plants called “nightshades”.  Both plants contain alkaloids that help protect the plants from insects (they can even be used to make an organic liquid pest control solution for aphids: Organic Aphid Control)


A point of caution, grafting can potentially affect the flavor of the tomato fruit.  Also, grafted plants may yield less fruit than two separate plants grown from seeds.  On the other hand, a major benefit is the grafting process will save you a lot of time and space!

How to grow tomatoes and potatoes on one plant

Tomato-Potato Graft Plant Starts (click image to see image source)

If you end up trying this next year, or plant to grow potatoes in general, we have the perfect garden box for potatoes (and for lots of other things too). We call it TogetherFarm Blocks. This is a modular garden box system made from 100% recycled, food-grade plastic that can be put together in any shape or size. Because it is modular, it is perfect for growing potatoes and tomatoes. Tomatoes will send out roots at any point that the stem is below the  surface of the soil. So, as the plant grows, you can add additional layers onto your modular garden box to give the plant even more strength and fruitfulness. With the potatoes, TogetherFarm Blocks makes it simple at harvest time. Simply pull apart the blocks to be able to get to all the potatoes underground. So cool! We are currently in the last few days of a Kickstarter Campaign to get these blocks to market. If you pledge now, we will ship you a kit at the end of January of next year – just in time for next year’s growing season. Here is a link to TogetherFarm Blocks on Kickstarter as well as a picture of an assembled box. Help us reach our goal and get incredible rewards. Pledge now!

How to grow tomatoes and potatoes on one plant

TogetherFarm Blocks – an eco-friendly and easy way to build a garden box


Happy Gardening,

Matt and the TogetherFarm Produce Evangelists

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Uses for paper rolls around the garden

TogetherFarm Blocks™

TogetherFarm Blocks™

NEW:  Click here to check out TogetherFarm Blocks™ on KICKSTARTER! The world’s funnest and easiest way to build your own garden box!

There are many uses for paper rolls around the garden. Paper rolls from toilet paper, paper towels, and gift wrapping seem to add up quickly as I noticed while taking my recycling out the other day. I checked around the internet for ways to reuse these. Here are four of my favorites.

Seed starters

Seed Starter


A number of web sites have a great how-tos on creating simple seed starter pots for your new crops.  This is a great material as it breaks down in the soil after several waterings and composts nicely.  It is August, but there are a lot of fall crops that need that head start now.  There’s a quick article on what to plant for your specific region on’s Organic Gardening page that can be found here.  For the Pacific Northwesterners, this includes:

  • Arugula
  • Beets
  • Broccoli(Transplants)
  • Brussels Sprouts (Transplants)
  • Cabbage (Transplants)
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower (Transplants)
  • Cilantro
  • Collard greens

For a step-by-step guide to create your seed starters, check out You Grow Girl’s handy article.

Protect store-bought starts

Seedling In Tube


This idea is a fast and easy way to protect store bought starts that are still in the early stages of development.  The tube acts helps keep the plant upright as well as protects the delicate plant from some common insects.

Simply sink the tube into the ground about two inches deep minding you do not damage sensitive root systems that are attempting to establish themselves.

Planning and spacing


I am an very visual person and I want to understand how my garden is going to work, especially when planting a few different vegetables in the same garden.  Using rolls to perform some initial layout of the garden really gives you a good idea of where things are and provides a reference when considering how much space each new plant will need before  you run to the gardening center and pick up a bunch of starts.  Best of all, should you decide to use plant starts, you can use them for protection as noted above.

Insect Hotels

Insect Hotel by Arup Associates

We all know the plight of the European Honey Bee and how colonies are collapsing.  Pesticides seem to be the big problem here though an number of other suspects have not been ruled out.  It is critical that we continue to nurture these amazing creatures to keep our crops growing.  However, did you know there were many other pollinators and beneficial insects that help keep your gardens producing?

You can encourage insects such as solitary carpenter bees, moths, butterflies, and wasps to visit your garden by creating an insect hotel.  Most gardens are intentionally kept neat and free of debris.  Most have a lot of concrete for patios and nicely trimmed lawns with a few flowers around the perimeter.  However, the debris is needed to create living environments not only for the pollinators, but for predators of some of our most hated garden pests such as worms and aphids.

Building a insect house is easy and with the help of a few rolls, fast.  Simply stack the rolls, bind them together with coarse outdoor hemp twine and insert a handful of twigs.  If you are feeling particularly creative, you can add a roof to it to protect it from the elements.  Most houses of this construction usually last one summer season.  If you are looking for some great ideas, check out this link here to Inspiration Green’s web site.




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