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Temperatures are averaging above freezing on a regular basis in Portland, and that means that it's time to start planting gardens for most of the city's residents. Even though I'm an import, it seems that I'm not an exception to the rule.

There have been raised garden beds sitting fallow in the side yard since I moved in. Two of the last residents left a collection of strawberries behind - a known quantity, and not one I expected to survive. Meanwhile, grass, clover, and other weeds have been encroaching on the beds, covering them in a thick carpet of green fed by the ever-present rains of Cascadia.

So on Monday, I went on down to the Portland Nursery and picked up:

  • A garden cultivator
  • A spade
  • 40 or so kale starters
  • 12 strawberry plants
  • 16 daffodils
  • 6 snowdrops
  • A single pot of irises (a really nice lady who works there offered me surplus bearded irises and implored me not to buy any)
  • A trellis (the roses on the front sidewalk were threatening to eat passers-by)
  • Some sort of organic root food for planting

Life and the current schedule of contracting being what it is, I didn't actually get to the beds until today. What I found was not precisely the anarchy I expected.

Sure, there was grass all throughout the beds, and ten or so minutes with a cultivator in one and some judicious root-shaking cleaned that out. But there were also four strawberry plants that wintered over without any kind of mulching, a strange, oddly massive collection of greens I didn't recognize, a passel of beans abandoned to go to seed, and some round, scalloped leaves in another bed that oddly resemble squashes.

Suspicion and the knowledge that a vegan chef had been at the garden caused me to take pictures and send one to a botanist buddy who swiftly replied that it looked like turnip greens, but she'd need to see the roots.

Well, in for a penny, in for a pound, and the strawberries were being smothered by the greens. I uprooted the bush, which turned out to be seven or so distinct plants as opposed to the single monolithic green it appeared, and took some quick photos for SMSing (for the botanist) and emailing (to one of the former residents).

Upon better shots of the stems and roots, my friend quickly replied that I probably had some mustard greens, and that I should most definitely eat them instead of replanting them.

I was disappointed, until the former resident got back to me. "Mustard greens or miner's lettuce," he said. "We tried to get rid of them, but they just kept coming back."

Indeed, on my way back out to fetch the cultivator I'd abandoned in favor of doing my afternoon consulting, I noticed several waist-high bushes of greens leaning against the foundation of the house.

We're going to be eating a LOT of greens this year.

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