Image provided by: University of Oregon Libraries; Eugene, OR
About The daily Astorian. (Astoria, Or.) 1961-current | View Entire Issue (Aug. 3, 2019)
THE ASTORIAN • SATURDAY, AUGUST 3, 2019
THE ASTORIAN • SATURDAY, AUGUST 3, 2019 • B1
Photos by Lynda Layne/Chinook Observer
Gordon Jensen checks zucchini and cucumber plants in raised plastic tubs. He built supports using scrap lumber and concrete blocks. This allows the plants to drape over the edges,
not leaving any produce lying on the ground. It also makes room for planting other vegetables under the tubs.
Ilwaco dad grows vegetables
and fruits to feed his kids
LEFT: Gordon Jensen, at the edge of his garden, listening to his son explain how the blueberries are doing. RIGHT: Micheal Jensen planted sunﬂ owers from seed “not that long ago” in the
ground of the family garden. He left for a few days to attend a camp. When he left, the plants were about waist high and when he returned, most were rivaling or surpassing him in height.
BY LYNDA LAYNE
CEAN PARK, Wash. — It was
a taco salad night early this year
when single-dad, Gordon Jensen,
went into a local grocery store to buy let-
tuce. He was shocked to see the price,
almost $5 a head. When you’re feeding
two teenagers, high food costs can some-
times get in the way of healthy eating.
Jensen is a skilled gardener, who
learned at an early age that families can
live mostly on what they grow them-
selves and normally, he would be doing
that. But it was still too soon for planting
his outside garden. The weather was still
quite wet, with far too many light frosts
occurring. The soil in his sustainable
26x26-foot allotted garden space was too
soaked for tilling or serious planting. So
what’s a guy to do?
The $5 price spurred him into action.
At least for starters, he would rely on
ingenuity and a great free ﬁ nd to get the
ball rolling. Someone had given him a
big glass terrarium, a former snake hab-
itat, complete with a lid. That would
make an ideal cold frame-greenhouse
set up, he thought. A little soil, a few let-
tuce starts and also some seed, and soon
he had what he called, “Lettuce up to
here.” Taco salad nights were back on,
The Jensens reside in a mobile home
on a small corner lot in Ocean Park. Both
kids, Micheal, 15, and Justice, 18, are
FFA members at Ilwaco High School
and active in a lot of areas. And thanks to
their dad’s gardening expertise, they are
also healthy eaters.
Micheal seems to have inherited his
dad’s interest in gardening. He often
works alongside his dad in the garden.
There are huge sunﬂ ower plants in a
row that Micheal planted from seed and
he also started potatoes earlier this year.
For his summer job, he mows area lawns
for several people so he can arrange his
schedule with helping out in the gar-
den and also ﬁ shing with his dad. They
have been stocking their freezer with surf
perch and Jensen said they will be going
after salmon soon.
Intensive planting, stacking
Jensen is always on the lookout for
Gordon Jensen uses old plastic storage tubs and coolers elevated on supports to grow vegetables and fruits.
free or cheap containers he can use for
plants. They range from plastic stor-
age containers and coolers, to buckets
and old kitty little tubs. He has amassed
quite a collection and uses them year
after year, adding others when possi-
ble. He has found that “stacking” in the
garden offers him more growing space.
He’s made supports out of old lumber
and concrete blocks for many of the tubs.
“This saves room, when you don’t
have a lot of space,” he explained, while
standing near a row of these elevated
containers. He pointed to the tubs and
commented, “I have cucumbers and zuc-
chini in there.” He said that when these
start producing and grow out, they’ll
drape down over the tub edges and the
vegetables never lie on the ground,
which takes away the risk of rot. Good
thing, because he said he needs all the
zucchini he can grow. “The kids love it
fried, so it doesn’t last too long.”
His gaze shifted to the ground below
the squash and cucumbers. “I can plant
stuff underneath these containers,” he
explained. “I’ve got onions and chard
growing there now.”
Another row of elevated containers
has potatoes growing underneath. And
also below are several buckets and tubs
with cherry tomato plants. If they get too
tall, they can easily be moved elsewhere.
Jensen commented, “The only toma-
toes I plant are cherry tomatoes and the
kids usually keep them wiped out. They
walk out, pick them and eat them right
In-ground soil amending
When he can afford it, Jensen does
occasionally buy a few bags of potting
soil on sale to use in containers. He has
found that he can improve the sandy
soil quality with no cash layout. When
Micheal mows lawns, theirs or others, he
can bag the cut grass and put it in the gar-
den. Before Jensen became too disabled
to do that kind of work, he also used to
mow for people.
He recalled, “I brought all the lawn
clippings back and stacked it in the gar-
den. When I ﬁ rst moved here, this area
was pure sand.” So, he not only amended
with cut grass, he also got rabbit and
goat manure given to him by “a lady in
Long Beach.” And, he collected a lot of
hay mulch. That mix, tilled into the gar-
den plot, worked wonders. Anytime he
raked leaves, he always saved them for
“It’s still predominately sand, but
every time I ﬁ nd anything that will work
like mulch, I put it in there,” he said.
It’s working. The entire area is full of
thriving plants, so much so that once in a
while he has to cut a few back to make a
small path for access. It is truly an inten-
sive planting situation, with a lot of vari-
eties growing close together.
See Plot, Page B2