Garden Photo of the Day

Visiting Soggy Bottom Garden

Sunflowers and more in a Portland garden

Today we’re visiting with Dawnn McWatters.

I’ve been subscribing to (or buying) your magazine for many years as an amateur gardener. In 2019 I stepped up my game, left a healthcare career, and became a Master Gardener. This year I’m launching a nonprofit food literacy and therapeutic horticulture education program called The SAVOR Project.

I’m sending pics from what we affectionately call our “soggy bottom garden” here on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon. After fencing in the garden plot to keep out our chickens and dog, I realized that it was located in a frost pocket (oops!). Raised beds helped me with the water retention at the bottom of our south-facing slope, but they didn’t save me from five years of shlepping everything up and down at the end of a weeding session. Sadly, after a serious car accident on our busy country road and some landscaping-related injuries, we’ll be selling our property this summer, but I look forward to gardening in community again on an itty bitty urban plot and sharing what I’ve learned with my neighbors.

It’s hard to pick my favorite plant or garden picture (like trying to pick between children!). Here are a couple that stand out. Sunflowers are a sweet connection to my immigrant great-grandfather’s Ukrainian roots, and last year I established my first-ever sunflower plot with a handful of varieties.

Also, over the past couple of years, I’ve taught myself how to make shakshuka as I’ve reconnected with my long-lost Jewish roots, and last summer I was able to use Black, a Russian heirloom tomato, that I’ve grown in my own garden. It feels like I’ve come full circle. I told one of my Master Gardener colleagues recently that although I ended up with bushels of unripe, green heirloom tomatoes last fall, it was my biggest yield yet, and I had many healthy plants that thrived (but just ran out of heat units in our wooded plot). I’m pretty proud! Maybe it was a failure, but it was also a success in my eyes, and I have room to grow for the future.

americauna pulletAn Ameraucana pullet (one of the varieties of chickens that lay greenish or bluish eggs).

‘Joker’ sunflowerA ‘Joker’ sunflower (Helianthus annuus ‘Joker’, annual) just beginning to bloom.

‘Black’ tomato‘Black’ tomato, a Russian heirloom variety.

Sunflower ‘Ring of Fire’Sunflower ‘Ring of Fire’.

‘Ring of Fire’ sunflower being enjoyed by a visiting bumblebee.

View of Soggy Bottom Garden.

‘Teddy Bear’ sunflower‘Teddy Bear’ sunflower.


Have a garden you’d like to share?

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View Comments


  1. wittyone 03/19/2020

    It sounds as though you have dealt with some trying times lately but come through full steam ahead. That tomato looks like a real winner and I bet you would only need a couple of those babies and eggs from your chickens to make shakshuka. I looked up the recipe and it sounds totally delicious and you have most all the ingredients right there at hand.

    Good luck with your move and new project in the coming months. Your new neighbors will be really blest to have you nearby.

  2. CTpat 03/19/2020

    Love all those sunflowers--for some reason I have no luck growing them. That tomato is pretty impressive, too!
    Years ago a cousin gave me a recipe for green tomato mincemeat. She lived in Ottawa and liked to grow tomatoes, but said the growing season was never long enough for them to ripen. I still sometimes make it when there are enough green tomatoes left at the end of the season.

  3. User avater
    treasuresmom 03/19/2020

    Love those sunflowers.

  4. bdowen 03/19/2020

    Love the stories in your garden. Wishing you all the best through the transitions coming in your life and garden. Please share photos as you create your new space

  5. btucker9675 03/19/2020

    What a lovely garden - I'm sorry that you're having to leave it, but know that you will bring the beauty with you! Hope you'll still be able to keep your chickens!

  6. User avater
    simplesue 03/19/2020

    I had to google "shakshuka" and found a pretty interesting recipe.
    Great sunflowers and adorable chicken photos!

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