FROM THE BACKYARD to the front, from the planting strip to the rooftop, no unpaved part of Portland has been safe from gardeners. We’ve been at it a long time—both for food and good looks. The luggage hauled in the wagons on the Oregon Trail included everything from our prized strawberries to cuttings of our namesake rose. Over the decades, we built a Japanese and a Chinese garden that know no rivals outside their countries of origin. Meanwhile, the Willamette Valley chapter of Tilth designed an organic certification program in 1982 that eventually became the model for the nation.

Today, a walk through virtually any neighborhood will attest to how seriously Portland home gardeners take their yards. The sopping winters and bone-dry summers had the savviest digging up their lawns years before water-conscious xeriscaping became a civic mandate in many American cities. Crafty Stumptowners were recycling all kinds of cast-offs into art well in advance of Martha Stewart’s flashbulb.

In the following pages, we present a modest guide both for those who aspire to be the ultimate Portland gardener and for those who already are, but just want to refine their chops. Download this handy list of plants, nurseries, and other resources. But of our 50 tips, #1 requires nothing more than a shovel to …

Tip 1
DITCH THE LAWN. The first step to becoming a true Portland gardener is to go grass-free—at least free of the thirsty kind that’s been bioengineered for the conventional American “lawn.” Start by planting a rich tapestry of perennial flowers that will provide hummingbirds, bees, and other visitors with a feast from spring through early summer. Just figure out how tall you’d like your meadow to be, and get ready for a sweet, blowsy look.