Garden Art: An Ode to Salmon Fertilizer


On our way to a medical appointment a few days ago we noticed jet sleds in the Willamette River as we drove over the Burnside Bridge into downtown Portland. It was fairly early in the morning, and the appearance of so many boats only meant one thing to us: salmon. It reminded me that I needed to hang up a piece of garden art I’d purchased a year or so ago so I thought later that afternoon might be a good time.

Salmon have always been around throughout my entire life, but I see them less and less on the dinner table. Instead, the salmon I now see is often in a bucket, it’s sludge-like, and I feed my garden with it. If you’ve ever used the stuff, it’s likely you never bought it again due to its odor, but the salmon emulsion fertilizer is truly great stuff.

Later that afternoon, I attached the salmon head to our back door. It faces east because salmon head that direction when they leave the Pacific Ocean, swimming up the Columbia River in order to reach their spawning grounds. Ideally, from Astoria, Oregon to Washington State and Idaho, the salmon will find their way home to spawn.

Native Americans along the Columbia annually place the bones of the first caught salmon of the season back into the river. They are meant to act as a kind of marker for the supernatural salmon to return to the area during next season. My salmon is the mythical salmon, so it is white. I too want to make a kind of salmon prayer, urging the fish to come home.

I also placed my salmon marker facing east to watch the sunrise, watching over my garden, showing the others which way to go, cheering them on. As for the salmon fertilizer, much like the salmon bones, I toss it out each season so the supernatural bees and other pollinators know I’m open for business.

4 thoughts on “Garden Art: An Ode to Salmon Fertilizer

  1. Love the salmon garden art! Salmon fishing is a big draw for folks who live out west of you. My husband doesn't like fish, it's a terrible shame. My mother used to use fish fertilizer and I remember the smell with not much fondness, but it really worked wonders!


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