The three things I’m taking away from my 2016 garden experience:
- Wait until May to buy dirt. We bought a 50-50 mix of dirt and compost in late April and you can tell it was the first mix they did. It turned out to be full of glass, garbage and other rip rap. Not ideal growing dirt.
- Wait until late May to plant seeds. When all the books, websites and everything else says we have a short, but powerful growing season, I guess I should believe them. It’s hard to wait, but patience is a virtue or something.
- Keep trying everything you can find. I’ve kept notes this year on which seeds worked and which didn’t, but I plan to keep trying as many different kinds of vegetables as I can. Because at the end of the day, seed packets don’t cost very much.
The return of normal Pacific Northwest summer weather has been a relief on my electric bill, but boy did it screw up my gardening plans.
In 2015, we put in a single raised garden box and grew snap peas, tomatoes, basil and carrots. At the same time, we failed to grow cucumbers and zucchinis – two staples of Northwest gardens. But that is what a three-month heat wave will do, I guess, change the garden climate.
Fast forward to 2016 and with some warm weather in April I figured we were in store for another scorching summer. So, I quickly built two more raised beds, and planted peas, cucumbers, zucchinis, and a host of cut flowers with seeds from Territorial Seed Company in Oregon.
Things started great with a warm May, but then the June gloom stretched into July and the only thing growing were the Zinnia-Queen Red Lime bush (which is gorgeous, by the way), a giant zucchini bush, some carrots and a few cucumbers.
Lesson learned: Don’t plant seeds until late May in the Northwest. Most of my seeds seemed to have drowned in our extended spring.
All told, we have been overwhelmed by zucchini (Organic Black Beauty), as well as cucumbers (starts bought from Harbor Greens). The peas were pretty weak, our Romance Pelleted carrots were great, but our Red Samurai carrots were a total failure. Of the 10 flower varieties I planted, only the Mr Majestic Double marigolds came up. Our kale survived the winter and thrived throughout the year.
We also tried broccoli (mild success), eggplant (one fruit so far!), green peppers (mild success), cherry tomatoes (failure), basil (so-so), lettuce (nothing yet), cabbage (nothing but pretty purple leaves) and corn (growing like crazy). We did have a few giant heirloom tomatoes growing, but the second they turned red a deer appeared and ate them. Seriously. It was ridiculous.
We also have some pumpkins coming on strong right now, including the Full Moon Hybrid that allegedly will get up to 60-90 pounds. I’ll believe that when I see it.
I’m also hoping to put some winter vegetables in as well, but not sure what yet. Allegedly you can grow deep into the fall on this side of Washington, so I guess it is worth giving it a shot.
– Craig Craker