Gardening is great for your health—and not just because
growing a Northwest vegetable garden may inspire you to eat better. Gardening
has been linked to stress relief, an improvement in overall mental health and
even a lower risk of dementia.
Growing a Northwest vegetable garden is particularly
rewarding. Seeing those first seedling push through the dirt can be thrilling,
and eating the literal fruits of your labor is delicious and satisfying.
Vegetable gardening also encourages you to try new recipes and experiment with
plants you’ve never tried before.
But vegetable gardening in the Northwest is a delicate
affair, one that involves careful consideration of air temperature and crop
varieties. It takes a bit of trial and error, too, but you can reduce your
mistakes by following this handy guide.
Picking the Right Spot for
Your Northwest Vegetable Garden
If you live in a rural area with plenty of sun, you may have
your pick of great spots to grow a Northwest vegetable garden. For urbanites,
placement may be limited, but if you do have a few options to choose from, pick
a spot that gets the most light in your yard. Ideally, the plants will get six
to eight hours of direct sun a day—more in the summer, less in the spring and
fall—for optimal growth.
City dwellers may have a hard time finding space to garden,
but with some creativity, you may be able to plant a few herbs, lettuces, kale,
peas and other crops that don’t require much space. Solid Ground has some great tips for small-space
Considering Your Soil
Soil is an important consideration, especially if you’re
planting vegetables in existing garden beds. You can also build a raised bed
and add soil bought from a nursery or hardware store—in this case, you’re
starting out with great nutrients and just need to be sure to maintain that
from year to year.
If you’re working with existing soil, chances are you’ll
have to make certain improvements before it’s ready for veggies. You may also
want to have your soil tested to make sure it’s free of metals like lead and
other contaminants. The improvements you make will depend on the type of soil
you’re working with: loamy, sandy, or clay. Here is a great article for understanding soil type
and how to make improvements.
What —and When—to Plant
Plant too late in the Northwest, and you’ll miss the optimal
growing season. Plant too early, and frost may destroy tender seedlings or
fragile heat-loving crops. Your timing will differ depending on your exact
location. Gardeners in Seattle and Portland don’t have to worry as much about
late frosts as gardeners living further inland, closer to the mountains.
Seed packets and plant availability at your local nursery
will give you a basic sense of timing. For a great schedule of what to plant
and when, Steve Solomon’s “Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades” is
a great resource—for this and all other topics related to vegetable gardening in the Pacific Northwest.
Maintaining a Healthy
Northwest Vegetable Garden
It’s important to learn how much (or how little) to water
your garden, how to fertilize it properly, and how to fight pests without
damaging plants or risking the health of people and pets. These are fairly
complex considerations, though over time, your processes and methods will
become habitual. Resources like Steve Solomon’s book and others found in the
gardening section of your local bookstore will help. Ideally, pick out one or
two c that focus on the Northwest, so you can learn about the unique challenges
facing the region’s vegetable gardens.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, especially during your
first year. Look at every failure as an opportunity to learn more for next
time. Spend time observing what’s happening in your garden, looking closely at
how the plants grow and which ones work best in your yard. Keep a careful eye
out for pests or diseases, and consider keeping a calendar or journal to
document your findings for next year.