Gardening in the Pacific NW
Several years ago, I was reading a home design magazine that advised you to think about what makes you happy and decorate your space accordingly. Is it the beach? Go with cool blues. An ice cream shop? Bright, happy pops of color. Wild animals? Get your leopard print on.
For me, it’s green. I feel happiest when I am surrounded by green. I think I live in the right place. Which also explains why, when my sticky children are eating breakfast and arguing about which plate color is superior, I sometimes slip out the back door to stand in the middle of my garden. I pull a few weeds, water the basil, check the berries. Mostly I just take a few deep breaths before diving back in to peanut butter faces and laundry piles.
So whether your garden is 1/2-acre spread or simply some herb pots on your apartment patio, there is so much to be gained by getting your hands in the dirt. Even if it’s just a few minutes of peace.
Here’s a quick tour of what is growing in my Pacific Northwest garden this summer.
Three planting options: Trellis, Container, and Pallet
Trellis: Certain plants, like pole beans, are natural climbers. They’ll wrap their skinny green arms around any object in their path. Cucumbers are also great climbers. While they are often left to run along the ground, I love to plant them near a fence or trellis. The plants go up, and the cucumbers hang down. It looks great and makes for easy picking.
In my garden this year, I have four cucumber plants running along a trellis I scrounged up from an old project. Using zip ties, I attached the trellis to several galvanized pipes. I’m pretty much a female MacGyver.
Old planting containers: I plunked a celery plant into an old planting container I’ve had for years. I think we bought a small maple tree in it. It’s been sitting in our garden shed gathering dust, but it makes a great container for a single large plant or several smaller ones. look around your shed or garage for anything that could be used as a plant container. It’ll give you the same benefits as a raised garden bed, in a smaller form. Also, hang on to small tray packs or containers to start seeds next spring.
Pallets: Free pallets are easy to find. Just check the side to make sure they are heat treated (HT), and you are good to go. Seems like we always have a few laying around our house. Because we do. All is not right with Ed’s world unless there are at least 3 random piles of wood scraps on our property at all times. Drives me nuts, but they do have certain advantages.
After walking past this little 2-foot pallet several times, I realized I could put it to work. I cut some other scrap lumber to close in the ends, screwed them on, and filled my little pallet planter with a mix of soil and compost. I planted Purple Basil seeds (thank you, Burgerville kids meal) along the rows. Free pallets, free seeds = cheap pesto!
We have five raised garden beds this year. Here’s what’s growing in each one:
Rhubarb, garlic, chives: I admit, these are strange bedfellows, but they are all either perennials or plants that have a long growing season (Garlic stays in bed from October-July. Read more about How to Grow Garlic.)
Kale, lettuce, green beans: I had hoped to plant these in the early spring, but life happened and they went in the ground in May instead. Because these plants do okay with partial sun, I put them in one of our upper beds which is more shaded. They are doing great, and will keep us stocked with green juice and salads all summer long. Just pick the outer leaves, and the plant will keep producing. This is actually a crazy amount of greens, but I couldn’t stop myself. I love going a full three months without having to buy many vegetables from the store.
Carrots & onions: This is my soup bed. I sowed carrot seeds directly in the ground and planted onion starts. The carrots will need to be thinned when they pop up, but the onions are pretty low maintenance until they are ready to be picked.
Cucumbers & peppers: These plants love full sun so I put them in one of two beds that gets the longest afternoon sun in our yard. Last year a bunch of my family got together to can over 100 pints of salsa. I have high hopes that these peppers are going to go in this summer’s batch.
I also planted a bunch of marigolds in this bed. They are supposed to be a natural weed and bug deterrent. If nothing else, they are a bright and happy addition to the garden.
Tomatoes & basil: A match made in heaven. There are 6 tomato plants in this bed. Even though they are caged, they will get big enough that we’ll just be able to pick from the outside. 4-5 probably would have been a better fit, but again with the lack of self control thing. Just like with the lettuce & kale, the basil will keep producing all summer. Read more about Growing Basil.
Here are a few other plants we have growing around the raised beds:
Raspberries: These are my husband’s babies. We have them running along a wire fence. Every time a volunteer cane pops up in a random place, we move it down the fence. By next summer, we should have a pretty good yield.
Blueberries: We have four of these bushes and would love forty more. Sometimes too much of a good thing is great.
Zucchini: This guy got kicked out of bed because he steals the sheets and takes up so much room. Bed hog. I dug a big hole for him which took forever in our terrible soil. I don’t particularly care for zucchini unless it’s packaged in the form of chocolate bread, though, so if it’s not a huge producer, I won’t shed any tears.
Mint: If you think you have a black thumb, plant mint. It will restore your faith in growing things. This stuff just takes off. It’s everywhere in our rocky yard because it grows so well with so little help. It looks and smells so fresh and can be used in making fresh juice or tossed in salads (not too much! a little goes a long way).
This sad little corner is my current project. Those two plants being strangled out by weeds are our fig trees. So far, I’ve cleaned up the section along the fence and planted sunflowers and pole beans. Next up, Operation Free the Figs!
What about you? Anything new growing in your garden? Any projects you are planning to tackle this summer?
(Amazon) is an excellent resource to have on hand for gardening in the West. Sunset’s magazine, , and books are always packed with simple, helpful tips for growing and maintaining a beautiful garden.
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