Category Archives: Advice

Advice Response – Getting Started in the NW

Kayla, formerly from CA asks:

I just purchased my first house (YAHOO) and I would like to plant a fruit and vegetable garden on the property. I grew up in southern California so I’m used to basically everything growing without any issues. What would an ideal “grocery store” garden in the Northwest look like? What would grow well here and what should I shy away from? I’ve already accepted that I will need to grow avocado in a pot inside if I want to do that, but will things like leafy greens continue producing all year or would the weather get to them? I can build a greenhouse if I need to but before I went to that expense I wanted to make sure it was necessary. Also I am a single mom, so part of this garden/grocery store project will be educating my daughter that apples grow on trees not in the apple pie at McDonald’s. I want her to be able to take pride in the work she will do in the garden and learn where her food comes from and what she puts into her body.

Well Hi Kayla, and thanks for visiting the blog. And congrats on the home! Its a big step, and you have a blank canvas from which to work!

A Northwest grocery store garden… Well a great veggie garden here in the Northwest has a great variety! The gardens here have everything from tomatoes and cucumbers, green peppers, and lettuce. We’re also great at kale, spinach, green beans, and carrots. Asparagus is phenomenal as well. Here in the PNW, we also have some great luck with fruits. Apples, raspberries, and grapes, not to mention strawberries, and cherries. Some plants will require a different variety to adapt to the shorter summer, and some have to be chosen for their longer bolt tolerance.

As for avocado, yes, indoors is a must, though I am not sure of their happiness here in the Northwest. I have an avocado plant myself, but its more a little hobby as it grew from the pit. I doubt I’ll ever get it to fruit, but it’s a delight none the less.

Leafy greens grow well throughout the winter, with one caveat. In the winter, I like to grow my leafy greens under a row cover. These covers are a lightweight fabric that gives a couple of degrees of frost protection, allow air and water to pass through. Fabric doesn’t protect against everything though. A couple years back, we had a snowstorm that left the ground covered in about a foot of snow, and after it was all over, most of my lettuce was dead from being crushed under the weight of the snow, but my carrots did great through the entire ordeal.

Depending on the space you have,  I would suggest a 3-in-1 or a 4-in-1 apple tree and the same for a cherry tree. There are a couple of places here in the Puget Sound region that have a great selection of both of these types of trees. Raintree is always great to mention, as is Molbaks. But I’ve had the best luck with selection, affordability and convienence at FlowerWorld. If you decide to go to FlowerWorld, I’d devote an afternoon to it. They have a HUGE selection, and so many plants.

As for the greenhouse… I would hold off. They are great, and everyone wants one, but as you said, they are expensive, and quite a bit of work. If you feel that you’d like to get a start on, or extend, the growing season, think about a cold frame. They’re great, and easy to build. All you need is a little lumber and an old window.

Though I don’t have children (yet), I understand the want to educate your daughter, and I think that its great! I remember some of my best memories growing up were in the garden with my Mom and my Grandmother. I can remember eating tomatoes and beans right off the plants – no washing needed. Thats probably why I still do that today 🙂 Even a small garden to start with will help to instill great values in your daughter. Ask her to help you start the seeds in the springtime, give her the job of remembering to turn on the grow light in the mornings, and turn them off at night. She will experience the plants growing and will be thrilled!

I know that this is a lengthy response, but I hope that it helps to answer some of your questions. Your questions have also sparked a couple of thoughts that I can turn in articles for future installments on the blog.