Tag Archives: row covers

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.

Fall Harvest and a Sneak Peak at the Fall Garden

Well today I decided to take some photos of what’s been going on in my garden over the last couple of days!

A couple of tomatoes harvested! Yes, I did need to force them, but they are so tasty, I snuck a few prior to this photo….

And a couple of ears of corn… Popcorn. I hope that they matured enough to be cooperative when I try to pop them! They look like odd strawberries, but they are popcorn.

And here’s whats going on in the fall garden…

Brussel Sprouts:                               Broccoli and Spinach:


Kale and Arugula:

I am planning on covering these little guys here shortly! They are cold and sick of the wind. I am waiting on Molbaks to get different sizes of their grow guards in stock. Hopefully here shortly. I tried to get some windows today to get a cold frame going, but the pickup was an HOUR before I got there! An hour! As my dear husband said, Guess it just wasn’t meant to be!

What do you have going in your garden? Send photos! We are always looking for guests to showcase their gardens and give a different point of view! Send photos to northwestveggies @ gmail.com

Season Extenders

Make it warmer earlier and keep it warmer later. These are two very important things in our Pacific Northwest climate. The ability to get the ground and surrounding air warmer earlier and keep it warmer later will enhance your ability to get production sooner and longer than those without. We all want a greenhouse, but… with the lack of sun in the wintertime,  artificial heat and light is needed for proper use of the building.

You could make a cold frame of an old window and some lumber. I recently called my local window company and they said that they have new (old) windows almost everyday. Give your local window shop a call and let them know you might want some! They throw them away, so, get some for your garden.

You could also use a floating row cover. I have a lightweight cover for my garden that helps to get things going earlier and keep it going later. I need to contact my local supply store to get two more for each of the new beds I have installed this summer. You can create a heat sink in the cold frame with used milk bottles painted black and filled with water. The heat will be absorbed and reflected outward when needed.

There are also cloches, which in the old days, were made of glass and they would be to shield individual seedlings. The glass ones are much too expensive, in my opinion, to use in the garden. But they are pretty to use inside for tender houseplants! There are plastic varieties that have vents that would be helpful. Although being you need another one for each plant, they can add up quickly in cost.

Another option to get things going earlier is a Wall O’Water type item. There are many, and I do not know the original, but the concept is that you fill the Wall O Water with water around the edges and it creates a heat sink. This idea is nice, but, we just don’t have enough sun to make it useful.

Another way to get going earlier is to get your seeds started earlier and properly harden them off. This will have them growing leaps and bounds before those directly seeded.

I hope this article is helping everyone think of a way to get it all going before the rains of today flood us out! Enjoy the fall harvest and think about ways to get the fall planting going and continue to go throughout the winter!

The Basics – Starting Seeds

This is the first in a series on starting anything with the garden. There are three things that a seed needs to start growing. A growing medium, such as soil, light, and water. You can start a seed with these three things, Mother Nature does it all the time!

Starting seeds does not need to be an expensive endeavor. Some things that you will need:

  1. Seed tray
  2. Seed starting medium, you can use regular soil, but regular soil may contain pathogens that would be harmful to seedlings.
  3. Seeds

First you need to be sure that the item you are wanting to start from seed likes to be started from seed. Some root plants such as carrots and those with fibrous root systems, like corn, like to  be started in their permanent location. Transplanting may cause too much damage to the root system for the plant to recover from.

Second you want to be sure that you are starting the seeds at the right time in the season. You can find a good seed starting chart here. This is a chart that Mother Earth News put out some time ago. Some plants like carrots, broccoli, and lettuces should be planted later in the summer in the Pacific Northwest because of the fluctuations of our seasons. This will reduce the possibility of bolting due to a cool spell we may have in the middle of summer. Like this year.

So lets get started! You will want to get your seed tray out and fill the cells with the growing medium. It will shrink down once you have planted the seeds and watered them. Next plant seeds in the cells. Be sure to read on the seed packet how deep in the cell to plant the seed. Most plants need their own cell to start in, but planting multiple seeds gives the ability to weed out the less than best ones and allow for the best to thrive in each cell. I usually plant 2-3 seeds in each cell. Be sure to label the seed locations. I use masking tape and a permanent marker to distinguish each row of cells.  I usually devote one or more rows of cells to a specific seed. I only plant what I think we will eat throughout the summer/early fall. If I don’t like it, I won’t plant it!

You will need to find a warm southern window, or invest in a grow light and heat pad for the seeds. The light and pad will run you about $75-80 for a basic 50-cell tray setup. Many online retailers have them for competitive prices.   I decided early on that I wanted both. I figured that then I could choose where I wanted my seeds to be.  I also went to my local big box store and picked up a piece of rigid insulation and a spray bottle. I use the insulation as a a base for my seed setup, and it helps to insulate the heat mat from the floor below. The spray bottle is helpful for keeping the soil moist when the seeds are just starting and you don’t run the risk of flooding the seeds out.

If you do decide to get a heat mat and lamp, be sure to turn off the lamp at night, plants need to sleep too! Each and everyday, twice a day, remember to water the seeds, and check on them to see how they are doing. I usually water them when I turn on and off the lights. I am there already, so why not?

You will need to provide constant care for the seedlings for up to 12 weeks, depending on the variety. You will then need to harden them off prior to putting them out in the garden for good. Hardening them off requires you to first remove the heat mat, if applicable, and allow the seedlings to acclimate to the lower temperatures of its roots. Then gradually start leaving the seedlings outside during the day to get them ready to stay outside. Once the nightly temperatures have warmed beyond the threat of frost, and the daily temperatures are above 50 degrees, you can start to leave the plants outside overnight. On nights that may be cooler, you may want to think of a cover of sorts for your garden beds. There are many different kinds of row covers out there, you can see what works for you.

What have you learned starting your plants from seed?

First Post – So Excited!!

Thank you for visiting my site first of all, so lets get to it!

Here’s a little bit about me… My name is Crystal. I am a late 20s individual living in Snohomish County, just north of Seattle and am in love with gardening. Each day when I get home, I let Caroline out, my little fluffy dog, and I make the rounds to see what is happening on my little 1/3 acre suburban lot. I start with checking out the blueberry bushes, then I observe the apple tree. After the apple tree is the raspberry bush, ever-bearing variety. Then, onto the main attraction!! The vegetable garden.

I have two 4’x8′ raised bed gardens at the moment with plans to expand with two more 4’x8′ beds and another bed for potatoes, size to be determined. I knew I needed to know what all I would like for the garden prior to getting going, so I sat down. What did I want? Row cover? Irrigation? Did I want to heat my beds? There were so many options! Well, I decided that I would like irrigation and the ability to place row covers. I installed the beds with the help of my fabulous fiance, soon to be husband, David.

Growing Medium: We used a blend of peat moss, vermiculite, and compost for the growing medium.

Row Covers: David helped me bend some EMT conduit for the row covers to float on. The row cover packaging says it is ok to just lay the cover on top of the seedlings, but I always think they will get crushed! We placed EMT conduit holders so that I could remove the covers if needed or wanted.

Irrigation: We used some micro irrigation lines, 1/2″ for the main feed from the hose bib, and 1/4″ for the lines that have the drippers on them. I also have a broadcast sprayer for each bed.

And now I am 4 months into the growing season and I have just harvested my potatoes! What have you done in your garden lately?