In the first few weeks of "SPRING" we've had it all in Portland: rain, hail, sleet, even snow...crazy weather! And some cold cold days back in the 30s. Dang. Our freezing night temps and hard frosts are then sometimes followed by sunny days. My bird bath continues to freeze solid and plants that survived the winter are now flopping over seemingly dead from the hard frosts, dry days and cold winds.
This is really what spring is all about in Portland. Massive fluctuations in weather. As gardeners we get really excited and the unpredictable weather can severely undermine our gardening efforts if we make incorrect planting choices. After a winter of gardening dreaming and planting we get so excited when it's finally a sunny day or when the rain at last stops. Our enthusiasm can lead us into unwise choices regarding purchasing and planting. This is not the month for tomatoes, basil, sunflowers, or those beautiful hanging baskets with tender annuals like fuchsia and geraniums.
Hold off on those summer favorites and instead focus on your small fruit and perennial plantings. There are also several cool-hardy spring veggies that you can get planted from seed now like snow/snap/shelling peas, radishes, arugula, spinach, chard. It's also time to plant from seed Slow Bolt Cilantro. Check out "The Maritime Northwest Gardening Guide" by the Seattle Tilth for very practical advice on the timing of planting specific to our climate.
When we get a sunny day focus on spring clean-up in the yard and prepare your garden beds by amending with a good compost. Remember not to work your soil if it's still soaking wet from the rain. Wait until it has dried out. This month I've tried three different compost products and here are my reviews...
EB Stone Planting Compost: I amended my raised beds with it, particularly around my strawberries and I was not too impressed. I felt like it had way too many woody pieces in it. I would use it again for planting trees or shrubs, but not in beds for vegetables, strawberries, herbs, and annuals.
Black Forest Organic Compost: I amended my flower and herb bed with this product and I really liked it. It has a great consistency and it's color is dark and rich looking. It did not have the woody pieces of the EB Stone brand. I will definitely use this compost again for perennials, annuals, herbs, veggies, amending the ground and in raised beds. It's worth the money.
Bumper Crop: This product is made by Nurseryman's the same company that makes Black Forest products. It's a great amendment formula including mushroom compost, earthworm castings, lime, composted manures, and healthy bacteria. I'm using it to top dress in a raised bed that currently has overwintering onions and new spinach and chard seedlings. I am preparing the bed for my tomatoes plants that will go here in late May. I would absolutely recommend this product and will be using it again.
Miss Jolie Ann