It is a beautiful Spring evening in Portland. Typical Spring weather for us: upper 50's, black clouds, then sunbreaks, then rain, then sunny. All that was missing today was a little hail. Ha-Ha! If you live in Portland you know what I speak of. Right now it's a beautiful blue sky with fluffy white "cotton ball" clouds starting to be streaked with shades of pink. I have the window cracked open and there are birds splashing in the birdbath right outside my home office window. Today I saw butterflies in my yard for the first time this season. My plum trees seemed to have overnight dropped their flower blossoms and leafed out completely green. I mowed my lawn 2 weeks ago and it already needs it again. Seeds are germinating, birds are singing, weeds are growing leaps and bounds. Spring is bliss, all of it.
This month Portland has been blessed with 2 weekends of sunny days and record high temps in the 70's. This type of early warm weather just explodes our "spring-fever-gardening-bug." (And, I'm not talking about a pest!) Enthusiasm, energy, and new found hopefullness of the Spring is a wonderful thing, but if we are to be succesful in the garden we must also temper it with some reality. Sadly folks, April is too early for basil, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and peppers. (But, don't despair there are LOTS of other crops you CAN plant now). A lesson I learned early on is that every vegetable and herb has it's appropriate timing for planting. I learned this lesson by making lots of mistakes. Not everything goes in the ground at the same time. Each plant has it's own requirements for day length, soil temperature, and day & night air temperatures. There are cool season crops and hot season crops. In Portland we have a long growing season, but have short summers without a prolonged period of warm day & night temps necessary for a lot of heat loving crops to succeed. So, here are my tips for beginners and pro's on timing your veggie garden planting:
1. Plan! Plan! Plan! Educate yourself about what you want to grow and what grows well in your area and climate. Ask questions, talk to other gardeners.
2. Know your average last frost date! In Portland, our average last frost date is April 15th. Keep in mind this is an "average" not a "guarantee." Last year we had frost in Mid May and temps in the 40s conistently through the entire month of May. Watch the weather daily.
3. Plan for succession plantings of your crops rather than all at once. This way you will have an extended harvest and can plant warm season crops in the place you've harvested cool season crops.
4. Keep a gardening journal. This will help you document what works and what doesn't work. Reviewing my gardening journal from the previous year is an essential part of my current year planning.
The two resources that helped me the most when I was started out, and that I continue to use are (keep in mind these are resources specific to where I live):
The Maritime Northwest Gardening Guide produced by Seattle Tilth Fifth Printing 2005
Territorial Seed Company Catalog-get your free copy online at www.territorialseed.com
Also check out the Portland Nursery website for a free veggie planting calendar & veggie care-sheets: http://portlandnursery.com/plants/vegetables.shtml
And here's a quick summary of my garden planting. You'll notice many crops I plant every 2 weeks so that I have a succession of harvests throughout the season:
Late February: direct seed peas, arugula, radishes, scallions. Potato tubers, onion bunches, garlic cloves, raspberry canes & strawberry crowns. Plant seedlings-annual flowers (violets & pansies)
Mid March: direct seed spinach, chard, mustard greens, turnips, radishes, arugula, scallions, parsley.
Early April: direct seed mache, lettuce, carrots, radishes.
Mid April: direct seed beets, carrots, turnips, lettuce, arugula, radish, scallions, spinach, chard, mustard greens. Plant seedlings-kolarabi, florence fennel, annual flowers (alyssum, marigolds, petunias, snapdragons, calendula, lobelia)
Late April: direct seed beets, carrots, turnips, lettuce, radishes, arugula, spinach, chard, sunflowers, scarlett runner beans. Plant seedlings: artichokes, dill, chives, cilantro, tarragon, annual flowers (cosmos)
Mid May: direct seed pole & bush beans, beets, carrots, radishes, lettuce, basil & summer savory.
Late May: direct seed corn, bush beans, beets, carrots, radishes, lettuce. Plant seedlings: tomatoes, zucchini & summer squash, winter squash, pumpkins, basil, annual flowers (zinnia & cosmos)
Early June: Plant seedlings: cucumber, eggplant, peppers, gourds, basil, annual flowers
Happy Planting & Happy Spring!
Miss Jolie Ann