I have wanted to share this post every spring since I started our vegetable garden. But every year I hold back because I know the photos aren’t the prettiest. I finally got over that fear and decided it was time. Gardening is like a meditation for me and such a big part of what I enjoy doing on the weekends. I just had to share with you. Plus, I get asked a lot about our garden when I share it on Instagram Stories, so it was definitely time to share how I plan my PNW vegetable garden, what I planted, and resources for Pacific Northwest gardeners.
A Sneak Peek Into How I Plan My PNW Vegetable Garden!
About our garden
3 years ago, Sean came home from a climbing trip and found that I had dug up half of the front yard to convert into a veggie garden. I chose that location because it gets the best light in the mornings and a bit of it in the afternoons because it’s east facing. I don’t like that it’s really close to the sidewalk and a busy-ish traffic intersection, but it’s the only place we have available. If you plant near a street or sidewalk, make sure to really wash our produce well when we eat it and it’s been fine.
Sean constructed our planter beds with cedar boards that are 8 ft long by 6″ tall. If you make your own, please do not use any treated wood! You would be running the risk of whatever chemicals used leaching into your food. Gross. We also have chicken wire surrounding our garden because of squirrels… and wiener dogs! They used to stand on the garden bed in order to be taller when barking at passersby.
In total, my PNW vegetable garden measures 16′ x 4′. It’s not huge, but it gets the job done! This year I’m also going to try my hand at more container gardening for bell peppers, jalapeños, potatoes, and a few other things.
Once the beds were constructed and I removed large rocks from it, I supplemented the existing dirt with compost enriched soil and fertilizer. I am definitely not an expert, so I suggest researching your specific gardening zone to know more about how to balance the ph of your soil. Because I’m based in Seattle, these 3 books have been hugely helpful when planning our vegetable garden:
- Vegetable Gardening in the Pacific Northwest by Lorene Edwards Forkner
- Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades by Steve Solomon and Marina McShane
- The Maritime Northwest Garden Guide from Seattle Tilth
Preparation and planning
I am definitely a planner; it’s part my personality. Because of this, I started using a random notebook to keep track of what I planted, where I bought it, and any other pertinent info.
I also use this notebook to sketch where I want to plant each veggie. In the PNW, we can’t plant everything all at once because it isn’t warm enough in the spring. Because of this, I do progressive gardening and plant as the seasons change. That’s why there are always open spots in my garden. But I plan for those in my drawing.
The drawing also helps me to allot space to plants and rotate them. Rotating the crops means that one plant can’t deplete all of the nutrients from the same soil. Also, some plants give off nutrients, so I circulate them. In the winter, I plant clover because that adds good nutrients back into the soil!
What to plant
The 3 books I mentioned are really helpful when it comes to deciding what to plant and when. They are set up differently, but essentially you get a plan for each month. So that means what to start from seeds, what to harvest, what to plant as starts, etc. Plus there are always helpful tips about composting, fertilizing, and even a breakdown of the best varieties of each plant to get!
I also decide what to plant based on what’s done well for us… and what we eat. For example, this year I am not planting kale because it takes up too much space and we don’t eat it enough. Instead, I dedicated the space to spinach because Sean loves that.
Typically, I don’t start plants from seedlings because we simply don’t have the room to dedicate right now. I really want to, though! Maybe next year. Instead, I purchase starts at my local nursery (Sky Nursery and Swansons Nursery are my faves, but the latter is more expensive). This means that I get tiny plants that have already acclimated to the soil and climate. They typically take to being planted well and flourish.
This year, I am experimenting with starting a few plants from seeds. I started our spinach with starts, but added spinach seeds so that we’ll have a fresh crop in a few months. I also started heirloom green beans and sugar snap peas from seeds.
In the PNW, we’re able to grow some plants year round, so my herb garden is always plentiful. Same for onions, some lettuces, Swiss chard, and my strawberry plants. In fact, the strawberries have gotten better and better each year!
Deciding whether to plant organic or not
When I set out to start my veggie garden, I didn’t plan for it to be organic. I’m of the school of thought that it is mostly organic if I grow it myself. After all, I’m not using pesticides! What has been important to me though is using heirloom seeds whenever possible. I find that they have better flavor, more nutrients, and more interesting varieties. Plus, you’ll know 100% that your seeds are non-GMO. That is one thing I don’t compromise on when purchasing edibles for our garden.
These are some of my favorite non-GMO seed brands (organic, heirloom, and regular):
- Botanical Interests — I’m also a sucker for their watercolor illustrated packaging.
- Renee’s Garden
- Seed Savers
This year, I’m planting:
- lettuce mixes + argula
- sugar snap peas
- mixed heirloom garden beans
- cucumber (trying it on a trellis this year!)
- herbs including dill, chives, cilantro, basil, sage, oregano, thyme, and sweet mint.
- blueberries (we’re adding a new garden bed for 3 blueberry bushes)
- bell peppers
I hope you liked this glimpse into how I plan my PNW vegetable garden, plus some resources that work well for me! I’m thinking of sharing more posts about this topic, maybe some of my favorite gardening tools and updates as the plants grow? What do you think?