We get so many questions from gardeners about the best times for planting different vegetable seeds. The truth is that there is no perfect answer, as the best planting times depend on your soil temperature, microclimate, whether or not you’re using plastic cover or mulch, and when you hope to harvest your produce (to name a few variables). For example, while we advise seeding tomatoes in mid-march or early april, you can plant much earlier if you have a heated greenhouse into which they’ll be transplanted. Also, it’s often best to plant single harvest crops like radishes, head lettuce or carrots several times per growing season, or in many ‘successions.’ Succession planting requires a bit or extra planning, but can result in a prolonged harvest period for you favorite crops. For example we plant beets every three weeks from March through July and arugula every week from March through mid-Sept. During our first several years of growing in the Puget Sound, we consulted the Maritime Northwest Garden Guide for wisdom on the best first and last planting dates for our region. Now, after many years of trial and error, we’ve put together our own Pacific NW Planting Calendar with a more comprehensive crop list and dates that are more specific to the Puget sound. This simple tool will help you identify the window for starting vegetable seeds in your own Northwest garden. Months with an asterisk (*) indicate that it’s best to start seeds indoors during this time for later transplanting outdoors. Click here to download your planting calendar!
Variety Trials 101
Every year, we pick a handful of crops that we want to test in variety trials. What’s a variety trial? Thanks for asking! A variety trial is like a pageant for vegetable varieties, but instead of evaluating for congeniality or swimwear we test for color, vigor, flavor, and other things a gardener or farmer might care about. The variety trial winners are the crops we grow for seed the following season. Only the best for you! This year, we’re trialing six types of dill, six yellow bush beans, eight red leaf lettuces, six different cilantros, five kinds of popcorns, five serrated arugulas, and four varieties of purple sprouting broccolis. It might be an overly ambitious list, but our nerdy biology brains can’t get enough of this stuff! We plan on publishing the results on this blog so we all may learn how varieties stack up to one another and our customers will understand how we choose our seed crops.
We just returned from a a three-week vacation in Laos, where we rested our weary brains and celebrated our honeymoon. The best part of the trip was exploring the vast, smelly, colorful markets full of fresh vegetables, live catfish, odd forest products, and… squirrels? We did our best to taste every strange food we encountered and fell in love with the traditional Lao soup served for breakfast on the street corners. A highlight was trekking through miles and miles of farmland where we observed more rice patties than previously imaginable, as well as diverse vegetable fields full of asian greens, eggplants, pumpkins and herbs. Pigs, chickens and water buffalo roamed freely, unrestrained by fences, roads or any kind of property boundary. We took heart in seeing so many fields dedicated to growing seed, often just the remnant, unharvested food crops left behind to dry down. In a country with little to no commercial seed trade, (we saw a few Chinese seed packets at the grocery stores, but that’s all), seed saving still remains a vital and intrinsic part of the farming culture.
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