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Starting a Seattle Vegetable Garden in January

January 11, 2009

The ground is flooded, the days are short and grey, and the threat of winter freezes still looms in Seattle. Still, I’m happy to say that my 2009 vegetable garden is already starting to take form!

Organic Cabbage Grown at Home

Organic Cabbage Grown at Home

This year I’ve made a commitment to:

  1. Grow as many edibles as possible to feed us
  2. Grow as many edibles as possible from seed
  3. Grow as many edibles as I can year-round

Those are some big changes. I’ve always grown edibles. As a kid, I was either weeding, picking or preserving some sort of edible from our farm garden. As an adult and professional horticulturist, I continue to grow food and preserve it. But, I’ve found myself behind the curve in past years in getting the edible planning and orders made in time to grow my garden from seed. I’ve also been less-than-perfect at keeping my winter garden going. And, here in Seattle, we really can keep quite a bit of food growing throughout the year, especially if we have cold frames, hoop houses and greenhouses to fill.

Freshly Picked Rainbow Chard and Delicata Squash

Freshly Picked Rainbow Chard and Delicata Squash

This year, despite losing my easily-destroyed greenhouse to our harsh winter weather (okay, let’s be honest, it might have fared better if I had gotten out sooner to remove the snow, but I gave into my fever and cough and didn’t go outside in 16F weather) I’m still ahead of the game! My seed order is placed and should be shipped shortly. It will be batched out to me so that I’m able to plant and amend at the appropriate times. The seeds, which won’t freeze in shipping, should be on the way in the next couple of weeks. Potatoes and beneficial nematodes (more on those will be posted in future articles) will follow later in spring when the risk of freezing in shipping is past and soil has begun to warm. As well, the garlic I planted last fall, continues to do just fine, despite the snow, so I have that to look forward to as well. My raspberry canes need pruning, but that’s a chore for late February/early March. My blueberries look fantastic with lovely red winter stems, and my strawberries have hunkered down to tight little bundles after the snow. Even some of my fava bean covercrop has bounced back along side lettuce and chard, so my 2008-2009 winter garden isn’t a complete loss.

So, what’s the plan for the 2009 vegetable garden? Well, the mapping is still underway for location and rotation, but here’s what’s on tap to plant (unless otherwise indicated these are all organic seed):

  • Cilantro
  • Large Leaf Basil
  • Saucy Paste Tomato
  • Gold Nugget Cherry Tomato
  • Long Keeper Tomato (not organic)
  • Siberia Tomato
  • Stupice Tomato
  • Oregon Spring Tomato
  • Early Jalapeno (not organic)
  • Pink Beauty Radish
  • French Breakfast Radish
  • Bright Lights Chard
  • Early Butternut Squash
  • Early Summer Yellow Crookneck Squash
  • Bloomsdale Longstanding Spinach
  • Early Bountiful Organic Heirloom Flat Beans
  • Red Deer Tongue Lettuce
  • Orgeon Sugar Pod Peas
  • Blushed Butter Lettuce
  • Buttercrunch Lettuce
  • Red Winter Kale
  • Lacinato Kale
  • Birdhouse Gourd
  • Tendergreen Cucumber
  • Muncher Cucumber
  • Snowball Cauliflower
  • Red Express Cabbage
  • Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans
  • Goldrush Bush Beans
  • Yukon Gold potatoes
  • Rose Finn Apple Fingerling potatoes
  • French Fingerling potatoes
  • Yellow Finn potatoes
Properly Divided & Planted Cauliflower

Properly Divided & Planted Cauliflower

So, why did I put in my order in January? Well, first I want to be sure I can get the seed that I really want. I buy from a relatively local, organic supplier in Washington — Irish Eyes. And, they can sell out early in the season. Many of the local farmers buy from Irish Eyes — that’s a selling point as well as a potential to lose out on the items they buy up early. Another reason I buy early is that many of these crops can be set out in the garden by mid-to-late February in Seattle. Kale, chard, radish, snowpeas, cabbage, cauliflower and others are cool season crops. If I get my seed by early February and have seedlings started indoors right away, I’ll be ready to put them out in the hoop house (or dare I hope — my new greenhouse) before the end of winter. As well, I can get my late spring and summer plants started up indoors early as well.

So, wish me luck! In the past I’ve found that working from starts is all I can seem to handle with my busy garden coaching business taking up so much of my gardening time and energy. In mid-winter it is easy to imagine loads of time and enthusiasm to garden intensely come spring and summer, but when the weeds pop up, work wears out my hands, and my work days extend from early morning sunrise to late evening sunset, reality can become something very different from today’s mid-winter dreams.

14 Comments

  1. […] garden in Seattle happens to be on a snowy day in winter. Well, actually, I should back up. I started planning weeks ago, but today the actual planting began today. As I watched snow flurries floating and […]

  2. Sarah P. says:

    I’m about to move to Sedro-Woolley from NC (in March) and really appreciate this post. I’m a novice vegetable gardener at best, but after our move I’ll not be working outside our home, so hope to have more time to invest. Can you recommend any literature or blog to help me succeed this year?
    Many thanks.

  3. rhaglund says:

    Sarah, check out the Garden Help Store here: http://www.gardenhelp.org/garden-shopping/ on the front page you’ll find two indispensable guides: The Tilth Maritime Gardening Guide and Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades. Gardening in the Pacific Northwest is really different that the South East (take it from a farm girl from Virginia — it’s different). You’re in a fantastic gardening area. Meet your neighbors. Check out Skagit River Ranch for fantastic friends and food: http://www.skagitriverranch.com. Keep following this blog and search under the edibles section for more on food. And check the links off this site for some other fantastic edibles information. Welcome to our area!

  4. dan says:

    What are the dimensions of your growing set up? Is there any chance I can come take a look at your operation?

    -dan
    206-790-2420

  5. rhaglund says:

    Dan, Sorry but my garden isn’t open to the public. And, honestly, I’m always rearranging to fit in what I’m growing at the moment. No formal systems here. If you have specific needs in your own space, I suggest signing up for a garden coaching session here. Professionally I’m happy to help you solve your individual gardening challenges. Cheers!

  6. […] readers know that I set a goal earlier this year (actually late last year)  to grow more edibles this year from seed than I have in past. And, so […]

  7. […] year I made a commitment to myself to grow more food and to grow more food from seed. I ordered seed way back in January and started seed indoors in February. I ended up with so many food crop starts that many went to […]

  8. Gardeners Heaven says:

    gardening is so pleasant that I cant wait till Spring to start to be outdoors, but to get my plants really organic I plant seeds indoor first too

  9. […] hoop houses threaten to fly away, I can get lost for hours reading through seed catalogs, reviewing past year’s plans, successes and failures, and fine-tuning my future edible garden programs. And, that’s […]

  10. […] The Long Keeper tomato is an indeterminate (that in my experience performed in pots more like a determinate). It is sold as 82 days to ripening (more on that later). Although the catalogs warn that you may give up a bit in taste, your return on this crop lies in it’s ability to store for a long time — some suggest even all the way through winter.  And, frankly, in mid-winter any store-bought tomato is going to be lacking in taste, spendy and likely a very long-distance traveler from a greenhouse. So, hoping to prove the promises of keeping this tomato into winter, I added it to my seed order last January. […]

  11. […] year I made a commitment to myself to grow more food and to grow more food from seed. I ordered seed way back in January and started seed indoors in February. I ended up with so many food crop starts that many went to […]

  12. […] readers know that I set a goal earlier this year (actually late last year)  to grow more edibles this year from seed than I have in past. And, so […]

  13. […] hoop houses threaten to fly away, I can get lost for hours reading through seed catalogs, reviewing past year’s plans, successes and failures, and fine-tuning my future edible garden programs. And, that’s […]

  14. […] garden in Seattle happens to be on a snowy day in winter. Well, actually, I should back up. I started planning weeks ago, but today the actual planting began today. As I watched snow flurries floating and […]

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