Spring Planting 101: What to Plant, What Not to Plant, & Determining Your Gardening “Type”

I’ve had so many great questions from all of you lately, I decided it might make sense to address all of them in a quick video. Give this a quick watch for a fast-paced, 9-minute discussion of spring and summer plantings. It’s especially topical if you are in the Pacific Northwest or are unsure when to plant your tomato, pepper, squash, and other high-yield summer veggie starts outside (hint: Not now!). Did you know, for example, that the timing to plant something is based on soil temperature, not air temperature? You’ll likely kill those beautiful tomatoes if you put them in the ground now in the Pacific Northwest without great protection. I wouldn’t risk it. I know a lot of folks who have lost their garden by pushing some things too quickly. Let’s think through it together! Remember, there are no mistakes, just growth!

How Much Do You Need?

Also, a lot of you are gardening for the very first time and you don’t know how much food you might really want, or need. Many people are worried about overdoing it, and then they don’t plant enough because they’re unsure what they want or need from their garden. In my opinion, it’s better to err on the side of too much, rather than too little, because then you’ll always have more to share, and plenty to freeze or preserve. Let’s talk through that. (I mean, do remember you stopped by to read the perspectives from Eating Buckets, after all, not Eating-Just-A-Little-Bit-Sometimes.)

Here’s a great calculation guide by Garden Gate that allows you to calculate how much each person in your family will eat. Remember, however, that this guide is for fresh food eating, and isn’t inclusive of food you need for preserving, so you’ll need to factor that in based on your goals.

What Can You Plant Now?

Remember, you can head to Google to find your zone and plant what’s recommended for your zone, but always remember it’s a temperamental guideline based on soil temperature, not air temp. For good at-a-glance resources, I like The Farmer’s Almanac, the Better Homes and Gardens Garden Plans, the Northwest Gardening Planting Calendar, and the One Hundred Dollars A Month PNW Region Planting Guide, among others.

Also remember that I rarely start cool weather crops indoors. I save my seedling space for hot weather crops, like tomatoes and peppers. That might change when I get a greenhouse, but I kinda doubt it, because I have had such success with directly sowing my seeds.

For the Pacific Northwest, this is a (non-exhaustive) list of what you can plant right now:

  • Lettuces
  • Arugula
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Radishes
  • Kale
  • Collards
  • Kohlrabi
  • Broccoli
  • Chard
  • Cabbages
  • Cauliflower
  • Peas
  • Turnips
  • Rutabagas
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Scallions
  • Artichokes
  • Celery
  • Parsley
  • Borage
  • Mint

Build Your Summer Garden Beds

Now is also the time to study your sunlight and prepare your summer beds for cucumber, zucchini, squash, tomatoes, peppers, and more. These are often the boutique items that you crave all year. While you might be dreaming of their fresh taste right now, keep in mind that you really should also grow enough to save some of your harvest for sunny reminders of good weather during the darker months–think homemade salsa, tomato sauce, pickles, harvest soups, oh, my. You can freeze, can, or dehydrate everything you grow. Everything. So keep that in mind as you plan your summer goods.

Remember: Map out your summer garden based entirely on sun, even if it means moving existing garden beds. Your sunniest space is where you’ll plant your tomatoes, no matter where it’s located. It’s worth hiking a bit to that one sunny nook if there’s a sweet tomato harvest waiting there for you.

What are you planting right now? Let me know if you have any questions.

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