The weather outside is sunny, but the snow is still on the mountains even though the crocuses are poking through the ground. It’s almost spring in the Pacific Northwest, and it’s time to start thinking about your plans for the garden.
Are you ready to eat out of your garden this year? Over the last few years I’ve developed a better understanding of what our family needs from our garden. Granted, we can’t eat entirely from our garden because it is very small, but it can supplement our food supply, particularly at certain times of the year.
To assess what produce you need for the spring, summer and fall, think about these factors:
What produce do you eat?
If you and your kids love lettuce, then investigate different types of greens that you can plant. If no one in the family will eat zucchini, either forget about growing it, grow it to swap produce with neighbors, or place it in baking. Experiment with new produce, but don’t grow what you don’t eat unless you plan to donate the produce.
How much produce do you eat?
If you eat two heads of lettuce per week in the winter months, then you will want eat least that in the spring, summer, and fall. Plan to plant enough so that you’ll get a head’s worth of lettuce every few days. You might prefer to harvest single leaves or an entire head at a time. Whatever you choose, stagger your planting to ensure that you have a steady supply of lettuce throughout the season. Alternatively, choose lettuce or other varieties of produce that naturally mature at different rates.
When does produce grow in your garden?
In our cool garden, produce is slow to start and slow to bolt. This means that we can grow cool season greens right until the end of July. Understand your garden’s cycle and you will understand when you may need to trade or supplement in order to fill your produce needs.
What does your garden grow?
All gardens are different. Unless you have a large property with a lot of different microclimates, you may not be able to grow all of the produce that you love. I like tomatoes, but they won’t ripen in my cool, semi-shade garden. If your garden is great at producing greens, plan to store-bought squash and tomatoes. If your garden is very hot, plan for it to grow a lot of your warm-weather crops and grow lettuce only in the early spring. Understanding your garden means that you don’t waste time and seeds, fertilizer and labor trying to grow a crop that won’t yield anything.