Simple Tips for Garden Success in the Inland Northwest

Gardening in the Inland Northwest is exciting and rewarding. Our spring weather is ideal for vegetables like lettuce, beets and broccoli to grow and thrive. During summer we have plenty of cloud free days and heat to help ripen warm weather crops like tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. By fall the slow growing vegetables like pumpkins will be ready to harvest. You can also grow a second season of cool weather veggies starting in late summer into the fall.

Here are some tips and tricks to help create success in your garden!

pick the right spot for your garden

The first thing to do is pick the right spot for your garden. Make sure the spot gets at least 6 hours of sunlight a day. Most garden plants will do best in full sun. Buy seeds you know you want to grow. You will be more apt on keeping up the garden when you use the space on vegetables and fruits you know you enjoy eating. Start your first garden small. This will help you to not feel overwhelmed and give up.

start inside or outside? it depends on the seeds!

Carefully follow the directions on the seed packets for when to plant the seeds in your gardening zone. Most of the Inland Northwest is in hardiness zones 5, 6, and 7. If they are hot weather plants like tomatoes and peppers the seed packets will tell you to start your seeds indoors. You will want seed planting trays and seed starting mix. You can also use empty egg cartons or plastic food containers for planting trays. I recommend planting double the seeds you are wanting. This ensures you have enough seeds that sprout in case some seeds end up not germinating.

Make sure to label your trays. It is easy to later forget what you planted. Once you plant the seeds in planting trays make sure to water on a regular basis. You will want the trays to be continually moist for the seeds to germinate, but not soggy. It is also important to keep the trays warm with plant heating mats, overhead lights or a sunny windowsill can work as well.

Long growing cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower should also be started inside. These plants like the temperature to be around 65 degrees F to grow. The heat loving plants like peppers and tomatoes will want to grow in around 80 degrees F, that is why it can be helpful to have a heat mat for those planting trays. If you do not start growing these plants in time you can also buy them as starters.

Many local stores in the spring sell vegetables that are already growing in trays. Just make sure to follow the directions on when to transplant them outside in your garden.

get your soil ready for gardening

You can use raised beds or plant straight in the ground in your garden.  Raised beds can be great if your ground soil is difficult to work with. With a raised bed you can add a foot or two of fresh garden soil and be ready to start planting. The borders of the raised beds will make sure the fertile soil is not washed away when watered. Raised beds are also easier to weed out. They will also take less water to maintain.

In-ground gardens can be just as good of an option. Planting in-ground you do not have to spend money and time putting in the raised beds. In-ground can also be better when you want to have a larger space for gardening.

To get the garden soil ready make sure to get all the weeds out. Weeds will continue to come back during the entire garden season, so make sure to keep up on weeding throughout the season. A garden hoe can make weeding easier and faster. Garden soil should be loose when planting. Loose soil helps create room for roots to move and grow throughout the soil.

It is important to have nutrient rich soil. If you are already composting, use the compost you created from last year. If not, you can purchase garden soil, fertilizer, or manure to mix into your garden soil.

map things out before you get growing!

Plan to grow your tallest crops like corn and sunflowers on the north side of your garden and your shorter plants on the south side of your garden. This will ensure your smaller plants will not be shaded over.

Seeds that like cooler temperatures like radishes and lettuce can be sown directly in the garden in early to mid-spring. Just make sure to follow the seed packets directions when to plant. Keeping the soil moist during germination is important for the plants to come up, but again you do not want the soil overwatered and soggy. Once the seeds start to grow it is important to follow the thinning and spacing directions on the seed packets.

Regular watering of the garden is important. Many areas of the Inland Northwest have sufficient rainfall in spring. But once summer arrives you will want to be watering more. Depending on if your garden soil is loamy or sandy will determine how often you need to water. Sandy soil will drain water faster. Just make sure to water your established plants whenever the soil dries out no more than an inch or two in depth.

You also do not want to overwater. Just check on the soil on a regular basis to know when to water.  Adding compost, mulch, and fertilizer mid-season might be necessary too.

don’t forget the flowers!

The last tip I want to share is about flowers. Do not forget to add flowers to your garden. They add beauty as well as help attract pollinators to the garden, while deterring many pests. Two great flowers I recommend growing are marigolds and calendula. Plant them throughout the garden. They both help deter garden pests.

These flowers will attract bees and other pollinators which are important for your garden to thrive. Other flowers I recommend for attracting pollinators include mint, borage, and cosmos. There are many possibilities.

Wishing you a garden full of beauty, joy and delicious food.

by David Otterstrom