How does my garden grow?
May 30, 2014 1:37 PM   Subscribe

Getting a very belated start on planting my garden. Raised beds, zone 8, vegetables. What seeds can I plant this late, and what kinds of starts should I get?

Novice gardener here. I've only planted a vegetable garden once before, so I'm not very familiar with timing and what's good in my area. I live in the hills between Portland, OR and the Coast Range, the planting zone zipcode finder says 8A but I might be more like 8B at my elevation.

Assume we like all kinds of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. We will have 2 raised garden beds, 4' x 8', plus another raised bed for herbs, 5' x 5'. What vegetable starts should we get, and what should we grow from seeds?
posted by rabbitrabbit to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Can you start from seedlings? I'm semi-novice and I find starting from seed very difficult.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:43 PM on May 30, 2014

Response by poster: I can; my question is: what SHOULD I start from seedlings, aka vegetable starts, and what CAN I start from seed at this late date? Because seeds are cheaper, I would like to know what is possible to grow from seed, and what is not worth the trouble of starting from seeds and should just be grown from starts.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:48 PM on May 30, 2014

I'm from the other zone 8 and we never planted seeds outside until Good Friday anyway. Easter was late so I don't think you're that late. Go for it.

Onions from sets and potatoes from slips but everything else from seeds.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 2:38 PM on May 30, 2014

The first thing that came up on Google is this handy Zone 8 Planting calendar.
You're actually just in time to put out seedlings of a number of different plants, including tomatoes, melons, winter squash, and beans.
Regarding tomatoes - unless you can commit to a 'low tunnel' of poly at the end of the season, you'll do best with some kind of very early variety (Early Girl, for example), or almost any kind of cherry tomato.
Now, if you peruse that calendar some more, you'll see that you're actually just in time to start planning (getting dirt/beds ready, buying seeds) a winter garden - which is actually the best kind in this climate. All kinds of root veggies go into the ground in July/Aug/Sept around here, and you can harvest later in the winter and early spring. These are the veggies best suited for our climate, IMO. No worrying about "will it be hot enough" etc.
Watch for plant sales by garden clubs, co-ops and the like. Check out your local County Extension Agent (if you have time during the week, they usually have office hours and are very helpful!).
The Seattle Tilth Maritime Northwest Garden Guide is one of the most useful, concise guides to this region - and the organization rocks! There's undoubtedly a similar org in your area.
Have fun and welcome to growing food, not lawns!
posted by dbmcd at 2:44 PM on May 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

First off, get a copy of the Maritime Northwest Garden Guide. It has month by month recommendation about what to plant from starts, seeds, what to start indoors, etc., plus a lot of general gardening information.

I'd suggest from seeds now you could do carrots, beets, radishes, bush beans, amaranth, heat tolerant lettuce and other heat tolerant greens, short season (quickly maturing) cucumbers, summer squash (e.g. zucchini).

From starts: short season tomatoes, eggplant, or peppers, summer blooming flowers, onions, basil. Heat loving plants might still need some protection for a few more weeks.

Territorial Seed company (which is in Oregon and more or less the same zone as you) has a growing guide on their site. It's a pain to read and isn't very good at telling you what is good from seeds and what from transplants, but it has a lot of info and ideas.

I'm planting green beans, corn salad, cucumbers, and basil this weekend. The beans are seeds and the rest are starts.
posted by sevenless at 2:44 PM on May 30, 2014

Best answer: I've had good luck using Portland Nursery's planting calendar. It tells you when to plant what and what form (seeds or starts) as well as indoors or outdoors. I'm in 8A if that helps. Good luck!
posted by Beti at 5:31 PM on May 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Plant things that don't need to go to seed. Lettuce and carrots both can be eaten immature. Green beans have to flower and then turn into beans. Green beans will take much longer and can't be salvaged if they take too long.

If you want the things that go to seed to produce such as green beans buy them as seedlings.

We had a frost two nights ago, so I don't think you are starting late.
posted by Jane the Brown at 5:54 AM on May 31, 2014

Best answer: I'm in Portland.

I'll literally be planting bush and pole beans from seed tomorrow with no fear. For climbers, I'd suggest Fasold if you can find a packet, but Fortex does well, and is a 70ish day bean. I quite like Nickel as a bush bean, and it's 50-daysish. I will use an inoculant for both.

Squashes, melons and cucumbers you also want to plant from seed. Summer squash can be producing in about a month and a half, if you choose the right varieties. You can buy starts, but they're very finicky about being transplanted. Much safer to plant the seed and not worry about disturbing their roots.

For tomatoes, I'd plant starts of Early Cascade, Oregon Spring, Oroma, and something like a Sungold cherry ASAP. Early Cascade is ostensibly about a 60-day tomato, with the rest in the 70's. You'll have tomatoes by mid August if you hop to it. Right now it's just a question of what you'll still be able to find as starts. Typically I'd aim to get tomato plants in around the first of May and keep 'em in water cloches, as protection against late spring cold nights.

Peppers I'd also plant from starts, if you're considering them. And on looking back, sevenless' lists checks with my experience. I'd plant herb and lettuce starts though. Tiny seeds are a pain, tend to wash around when watered, and ugh... I fancy cut-and-come-again lettuces and tender greens rather than heads of butter lettuce anyway. (for fall, though, try planting mâche from seed and let it take over a good patch.)
posted by mumkin at 12:30 AM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: All right, everything has been planted!

I used starts for tomatoes (six varieties including Oregon Spring, Early Girl, and Early Cascade), peppers (cayenne, habanero, banana), basil, sage, oregano, thyme, dill, mint, leeks, and cilantro. I planted seeds for lettuces (couldn't find starts), kale, radishes, spinach, chard, bush beans, carrots, beets, pumpkins, squash, onion, broccoli, and cauliflower... and I know I'm forgetting at least one other thing. I also planted a couple sprouting garlic cloves, some sunflowers and morning glories from seed since I had them lying around. I also had some corn but I'm not even going to try, we just don't get enough sun because we're in the forest (I'm not even sure we're going to have enough sun for the tomatoes and peppers).

That Portland Nursery planting calendar is great, very clear.

Thanks everybody!
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:37 AM on June 2, 2014

Wow. If you planted all of that, I'm a bit concerned that you planted too densely—But maybe not, and to some extent every year's garden is an experiment. Whatever your outcomes this year, it'll inform your plans for the next one. Good luck!

(also: fish emulsion)
posted by mumkin at 8:00 PM on June 2, 2014

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