Gardening in Maritime Climate
Gardening climates can change geographically even within an ascribed zone. For example, where I live,
on Willapa Bay in Southwestern Washington, it is a maritime zone. Which is somewhat different from the more inland climates,
even in Western Washington. Although most of Western Washington has bodies of water, ie, Puget Sound, my particular
area has different weather, slightly cooler and breezier winds, than say even 30 miles inland. I learned of this
and am trying to adjust my growing calender and taskings accordingly.
Garden Calender, Pacific NW Maritime Climate - Western WA
- Lettuce, spinach, and mustard can all be started indoors. Remember that mustard
is photoperiodic, so don't set the timer on your lights for too long of a "daylength"!
- If you are growing asparagus from seed, start it now. The seeds can take
up to three weeks to germinate even if kept warm.
- Sow some broccoli and cauliflower indoors about mid-month. If you use 2"
pots, and keep them growing on the cool side, they'll be ready to go out under a cloche about April 1.
- Late in February is a good time to start artichokes. They can be overwintered
with care, but Green Globe and Imperial Star are both easy to grow like annuals as well!
- Traditionally peas are sown on George Washington's birthday (2/22). However,
in the Maritime Northwest it's important to pay attention to the winter weather. Some years my soil isn't dry enough for any
planting until mid-April! Other years, particularly during El Niņo events, peas can be planted as early as January.
By the first week of March, the thread
of severe cold blasts is usually over. Cold-weather crops will grow, but rain is a constant and must be compensated for.
- Transplant out, under a cloche, those salad greens you started in January.
- Lettuce, spinach, and mustard seeds can all be sown into a cloche, and
can be counted on to germinate.
- Beets will come up, but may bolt later in summer if March ends up being
cold. Early Wonder Tall Top is a good variety for these early sowings.
- Scallions can be sown now. Note that they will probably bulb in July, but
you will get a harvest.
- Brassicas can be a bit dicier. Kohlrabi will usually come up if sown in
a cloche, but broccoli and cauliflower normally will have to wait until April.
- Carrots can be started this early. However, the soil is often too wet to
be worked as well as carrots usually require. Shorter types, such as Kinko's 4" and Thumbelina, are better bets because they
don't have the same requirement for deep loose soil.
- Ladies and Gentlemen, start your tomatoes!
- Be a traditionalist, and plant your potatoes on St. Patty's day! Actually
potatoes can be planted anytime from this point onward; but sowing them now (and then again in early June) will give you two
harvests, if you use an early variety such as my favorite potato, Yukon Gold.
- When starting peppers, I aim for the 21st of March. If I sow them in 4"
pots, they are ready to go outside in mid-May.
April showers bring May...
well, showers. But at least it's starting to warm up!
- Sow more salad veggies, such as lettuce, spinach, and radishes. They don't
really need a cloche at this point, but will probably grow better in one if it's rainy (and when isn't it rainy around here
- Start your eggplant inside right around April 1st.
- If you started broccoli or cauliflower indoors in February, move it to
- You can still start tomatoes and peppers, but you'd better hurry!
- If you haven't already done so, turn under the green manures in the beds
where you'll want to grow your summer crops (corn, squash, cucumbers). Soils are still pretty cool, so even nitrogen-rich
plants need several weeks to break down.
- Fertilize your overwintered alliums and brassicas again, using a complete fertilizer. Obviously don't bother with the ones that either are bolting or will be soon (such
as leeks, kale, or broccoli).
- Try eating kale blossoms! They are really tasty if the buds haven't opened
- Beets and chard can be sown directly in the ground now. They actually will
germinate if sown in March, but if the weather is too cold they will bolt (this is because they are biennial, and can be fooled
into thinking they have overwintered).
- Sow kohlrabi, broccoli, and cauliflower directly in the ground. Remember
that Brassicas tend to be fairly heavy feeders, so work some fertilizer into the bed first. If your garden has problems with
the cabbage maggot, cover the bed with a cloche made with a floating row cover like Agro-fabric P10.
- Leeks can be directly sown in the garden now. I like to sow Durabel, a
winter leek, the second week of April. This allows them to size up by autumn.
- Peas can still be sown. However, since they will mature in hot weather,
plant enation-resistant varieties (enation is spread by aphids which become more active once summer hits).
- Tomato plants can be set outside during the day on nice days. They will
do much better if given the protection of a cold frame, unless it is unusually warm. Bring them in at night.
- Enjoy the abundant harvests of sprouting broccoli!
- Start basil inside around the 15th of the month. If you grow it in 4" pots,
it'll be ready to go outside right about when the nights are warm enough.
- Upland cress can now be sown in the garden without fear of it bolting.
- Now is a good time to plant bulb onions. Depending on the variety, these
will be harvested in August or September. Remember that onions like warmth early in their lives, so using a cloche or row
cover fabric will benefit them.
- Hard-grown tomatoes can be planted outside under a cloche or hoophouse late in this period. Do NOT try this with store-purchased plants, or plants that have
been grown in warm conditions (even if you've hardened them off).
May can be a wonderful month. Some people
think May is nicer than June, but my records show them to be very similar. I think it's probably more a matter of differing
- Repeat after me: It's the first of a new month, and it's time to plant
more salad stuff. Some people will tell you to plant lettuce every three weeks (or sometimes every other week!), but once
a month is easy to remember, and it will keep you supplied with salad.
- In early May I begin to keep a closer eye on the weather. The danger of
frost is basically over, but soil temperature can vary quite a bit. If we are blessed with a sunny week in May, I like to
gamble with early sowings of corn and beans. Don't plant your entire crop, and don't be too disappointed if they fail! If
they germinate, though, they probably will make it.
- In most years the soil will have dried out somewhat by now. If that's the
case, put in your main carrot planting. Carrots do much better in raised beds, and love deeply-worked soil. But you don't
really need to use a tiller; I've gotten good results just working the bed over with a spading fork.
- Because soil temperature can vary so much this time of year, I usually
plan on starting my curcurbits indoors. Sow squash, pumpkins, cucumbers and melons directly into large pots around the 15th
of the month. Squash and pumpkins are very vigorous, so be prepared to move them to the garden within two weeks. All curcurbits
are touchy about transplanting, so you might want to use peat pots (I've had reasonable success with plastic pots, as long
as I am very careful when I transplant them).
- Even store-bought tomato plants can be put into the garden now. It is still
a good idea to use a cloche.
- Plan on sowing your dry beans if a stretch of sunny days is forecast. They
will need time to mature and dry down. Even with an early sowing, you may end up putting a cloche over them in September.
- Take inventory of the vegetable seeds
you'll use for your winter garden. A lot of them are sown around the first of June, and it'll take at least a week to receive
any you mail order.
so often very disappointing up here. We're impatient for summer to get going! But June only occasionally obliges.
- Same as before - start more salad greens.
- June 1st is my target date for sowing Brussels sprouts and cabbage. If
direct-sown, they will germinate quickly and grow fast. However, if June is wet the slugs can quickly decimate these brassicas,
so I usually start them indoors now.
- Any late-season corn should go in now, in order to have time to mature.
Even if it's cloudy, June's long days mean the soil won't be too cool. Sugar-enhanced varieties may still need a little help,
though, so consider using clear plastic over the bed if the sun isn't cooperating.
- Fall broccoli and cauliflower should be sown during this first half of
June. I like to grow them under a tent of a light-weight row cover such as Agryl P-10. This protects them from both the cabbage
maggot and the cabbage worm.
- Cucumbers grow rapidly, and will produce even if they are started at the
end of this month! It's a good thing, too. Cukes need warm soil to germinate, and that's not always the situation earlier
in the month. Using a cloche, or covering the bed with clear plastic, will usually generate the necessary extra heat.
- Summer squash can be direct-sown anytime now. I guess you don't really
need me to tell you that.
- Move your peppers and eggplant out into the garden now. They will do a
lot better if you provide a cloche. These two cousins grow much better with warm daytime temperatures, and the inside of a
cloche will easily add 10 degrees on a cloudy day.
- In all likelihood, the basil you started earlier will start running to
seed soon. Early June is a great time to start more. With the warmer temperatures, the basil won't go to flower nearly as
- Early to mid June is a good target for starting a late bed of potatoes.
Yukon Gold, put in now, will give you a nice harvest in fall.
- Take a deep breath. Look around. The second half of June is time to get
caught up in your garden. If you've been too busy, or the weather has just not cooperated, you can still get those early June
chores done and still be successful. It might also be worthwhile to consider starting some of the early July winter root crops
a few weeks early. June's weather is often more cooperative than July's when it comes to keeping slow-germinating seeds moist.
The weatherman will tell you that July
12th is the date (on average) that summer arrives in the Maritime Pacific Northwest. It's also when the bulk of your winter
garden has to be started as well! You might feel a bit funny getting sunburned while sowing winter carrots, but you'll get
used to it.
- Sow salad greens one more time. Be sure to keep some seeds for next month,
when the winter greens have to go in.
- Winter beets, such as Lutz or Winterkeeper, need to be sown before the
15th to be successful. Try to get it done around the 1st if you can.
- Parsnips also need to be sown before the 15th. Actually they can be started
as early as April, but then you'll get roots the size of canned hams. I start them on the 1st alongside the beets.
- With carrots you can be more flexible. Between the 10th and 15th is ideal
for most winter-cropping varieties, but sowings as late as the 31st will still give you useable (but smaller) roots.
- Since I'm usually filling up the winter beds about now, this is when I
start my winter rows of scallions. Earlier sowings will work as well.
- A word about pole beans: Last year (1997) I procrastinated and didn't
get them in the ground until July 7th. With the warm soil they shot up and grew amazingly fast, so I got a ton of beans in
September. It's better to get them started in June of course, but it's still not too late!
- I've had the most success with kohlrabi if I sow it around the 15th, although
Territorial recommends a date between July 20th and August 10th. Try two different sowing dates, to get a handle on what works
best in your garden. The timing will be affected by your exact location, soil fertility, and the relative abundance of cabbage
- In my garden I need to get the overwintering cauliflower and (sprouting)
broccoli started by the 15th if I want a decent harvest the following spring.
- Salad kales, started around the 15th, will be nice and large by wintertime.
- July 15th is usually a safe starting date for most of the daylength-sensitive
mustards. If sown now, they are unlikely to bolt.
- Your leeks are probably about ready
to shift to their final location. Try to pick a rainy day if you can, but how likely is that in July?
Summer may start on July 12th, but sometimes
it ends well before August 31st! The days are starting to get noticably shorter, and sometimes we can get surprised by a very
cold night. Frost, however, is still at least a month away.
- Winter lettuce will size up best if sown during the first half of this
month (later sowings will still work, but the plants will be somewhat smaller going into winter).
- The various chicories (endive, escarole, radicchio, etc.) need a good
amount of time to mature, especially if they are the heading types. Right now I'd recommend a sowing date of August 1st for
all of these. Be aware that I've only tried winter radicchio a handful of times, so I don't have the best sowing date nailed
- Spinach can be started now. It matures faster than most of these other
greens, and can be successfully sown as late as the 31st.
- I like to start corn salad (mache, or lamb's lettuce) right about the
15th of August.
- Arugula, if put in between mid-August and early September, will size up
without bolting. Okay, without bolting immediately, at least.
- If you haven't sown any Upland cress yet, do it now! There's still time
for it to size up.
- With overwintered onions you'll have to play around a bit to find the
best starting date. I try to start mine about the 15th. If you haven't grown them before, consider making three sowings (on
the 1st, 15th, and 30th) and go from there.
The days are quickly getting shorter,
but there's still time to plant!
- This is a perfect time to sow arugula, claytonia, minutina, or some of
the fast-growing Asian greens. Try a couple different sowing dates to see what works best for your garden.
- Walla Walla onions, which dry down later than most other overwintered
onions, can be started as late as mid-September - I've gotten good bulbs in July after sowing Walla Wallas that late.
- You can still get away with sowing lettuce and spinach - but the plants
will be much smaller going into winter. Space them accordingly.
- Plant some radishes. You should probably still protect them from the
maggot fly using a row cover.
- Leave your winter squash and pumpkins on the plant for as long as you
can. Remember that a fully ripe squash will have a hard stem. If frost or disease severely damages the leaves, though, harvest
- As you clean up after your summer crops, prepare the beds for next year.
Lime the beds with dolomite and add organic matter, such as leaves or compost. It's not too early to sow a cover crop either.
- Garlic can be planted anytime that the ground isn't hard, but I prefer
putting it in toward the end of September. That way it's sure to get established, and it'll even show some top growth this
Planting time is mostly over, but that
doesn't mean it's time to take a break! Cover crops help build your soil up for next year, and protect it from all the rain
that'll be falling over the next six months...
- Once again - remember to prep your beds as they become available.
- Crimson clover is a nice cover crop, but it needs some time to get established.
Try to sow it by the 15th at the latest. Sowings after that point will still grow, but probably won't protect the ground much
over the winter.
- Another popular cover crop, a mix of winter rye and hairy vetch, can
be sown throughout this month and into November.
- Psst! Have you planted your garlic yet?
- Usually the second half of October displays a marked deterioration in
the weather. If you've got cauliflower and broccoli that are still going, consider setting up some sort of cover for those
plants. They are cold hardy enough to last through November - but constant rain will ruin them. It's also a good time to start
protecting your winter greens from the rain. If the weather is nice, though, they'll appreciate some unfiltered sun.
- Have you ever grown Fava beans? Well, why not sow some now?
- If you've got tree leaves available, remember that they make a
good mulch for unused beds. They can also be used to insulate crops that aren't slug prone, such as leeks - these are much
easier to dig if the soil isn't semi-frozen!
found and used with appreciation - The Westside Gardener