Last spring, my husband, Clint, built these raised beds in our front yard and we started a vegetable garden.

vegbeds

Yes, the front yard. Our back yard is small and shaded, while the front has unimpeded southern exposure – more than 12 hours of spring and summertime sun, on days when we actually have sun in the Pacific Northwest. These three 4′ by 8′ beds were joined by a fourth bed later in the summer. We also cleared a five foot square of overgrown garden bed near the cherry tree, turned the weed-ridden front flowerbed into an herb and perennial garden, planted apple trees, and utilized several large containers for even more garden space.

I grew up helping my father in the garden, but had little experience gardening on my own as an adult. Before jumping in, trowel and seed packets in hand, I spent some time planning with an online tool, Smart Gardener, which allows you to choose the varieties you want to grow and recommends a garden plan based on your garden’s size and orientation. It also gives planting information such as timing and sowing configurations, emails weekly to-do lists, and allows you to keep track of your progress in a garden journal. I like being able to move plants around on this template to get the layout just how I want it, and I find the planting diagrams incredibly useful.

Here’s what my plan looks like for this spring:

gardenplan

Not all of that is in the ground yet, of course, but this gives me a plan of action for the next few months.

With a bit of studying and quite a lot of luck, we had a fabulous summer bounty and I was able to garden year-round during my first year. We were eating fresh-from-the-garden spinach, arugula and leeks over the winter holidays, and we’re currently trying to eat our way through the lushest patch of overwintered chard imaginable, before it goes to seed and our new spring greens get going. Good resources I’ve used for all season gardening in this climate include Seattle Tilth’s Maritime Northwest Garden Guide and Backyard Bounty by Linda Gilkeson. Even though I mostly grow from seed, I also pay attention to what kinds of plants are available from local growers at any given time. When I see locally grown, hardened off and ready to plant out vegetable starts outside my neighborhood grocery store in the early spring or fall, I know what kinds of things I can put in the ground at that time.

In a later post, I’ll share some of my favorite sources for safe seeds (and why that matters), choosing seeds or starts, fun varieties, and what’s worked and what hasn’t. Until then, I’m hoping for sunny skies and dirt under my fingernails.

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