By Marianne Binetti
If you’re new to growing edibles, these strategies should help get you started toward success.
1. Start small and grow what is easy. In the Northwest this means leafy crops such as spinach, mesclun, rocket, Swiss chard, and lettuce. If you have a hot spot against a building in full sun, use it to grow tomatoes. Grow your crops in pots and they’re protected from slugs, easier to harvest, and free from weeding.
2. To start tomato seeds indoors, ensure success with Jiffy pots and a mini greenhouse kit. You won’t have to transplant tiny seedlings to bigger pots, and you are less likely to overwater. Plus, these seed-starting kits come with domed covers to add humidity to new sprouts, and protect the young plants as they harden off (become used to outdoor weather). I don’t plant tomato seedlings outdoors until June, as one cool May night can severely stunt their growth.
3. Skip the struggles of seed starting altogether — invest in vegetable starts. Lowe’s sells all types of vegetables and herbs in biodegradable peat pots you can directly plant in the ground. They’re perfect for small gardens and first-time edible growers.
4. Before you plant any seeds, set up the support system for climbing beans and peas. This way you avoid walking on the soil in a bed full of young plants.
In my raised beds I use teepees made from rebar and galvanized metal grids originally intended for concrete support. You can leave these metal structures outdoors over the winter.
5. Plant some herbs with your flowers, or just add some leafy greens to your container gardens. You can succeed with rosemary, oregano, and thyme in a sunny spot despite poor soil. Plant mint with moist soil, or grow it in a pot and keep it watered.