Top Crops: Pacific Northwest

Thanks to mild winters, the top crops in the Pacific Northwest are year-round performers.
By Barbara Pleasant
April/May 2009
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The Pacific Northwest gardening region.

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Despite its reputation, the Pacific Northwest is not a perfect place to garden. Alice Deane, a Master Gardener from San Juan County, WA, says, “We have a very late spring, or some will say no spring at all. It will just suddenly go from cold to hot.” While she’s waiting (and waiting) for the weather to warm up, Deane uses plastic tunnels to make life comfortable for cucumbers, squash, and tomatoes.

Short winter days bring the growth of cold-hardy plants to a standstill, but they survive quite easily. Mild winter temperatures keep onions, potatoes, and greens going almost year-round — which accounts for their showing among the region's top crops. Portland gardener Jan Jacklin points out that shallots grown through winter are especially sweet, and Deane starts seeds of easy-to-please scallions more or less continuously. Lettuce can be grown until the days get short and dim in late fall. You can start planting again when things brighten in February.

Arugula needs frequent replanting because it grows so fast, but it has gained a strong following in this region. Jacklin points out that you can wilt it like spinach (yummy with salmon), purée it into pesto, or just use it like lettuce. Jacklin chooses a warm, sunny spot for her spring planting, but gets better late-season arugula by using a shadier location or a cloth shade cover.

Top 10 Crops

  1. Pole snap bean
  2. Snow/snap pea
  3. Potato
  4. Garlic
  5. Cherry tomato
  6. Summer squash
  7. Chard
  8. Lettuce
  9. Onion
  10. Carrot

Other Highly Rated Crops

Cabbage family: Collards, kale, kohlrabi

Cucumber family: Cucumber, pumpkin, winter squash

Leafy greens: Arugula, mâche, mustard (all types), pac choi, sorrel, spinach

Legumes: Bush snap bean, dry soup bean

Root crops: Shallot, sunchoke

Tomato family: Hot pepper, tomatillo

Miscellaneous: Artichoke, leek, rhubarb, scallion

Read The Best Crops for Your Garden to find top crops for other U.S. gardening regions.

Contributing editor Barbara Pleasant gardens in southwest Virginia, where she grows vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers and a few lucky chickens. Contact Barbara by visiting her website or finding her on .

Post a comment below.


5/5/2009 5:02:49 PM
I concur with Jean. I live in Central Oregon on the east side of the Cascades and it is a whole different ballgame on the high desert. It would be nice to see some advice for our climate included.

4/25/2009 12:40:53 AM
I live in the pacific northwest. I live on the east side of Washington State where our weather is vastly different from the west side of the state. I live in a irrigated desert. Our winters can get below 0 and our summers can get in the triple digits for weeks. I hope we can get a more accurate picture of our region of the pacific northwest.

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