Thanks to mild winters, the top crops in the Pacific Northwest are year-round performers.
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.
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 Google+.