Pacific Northwest Gardening -- looking for good beginner's book - Mothering Forums
Gardening > Pacific Northwest Gardening -- looking for good beginner's book
Annie Mac's Avatar Annie Mac 09:56 AM 02-04-2011

I would like to grow veggies primarily, and don't know much about the process at all. I do have a copy of Growing Veg West of the Cascades, which does have a lot of good information, but tbh, I need something more basic. I'm looking for a book that will lay it out for me in a VERY straightforward manner, something along the lines of:

1. In February, lime your soil. Half an inch on the top of the soil (or some such thing; the West of the Cascades book says 1 tonne/acre -- what does that mean, really, in a yard???)

2. Fertilize using xyz fertilizer. Or your compost, or whatever you should use. 

3. A list of veggies that can be planted by month. A list of their requirements (full sun, partial sun, extra water, extra fertilizer, whatever)

4. When those veggies can be harvested

5. What to do to maintain the veggie beds year after year.


Does anyone have any suggestions? I would love to learn all about the chemistry of the soil etc, but first I need some very very basic knowledge.

tinuviel_k's Avatar tinuviel_k 04:01 PM 02-04-2011
I suggest going to a local organic gardening store and seeing what they have to offer. I am in the Pacific Northwest as well, and I have found a great local guide to gardening in the Puget sound area where I live, and another from the Seattle area. When I lived in Spokane i found one for that region, as well. The guides are all published locally and detail what to plant each months, considerations for our various microclimates and soil types, good varietals, etc.

These are regional publications pretty much only available at small local gardening stores and food-co-ops. I can't imagine that Vancouver would not have something similar somewhere! If you can look up an organic gardening store I'll bet they can help you find something.
Starflower's Avatar Starflower 05:23 PM 02-04-2011

You may also be able to find good local gardening books at your library. I am not gardening yet (still researching) but have looked at several books about gardening in the PNW. Depending upon where you live, the garden stores and very local books may be best due to the micro-climates in the area.


Sunset also had some very interesting info on zones on their website which showed how the zones can vary so much - I only checked the Puget Sound area, but it was very interesting.


Here's a link to sunset's website and the section about "what is wrong with the hardiness zones" question, which is what most garden books use.

Annie Mac's Avatar Annie Mac 01:05 PM 02-05-2011

Thank you! I went to a local nursery today (one with a really good reputation) but was a little disappointed. They did have two books, one was just for flowers & the other was the Sunset guide to Western gardening -- it was a large & expensive book with a great deal of information. I'm going to check the library next. I really need a Gardening from Zero Knowledge type of book. Or a pamphlet, maybe...for some reason the vast quantity of information contained in these books is overwhelming to me. Really, I know nothing. I did get some bags of chicken manure though, with the idea that the dirt probably needs some nutrients. Can't go too far wrong with that. So I'll dig that into the earth as per the instructions on the bag and go from there. 

Buzzer Beater's Avatar Buzzer Beater 08:29 PM 02-05-2011

Hi Annie Mac! wave.gif


You can call master gardeners at the extension here: 


Not sure what they have in BC that's similar.


ETA: great fact sheets here: 

Annie Mac's Avatar Annie Mac 10:50 PM 02-05-2011

Fantastic link! Thanks so much!

lmonter's Avatar lmonter 11:44 PM 02-05-2011

Well, unless you can track down something from your local extension office there...  you could cobble together something from Gardening When It Counts from Steve Solomon, or things by Eliot Coleman and such.  Or see if there's a local CSA or community garden around to ask those folks even.  Could be worth a shot.  :)  Good luck!

Annie Mac's Avatar Annie Mac 10:03 AM 02-06-2011

What's an extension office? I don't know if we have such thing here. Is it part of the university, like the link Buzzer Beater sent? I could check UBC, they might have something. I am reading Steve Solomon, and he is a wealth of information. I just need it really dumbed down for my first year, you know? Like a pamphlet, not a book! While the chemical composition of PNW soil is interesting (who knew that we are rich in potassium and nothing else?) that type of detail is bogging my beginning gardener's brain down, and making the task more complicated than needs be. I've never heard of Eliot Coleman, I will see if I can find something by him. I did look in the library yesterday. Again, super interesting books, but I need to get down the BASIC basics first. 


Here's a question for those of you in the know: do I *need* to lime? I know all the books say to do so, but I can't find the lime mixture (half agricultural, half dolomite) that Steve Solomon recommends and the lady at the nursery was really iffy about the safety of liming when you're growing edible plants. The back yard here already has a lovely garden in from the previous owners, but it's all flowers. They probably limed anyway, right? There's no moss. My plan is just to dig in manure into the dirt and go from there. Will I fail, or might that work? 

Buzzer Beater's Avatar Buzzer Beater 10:26 AM 02-06-2011

Annie Mac, you would only lime if you have low pH... what is your soil like, and have you had it tested? My DH is a soil chemist and works here at the university teaching soil fertility and doing extension. In the US we have "land grant" universities that help the farmers and gardeners through community services. It's not that complicated unless you have a known issue with your soil. You can just go for it this year and see if you have problems, or you can get it tested. TBH, we have never had our soil here at home tested. When we do add amendments, it's to fix the texture- we have lots of clay and that's hard to garden in. Generally, home gardeners add too much to their soil in the way of chemical amendments (according to DH).  


ETA- go for it, some of it will work, and some of it might not! Which is what we deal with every year even as seasoned gardeners. Your soil/climate/water/personal style will work great for some veggies and not others. I am great with tomatoes but can't germinate a carrot in our soil for money.

artemis33's Avatar artemis33 12:06 PM 02-06-2011

WSU has an extension office.


What you need is a copy of Seattle Tilth's "Maritime Northwest Garden Guide" .  You can find a copy at Seattle Tilth or often PCC has them.  Or you can order it online.  (second one down in link)



Also, the Sunset guide has been around for a long time - I see them used everywhere, so you don't have to buy it new  :)



lmonter's Avatar lmonter 03:12 PM 02-06-2011

If your garden has already grown stuff successfully, just dump in the (well rotted!) manure and plant away. 

Don't plant tomatoes before the last frost date (and maybe a week after), and you should be good. 

Just don't take any crop flops personally.  Like last year?  Was awful for tomatoes and melons and huckleberries in my area.  Awful.  So I didn't feel too bad for hardly planting anything (was a rough year).


UW or WSU should have an extension office somewhere nearby.  I've never *really* tested my soil to be honest.  I've gotten the little strip kit thing from Home Depot and used that a few times to get a general idea of the pH (I have somewhat acidic rocks, with a little soil thrown in for fun).  So I throw in mostly loads of compost into the main garden beds, and some peat into where I've attempted to put blueberry bushes.  Nothing too exciting, really.


Carrots...  I've never been able to grow them well if I try to plant them in early spring.  If I plant them in June/July when it's hot (quicker germination!), I can usually yank some out by October, or mulch and let them overwinter until March when I'm usually itching to get in the garden.  :)

kitchensqueen's Avatar kitchensqueen 05:18 PM 02-07-2011

The suggestions above about checking in with your local extension office are sound - they will be able to give you the most up-to-date information on gardening in your particular microclimate. But being a book junkie myself (as well as an avid gardener) there are some great books geared toward beginner's that I can suggest -


The New Complete Book of Self Sufficiency by John Seymour


The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan


You Grow Girl by Gayla Trail


Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew


The hard to remember when just starting out with a garden is to start small. A large plot may look manageble on paper, but once summer comes on full swing and you have to weed, water and harvest everyday it can get overwhelming. So start with maybe, ten square feet or a grouping of pots until you know you can and want to manage it - you can always add more later!

rhianna813's Avatar rhianna813 04:15 PM 02-16-2011

I am in western Oregon and can recommend these PNW planting guides:


OSU extension service – tons of articles:


Eugene Weekly spring guide:


Local guru:

- scroll to link Spring Seeding Calendar:

- Winter planting guide:


Seattle area winter planting guide -


Our soil tends to be acidic which is why Fir Trees grow so well here, but so do most other plants. We just add compost to ours and plenty of slug bait. We did start doing raised beds last year because our soil is so compact in our yard.

SpiritHorse's Avatar SpiritHorse 01:39 AM 03-26-2011

I realize this thread is old and you may have found this already, but the West Coast Seeds guide is pretty much what you are asking for in a pamphlet...a catalog with how to grow (and when!) guides and they are out of Vancouver so everything is based on our climate. Love them! You can also call/email them! And the guide is on their website.


I'm in Nanaimo and we have them at Long Lake Nursery. Not sure where else.