The most common form of vegetable garden is the row garden, where
each vegetable is planted in a row and there is a path between each
row. This can work well for those who use mechanized weeding, such
as a rototiller which is run between the rows.
Broad row gardens are a similar approach, except that the rows
are about 10 to 12 inches wide, the seed is scattered over this
space, and the plants are grown close together. This is a space
saver because you do not have as many paths between the rows.
Growing plants in raised beds is increasing in popularity and saves
even more space. The deep bed methods are derived from age old techniques
used by the French and Chinese. They are hyper-fertilized, excellent
for deep root development, and can grow the plants closer together.
The claim is that you will get four times the yield for the same
Whatever form you want for your garden to take, there are a few
guidelines to keep in mind. The closer your food garden is to your
kitchen, the easier it is to get the food from the garden to the
table. So locate your vegetable garden close in.
Planning your garden on paper is an important first step. To get
the most from your space and stretch the harvest, allow for succession
planting. Plan for the perennial to be at one end of the garden
so they are not disturbed during spring planting. If you have a
choice, it is recommended that the rows run from north to south
to avoid the plants shading each other.
A south slope warms up earlier in the spring, which can be an advantage
for some vegetables. Fruit trees on a south slope blossom earlier,
but in this climate that is not necessarily good because we have
so many late frosts. Locating your fruit trees on a north slope
may be a better choice.
An area protected from the winds and frosts, but that receives
plenty of sunshine, preferable eight hours a day is best. Locate
your garden a reasonable distance from trees. Trees not only shade
the garden, but the massive root systems take the water and nutrients
from the soil, depriving the plants. If you do plant under trees,
the plants usually need extra water and fertilizer.
Raised beds are easy to organize and control. They are an efficient
use of space, in that there are not so many paths. You can eliminate
two out of three walkways and double your growing space.
The initial work to build the raised bed is intensive. After they
are established, however, they are exceedingly easy to care for.
I like to do the majority of my work with hand tools, and this works
well with raised beds.
A raised bed can have retaining walls or simply have the soil raked
to an angle. The width should not be more than you can reach from
either side, the idea being to never walk on the soil. This avoids
compaction, and makes it easier for the roots to spread. The length
is a matter of personal choice. I find about 12 feet ideal, much
longer and I get impatient about walking around.
The bio-dynamic/French intensive method of raised beds recommends
that you double dig your plot, and to 100 square feet add: 1 to
3 cubic yards of compost, 2 to 4 pounds of bonemeal, 2 to 4 pounds
of wood ashes, and 2 to 4 cubic feet of aged manure. The first beds
I made were by this formula, minus the wood ashes. It was extremely
work intensive, but the results were good.
My later beds were built with suggestions from "Organic Gardening"
magazine. This method can be used if your soil is already fertile,
and it is much less work. Fertilize your entire garden with manure
or compost, and then rototill it into the soil. Mark off your beds
with string, then shovel the dirt from the pathways onto what is
to be the bed. Rake the top smooth and make the sides a slope.
Once the beds are established, spring preparation consists of a
wheelbarrow each of compost and manure, which are then dug into
the bed. Cottonseed and kelp meals or other organic fertilizers
are then raked into the top of the bed. In less than an hour, the
bed is ready to plant.
Planting can be done by the broadcasting method or in rows. The
plants can be close together, the spacing need only be as far apart
on all sides as the plant needs for growth. Plants that grow close
together shade the soil, keep it cool, and keep down weed growth,
creating a living mulch.
Mulching raised beds with hay can be of value, particularly in
a hot dry climate like Central Oregon. It helps to hold in moisture,
and to keep weeds controlled, especially on the sides of the beds.
The old timers advice is to plant your garden when the snow is
gone from Black Butte, usually sometime in late May. As far as I
have observed, this is good advice.
The best solution I have found for timing my garden planting is
to plant different things at different times. The weather varies
from year to year, so there is no definite rule. I have planted
onion plants, peas and spinach as early as March, but April is more
appropriate. I have had the spinach freeze out this early on an
Hardy plants such as lettuce, carrots and beets can be planted
from early May on. Setting out plants like those in the cabbage
family can be done from mid-May on. The very tender plants like
beans and squash are planted around Memorial Day and into early
Whenever you decide to plant, be prepared to protect your garden
if frost threatens, even young sets of plants that are hardy must
be protected. Those plants like cabbage, broccoli and petunias are
tender when first transplanted, so beware.
It is important for the health of your garden to rotate your plants.
The recommendation is that the soil rest three years between growing
the same crop. Each plant takes different nutrients out of the soil
and often insect or disease will winter over in the soil in the
spot where the host plant was grown. One suggestion for rotation
is as follows:
- light feeders, as carrots, beets and root crops
- heavy feeders such as cabbages, squash, spinach, lettuce, corn
- legumes such as as beans and peas.
Interplanting is the mixing of different plants that give an efficient
use of space because of their size difference or their harvest time
difference. Some examples of interplanting that work well in Central
Oregon are radishes planted in the carrot row. Carrots are slow
to germinate and radishes very quick, so radishes will mark the
carrot row so you don't lose it. The radishes are then ready to
eat and out of the ground before the carrots need the space. Lettuce
planted in between cabbage plants is another efficient use of space,
as the lettuce is out of the ground before the cabbage spreads to
use all of the space. Peas and spinach are another good pair, the
spinach is gone before the peas need all of their space.
Interplanting can cause insect confusion also. Many insects find
their plants by scent, and when they are interplanted with other
plants the scent is not as strong. Monoculture encourages insects,
because when there are large groups of one kind of plant the insects
only have to move a short distance to get to the next plant. This
brings us to companion planting.
Companion planting is the growing of plants together that are mutually
beneficial to one another. Some plants serve as insect traps and
protect the main crop by luring insects away. Strong smelling plants,
particularly herbs, can mask the smell of the insects host plant,
and make it harder to find. Some plants have other plants that they
just like to have as neighbors.
Much of the companion planting information is based on folk lore
and backyard research. Formal research is taking place that will
put this on more of a scientific basis. One generalization that
usually works is that vegetables whose flavor and texture harmonize
on the table make good companions. Some examples of this are:
- beans and savory
- tomatoes and basil
- succotash which is beans and corn.
Succession planing is the following of one crop with another. This
stretches the season, growing as many crops as possible on the available
space. This can be very effective in longer growing seasons, but
has limited application in Central Oregon where our growing season
is quite short. Short crops such as radishes and spinach can be
out of the garden early enough to followed by another crop. You
might try late lettuce, peas, greens and turnips. I often follow
my peas with the fall planted garlic.
It is important to fertilize between crops. The first crops will
have used up many of the nutrients and they will need to be replenished.
You can use compost, well rotted manure or one of the meals such
as cottonseed meal.
It can be difficult in the hot weather to get plants to germinate.
It helps to sow the seed a little deeper and thicker. Keep the seeds
damp constantly and cover the row with some sawdust or peat moss
to keep in moisture. You can cover the seed rows with boards also
to keep them cool and moist. Be sure to lift the boards to check
often and remove them as soon as plants start to germinate.
- Artichokes (Jerusalem variety)
- They are hardy tubers that can be harvested all winter. The
plants are tall perennials and are hard to get rid of, so be sure
to plant them where you want them to stay.
- Plant about June 1 and then be prepared to protect them from
a summer frost, as they are very tender. Bush beans are more successful
than the tall beans as they have a shorter season. Tendergreen,
Burgundy, Romano Blue Lake and wax beans are some favorite choices.
- These can be planted early to mid May, they can take a fair
amount of frost. Plant several plantings, and beets will take
extensive thinning as the seeds are actually pods. Detroit Dark
Red, Perfected Detroit, Early Wonder and the cylindrical Forno
are all good ones.
- Plant the seed indoors about five weeks before setting out in
the garden or buy plants. They are planted out in late May, when
first planted they are susceptible to frost, but are quite hardy
when older. De Cicco, Packman and Green Comet are all good varieties.
- Brussels Sprouts
- Treat these like broccoli. They will bear late into the fall,
I have even had them until December. Jade Cross or Long Island
Improved are varieties that have done well for me.
- Plant sets in late May, and then be prepared to protect the
little plants from frost. They like a fertile soil and benefit
from midseason fertilizing. There are many variations of cabbages,
my favorites are Jersey Wakefield, Late Flat Dutch, Red Acre,
Salarite, and Savoy.
- Plant from middle May to middle June for a fall crop. Carrots
are a reliable crop in Central Oregon. Try Imperator, Tendersweet,
Danvers Half Long, and Short and Sweet.
- Success varies with this vegetable. Choose a short season, self-blanching
variety. Alert is a variety that worked for me.
- The seeds must be started at least twelve weeks before planting
out in the garden in late May; sometimes you can find starts at
the nurseries. Celery is a marsh plant by origin and like lots
of water and rich soil. The plants do not get as large as grocery
store celery, but it is nice and can stand light frost. Golden
Self-blanching is a good choice.
- A good green for Central Oregon, stands frost and heat. Plant
mid May, and it will regrow after being cut. Fordhook Giant and
Rhubarb do well.
- According to the Extension Service, expect your corn crop to
freeze one year out of every three. This depends on where you
live. Some areas get corn every year and some never get corn.
Choose a short season variety, and provide a fertile soil. It
needs plenty of moisture and should be planted in blocks of no
less than three rows.
- Can be seeded in peat pots three or four weeks before planting
out by June 1, or seeded directly into the garden. Be prepared
to protect them as they freeze easily and like warm nights. The
new bush types take less space and can be grown in pots, Pot Luck
or Salad Bush are good eating.
- Fava Beans
- These are sometimes called English Broadbean, they are hardy
and can be planted the same time as peas. They are similar to
- Fall planted garlic gives you the biggest bulbs. They like a
rich soil and plenty of moisture; harvest when the tops fall over.
The silver skin varieties do well here.
- Plant early to mid May. Kale tastes best after the leaves have
been frosted. It will winter over most years giving early spring
greens that are mild and delicious salad greens. Dwarf Curled
Kale, and Red Russian are good varieties.
- These hardy and delicious members of the cabbage family are
rarely found in grocery stores. Plant mid May to mid June. Try
White or Purple Vienna.
- Plant mid-May onward. Leaf lettuces of all varieties do well.
My favorite is Green Ice, but Black Seeded Simpson, Ruby and Bibb
are also good. Head lettuce does well if you start it inside and
set out plants.
- Plant April or early May. Sets or plants are generally better
than seed. Walla Walla Sweets are a delicious sweet eating onion,
Yellow Ebenezer is a reliable winter keeper. Evergreen Hardy White
Bunching Onion is a perennial onion that grows well from seed.
Egyptian or Top onion is a perennial variety that is absolutely
hardy and pest free.
- These can go into the garden late April through May, but as
early as possible because peas do not like hot weather. It increases
the yield to use a pea inoculant which adds the bacteria that
fix nitrogen in the roots. Wando, Green Arrow and Little Marvel
are good. The sugar snap peas are incredibly delicious and the
snow peas, such as Oregon Sugar Pod do well.
- Protection is needed at night as peppers grow best with nighttime
temperatures of at least 50 degrees. They do well in pots. California
Wonder and Yolo Wonder are sweet bell pepper types. The hot peppers
such as jalapeno and cayenne can be grown also.
- Plant early May to the end of May. Can be dug any time they
are big enough, but for storage, they are harvested about three
weeks after the tops go down. Early Gem, Norgold, Kennebec and
Burbank are good.
- These are not successful most places in Central Oregon as they
take about four months, warm nights and are frost tender. Small
Sugar or Jack O'Lantern are varieties you might try.
- Start in mid-May and sow successive plantings ten days apart
until mid-June. They grow very quickly and make a successful crop
for interplanting with other vegetables. Once the weather gets
real hot radishes tend to get wormy and hot flavored. Try French
Breakfast, Cherry Bell, Saxa, White Icicle and if you like hot
try the Oriental Daikon.
- Plant the roots and do not harvest until the second season to
give the plants time to get well established. Rhubarb likes rich
soil and prefers manures. The red varieties like Canadian Red
are the tastiest, you might also try MacDonald and Crimson Wine.
- Winter squash are like pumpkins and do not often get to maturity
before frost in Central Oregon. Summer varieties are more reliable
because they are shorter season growers, try zucchini varieties,
Summer Crookneck and Early White Bush Scallops. They like high
- Plant as early as possible, mid-April to early May, as spinach
bolts when the days lengthen. It likes a rich soil. Bloomsdale,
Melody and Hybrid Olympia are good varieties.
- Plant late May and harvest when thoroughly ripe and dry. There
is a Black Stripe, Gray Stripe and Russian Mammoth. The birds
- These need some protection from frost to get to maturity. The
shorter season varieties and the cherry tomatoes do best. Early
Girl, Oregon Spring, Santiam are full size varieties; Sweet 100's,
Cherry Bell and Yellow Pear are small size.
Would you like to plant a salad garden that, once planted, will
give you spring salads for years? A garden of tangy, delicious vegetables
and herbs that for a minimum of effort, will give you a maximum
The plants are not all perennial, but annuals and biennials, that
with little care will self seed so generously they appear perennial.
Kale is a favorite. It is a biennial, hardy member of the cabbage
family that has a fairly strong taste in the first season and is
usually a cooked vegetable. Early spring of the second season, new
leaves emerge from the over-wintered plants that are delicate and
exquisite in flavor. It is delicious, and makes an excellent salad
staple. As the season progresses, it will put up a blossom stalk;
this picked in the bud stage is tender and delicious in salads also.
Orach (Atriplex hortensis) sometimes sold under the name of Mountain
Spinach, is mild and has an excellent flavor, even when large. It
self-seeds with alarming abundance, and you may need to pick it
in large quantities just to get it out of the garden. It also makes
a good cooked green, milder in flavor than spinach and in our climate,
earlier. It stores as well as spinach in the freezer.
Several other tasty salad additions that will self-seed are parsley,
chervil and cilantro. Parsley is a biannual that winters over and
blossoms the next spring. You will need to see that some young plants
get a start every spring to keep a continuous supply. Chervil and
cilantro are annuals that are hardy and prolific seeders.
Many of the true perennial are tender and delicious in the spring
when they are young, but become tough and unpalatable later in the
season. Violets (Viola oderata) emerge early and are very tasty.
They are power packed with nutrition and have a long reputation
in the herbalist's tradition as a healing herb. The flowers are
also a tasty addition to a salad, as well as the flowers of Viola
tricolor, the common viola.
Sweet cicely, (Myrrhis oderata) with a mild licorice flavor, is
another of the favorite early spring greens. It's ferny growth is
as beautiful as it is delicious. Lovage (Levisticum officinale)
is tangy and tasty early, but becomes too strong flavored by June
Sorrel (Rumex scutatus) is an early green that adds a tangy, almost
lemony note to the salad. It is my children's favorite, they always
try to pick it out first from the salad. It is a hardy perennial
without peer for flavor and has a high vitamin C content. It makes
an excellent soup. Make it like cream of spinach soup, but substitute
sorrel for the spinach.
An indispensable onion in the long season garden is Egyptian onion
or top onion (Allium cepa viviparum). This clever fellow puts his
sets out on the top and when they get heavy enough they fall over
and plant themselves. This onion is edible any time in the year
when the ground is not frozen and it bridges the gap nicely between
winter storage onions and spring scallions. Use the tops and bottom
bulbs for a welcome addition to soups, stews and salads. The small
top bulbs can be pickled.
Another onion flavor that is good in the spring is chives. Just
take your scissors, snip off a handful of the tops and snip them
into your salad. The blossoms are also delicious, you will want
to include them in your salads also.
To add crunch and texture to your salads, plant jerusalem artichoke
(Helianthus tuberosus) in a wayside corner of your garden. These
can take over your garden and are difficult to eradicate, so its
best not plant anywhere you may not want them next year. They make
a good border screen. These tubers can be dug anytime in the winter
when the ground is not frozen, although, we have even used a pick
and chopped them out when the ground was frozen. They are great.
All of these plants are easily grown, requiring no special care.
They can even be tucked into flower beds and will be attractive;
some as background plants and some as border plants. Sorrel, sweet
cicely, violets, violas, chervil, and parsley will grow in shady
The vitamin and mineral content of these greens is unparalleled
by commercial winter lettuce. These wonderfully flavorful salads
are a power house of nutritional value.
Many of the flowers in your garden can be added to the salads and
used as garnishes, and are, in fact, considered quite gourmet. Some
of these delicious flowers include:
Growing fruits in Central Oregon can be disappointing. Again it
depends a great deal on where you live and what your particular
microclimate is. The biggest problem are the frosty nights that
frequently occur when the trees are in blossom. The smaller, miniature
and dwarf trees are easier to protect and cover. Espalier, the technique
of training your fruit trees to grow up against your house, can
also help to protect the fruits from frost, as it is warmer close
to the house.
The general probabilities, according to the extension service,
for fruit production are as follows:
- Apples: once every 4 to 5 years
- Pears: once every 5 to 6 years
- Pie (sour) Cherries: most years you will get a crop
- Peaches: occasional partial crop
- Wild Plum: two out of three years
- Sweet Cherries: generally unsuccessful
- Apricot: unsuccessful
- Nut trees: trees winter kill
- Strawberries: successful
- Raspberries: fairly successful
- Blackberries: fairly successful
- Blueberries: fairly successful with special soil treatment
- Currants and Gooseberries: successful
These are only general guidelines, because there are extreme climatic
variations within short distances in Central Oregon. Some gardeners
have regular fruit production, while others are rarely successful.
Growing peaches present other problems besides blooming too early
and frosting. They are a primary host for the green peach aphid
which carries a destructive potato disease called leafroll. Aphids
can travel and spread disease a surprisingly great distance. A particular
problem to certified potato seed growers. Since the production is
so unsuccessful, it would be better not to even plant peaches.
Most pears, apples and plums need a pollinator, so more than one
variety is needed. These must be varieties that bloom at the same
time. The later in the spring the fruit trees bloom, the better
your chance of success becomes.