Spring officially started this past week, and the garden is beginning to show signs of life beyond just the kale that grew all through the winter. Crazy enough though, we did see the tiniest bit of snow on Friday. It didn’t stick, but low temperatures were down in the 30s yet again. We may not be buried in snow again and again like the northeast has been this winter, but we’ve had more than our fair share.

Thanks to the unseasonably cold weather, I’ve gotten a slow start in the garden this year. I’ve been afraid to start anything that isn’t really hardy because a cold snap could kill them off.

Another change to the garden this year is an adjustment on how much money I spend. In the past, I’ve gone overboard with seed catalogue purchases and have always ended up with way more seeds than I could ever plant in one season.

This year, I will be buying very few new seeds and starts, even if it means less variety. I’m also planting some older seeds (packed for 2014 and 2015) that may not germinate as well as new ones, but since I did buy them, I will do my very best to use them up. In order to combat lower sprouting rates, I’m planting more of them in an area in hopes I’ll still have plenty grow.

Spring planting to date:

  • Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce
  • Little Snowpea Purple
  • Walla Walla Sweet Onions
  • Northwest Wildflower Mix
  • Yukon Gold Potatoes

To plant this month:

  • Nantes Carrots
  • Evergreen Bunching (Green) Onions
  • Sugar Snap Peas

Perennials:

A big part of my garden these days is made up of perennial plants that come back every spring with very little effort on my part. We’ve had blueberry bushes for a while, but four summers ago when I was pregnant we specifically expanded our perennials, knowing that with a baby we wouldn’t have as much time to work in the garden for at least a few years.

Just a handful of berries from last summer

Even now that we have more time again, the set up we did years ago is paying off considerably well. We have loads of blueberries and raspberries in the summer, and all that we need to do is a little bit of pruning, fertilizing, and water (and the blueberries need very little water now that they have their roots set). This early in the year, the berry bushes are starting to sprout buds, but we are able to just ignore them and let them do their thing.

If you ever want a low maintenance edible garden, at least in the northwest, I would highly recommend planting berries. Blueberries have to be purchased by the plant, but if you know anyone with raspberries, they should be more than happy to dig up a few starts for you to have, as they grow and spread like crazy (we have to mow down the shoots that sprout up in the lawn outside of the raised bed).

The garlic we first grew a number of years ago has turned into a delicious weed as well. We’ve attempted to dig it all up, but it keeps coming back. We do eat a ton of garlic, so it’s not all bad, but we absolutely will have to pull it all after this summer in order to give the bed a rest for a couple years.

Like most vegetables, garlic is prone to a variety of diseases if left in the same spot year after year, so it’s best to move it around (the diseases hang around in the soil but generally die out once the plant is removed). We’ve been lucky up until now, but I don’t want to push it to the point where we have to start fighting a problem.

The garlic bulbils I planted in October (in an entirely different spot in the garden) have started to sprout as well, but they are very tiny. I’m interested to see how large they can grow by garlic harvest time in late summer, but perhaps it will take a second year before they really grow large enough to harvest.

Baby garlic! 

The rhubarb has also started to poke through the soil, but there has been no sign of asparagus as of yet. Since we have now had icy mornings past Seattle’s typical frost date for the year, I’m not surprised that we’re seeing a late start. My only hope is that the extra cold weather doesn’t kill off any of the early starts.

Thankfully, the kale and garlic is pretty cold hardy, so both haven’t been impacted by the unseasonably cold weather. Better yet, since we still have kale growing and have recently harvested some early garlic for ramen, I now officially have a year round garden for the first time ever. I’ve previously had carrots growing into December, but January and February are notoriously barren months.

I plan someday to set up cold frames so more plants can make it through the winter, but for now, I’m pretty enamored with kale for its low maintenance, cold hardy self.

A little scraggly, but still growing and still edible 🙂

For the first time, I plan to track my garden purchases closely to determine how much money I actually spend in the garden during the year. I realize this won’t cover the water use in the driest months, but we do have a rain barrel and I mulch pretty heavily to reduce the amount of irrigation needed. Watering at the very beginning or end of the day also reduces water use by quite a bit, because a lot of midday watering is lost to evaporation.

Expenses to date: $18.95 (including tax)

  1. Seed potatoes $5.99
  2. Onion starts $3.33
  3. Wildflower seeds $3.99
  4. Carrot seeds $1.14 (half off)
  5. Green onion seeds $1.89
  6. Sugar snap peas $0.89 (half off)

I’m very impressed with myself that I have been able to control my seed buying impulses, because at this point in the year I would generally have spent A LOT more than twenty dollars. I’ve also made sure to grab the free bags of coffee grounds from Starbucks for fertilizer, and I also had a few bags of regular fertilizer left over from last year. Once the raised beds are set up, gardening doesn’t have to be expensive (as long as you can resist the siren call of the heirloom seed catalogues).

If you’re interested in my previous garden updates, you can read about them here and here.

Are you growing a garden this year? What’s your favorite thing to grow? Mine would have to be our berry bushes for their simplicity.

49 thoughts on “Spring Garden Update (March 2018)

  1. I would love to grow a garden someday when I have a house. There’s a little garden space in my building, so maybe I’ll ask if they allow people to plant things there. I’d save a ton on berries if I can grow them. That and brussels sprouts are probably the most expensive portions of my normal diet.

    How much better does the food taste when you grow them yourself?

    Also, I never knew the kale plant was so big! And way to go on getting free fertilizer from Starbucks :D.

    1. Sooooo much better. I actually never liked blueberries growing up until one day I tried one straight off a plant. And now I’m in love 🙂

  2. I’m so ready for spring! We have a few garden starts growing inside and the garlic has made its appearance outside.
    Our raspberries are my favorite thing in our garden, but we don’t get very many raspberries yet. But every year they expand and help bring us some free fruit!
    I also really enjoy growing lettuces and kales, since they are sooo easy and taste much better than the expensive leafy greens at the grocery store.
    This is our first year with a cold frame, we haven’t taken much advantage of it this spring, but come fall I plan to use it to extend our growing season.

    1. Our raspberries seem to looooove acidic fertilizer (like coffee grounds). But the northwest is also known to be a great area for berry production, so our weather may just be an advantage there.

      Did you make your cold frame? Any tips for when I finally get one together?

      1. We got our cold frame for free off craigslist, and I’m not in love with its construction. So no tips yet, but soon I think we’ll be building our own. And I will have to add some coffee grounds this year near the berries. Ours are wild berries, coming into our yard from the woods, so we lucked into them, and haven’t amended the soil at all. IDK why I didn’t think of that, thanks for the tip!

      2. Soil amendment is HUGE, even for something that can be as much of a weed as berries sometimes are. That, and making sure they get enough water during the summer months (while being smart about when that water comes).

  3. Watch those carrots. My spouse planted some and they reseeded. The second generation was far woodier, tasted bad, and propagated like a weed.

    1. Good to know. I’ve never had carrots reseed. I wonder if that’s a common problem, or dependent on the variety?

  4. Wow, you’ve got a lot going already. At the moment I’ve just got overwintered kale and some rhubarb coming up. Gardening season here starts the first nice weekend after easter.

    1. The perks of the Pacific Northwest – it rarely snows, and we don’t have too many months of frost. Means things start popping up earlier 🙂

    1. Are there any community gardens near your apartment? Might be worth looking into now.

  5. Nice job! I wish I could outsmart the squirrels and chipmunks, there’s TONS of them by my house since I have a stream and a park behind my backyard. I protect my plants with netting and mesh and they still find a way in. Little bastards. I’ve kinda given up on everything except herbs which they quizzically don’t eat.

    1. We have a LARGE park (like 500 acres altogether) behind our house as well. We have a great barn cat that’s done a lot for keeping our garden (mostly) rodent free. Except for our potatoes last year…..

  6. I learned a couple things from this post. First: Kale doesn’t die in the winter. It really is a superfood. Second: Starbucks gives out coffee grounds. That’s pretty cool.

    My parents have a ton of black raspberry bushes behind their house and some of my fondest memories are of my whole family putting on our long pants and sleeves and heading up to pick berries.

    Up until the time I stepped on a yellow jackets nest…I didn’t go much after that.

    1. Well… kale will die off if it gets REALLY cold. But the coldest we saw all winter was in the 20s. Other brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, etc) will do the same. I stepped on a ground wasp nest once as well….. it was awful.

  7. Can’t wait to get our home because one of our reasons for buying one is to have our own garden. Looks like a great project to do at home and plus you get to grow your own food.
    How does your carrots usually turn out?

    1. It’s hands down one of the best parts of home ownership for sure. Our carrots turn out quite well usually – this past year I just didn’t plant enough of them! My mother in law, on then other hand, gifted us some of her last overwintered carrots just last month 🙂

  8. I’ve been waiting until it stops freezing to start my garden. But this past weekend, we tilled the back yard and planted seeds in the indoor planter! Its my first time though, so I wasn’t nearly as frugal about it as you are

    1. Yeah, the set up years definitely cost a lot more than this one. It gets cheaper each year we’re in the same house with the same garden.

    1. Hahahaha. That is still my favorite plant story to date 😂

      So ready for berry season.

  9. Your berries look sooo good! And they are organic too! Organic berries are so expensive and they are part of the dirty dozen. Do you have a post on when to plant and how to plant the berries? My husband loves blueberries and we plan to get a few bushes once we have a garden. I had two in a planter on my balcony but it didn’t last very long.

    1. No, I haven’t written a post on them, but maybe I should. Let me look around and see if I can find some good ones for you. And the cost savings for the berries is awesome for that reason. Plus they taste SO much better than any store bought ones you can find.

  10. Sounds like you have a fantastic garden! Up here gardens usually don’t start until May (at the earliest). Most often, aside from a few hardy plants, gardens don’t get going until closer to June. Having said that, I’ve managed to grow fingerling eggplants in pots a few years ago, I had kale continue into November and same for a northern strawberry plant variety.

    Playing around in pots is great but I’m really hoping I managed to get a spot in a community gardens this year.

    How long have you been gardening?

    1. We may get a lot of rain and gray days, but we also have mild weather, which translates into a longer growing season (though some hot weather plants like watermelons etc don’t usually do so well). I’ve been gardening for 8-9 years now (go back and read the linked posted at the bottom of you want to hear all about the disaster that was my first garden lol).

  11. Hey there Angela, I’m loving all these gardening posts! First Crazy Kicks and now yours. Meanwhile, we’re still trying to melt away all the snow and ice in Minnesota. Wahhhh!!! *sniff*

    This year I’m excited to try Cubert’s Garden 2.0. This time, not going to plant on the north side of my neighbor’s house (shadow.) Duh.

    What seed catalog would you recommend, btw??

    1. I love territorial seed for up here, but botanical interests isn’t local, so I’d recommend them first. Let me know if you have any gardening questions!!

  12. Dying of jealousy over here… this will be the first season for our raised bed, so here’s hoping! Any recommendations for actually starting? Just tons of 50lb bags of topsoil, insert plants? Hubs wants to plant berry bushes this year too, we just need to figure out where to put them; our yard is 95% trees.

    1. Shade is a BIG deal – some plants will tolerate shade (think ones where you eat the leaves, like lettuce and kale), whereas others absolutely need sun (tomatoes for one). The first step would be to find a local book or blogger for your area, because to some degree the recommendations will vary. And you want garden soil, not top soil, plus some great compost.

  13. Tomatoes do very well on our roof garden here in Hong Kong. We don’t buy seeds, ours are just ‘self-seeders’ which have ended up in our kitchen compost, they do really well too. In fact the experts advise folk not to waste money buying seeds, far better to plant a few from a tomato and take cuttings when the plant is shooting, they route very easily and will even do better than the original plant !

    1. We’ve had a few tomato volunteers in the past, but that hasn’t been typical. I’m slowly starting to get into the seed saving side of things, but not with everything yet.

  14. Thanks for posting your numbers, which are impressively small. I feel that my gardening is not even successful enough for the food that we grow to offset the cost of planting! I’m curious which crops you think are the biggest bang for your buck in terms of offsetting your grocery purchases.

    1. They’re only that small because I’ve been at it for a while now. The numbers used to be a LOT bigger. The perennials are definitely the best cost wise, but I haven’t gotten down to breaking it out yet (but I plan to write a full post on it at some point).

  15. Someday I may try my hand at gardening. The thought of doing all the hard work and then over time watching something grow to the point where you can harvest and eat it is oddly satisfying! First I’ll have to get a house, and then I can learn like crazy to give it a try 🙂

  16. I don’t have a house yet but one of the things I’m really looking forward to when I do is tending a little garden of my own. Those berries look so delicious and knowing that you grew them yourself must feel great too.

  17. Do you think that it is worth it financially to purchase the seeds/plants? Do you get enough of a crop? Or is this also a passion project?

    Just read the post on Cold Frames and considering doing a real garden this year since I have the space, but considering my past attempts have been less that fruitful I wonder if it is worth for me. I do not LOOVVEE gardening, I only passively enjoy it. 🙂 Like I love to plant the things that come back every year….Ha!

    1. At this point, yes it’s worth it financially (as long as I don’t go crazy and buy too many seeds). But it is a passion project and it was years of not making sense financially to get to where the garden is at now.

    2. Here’s another way to look at it… Do you enjoy eating the end product? Does it taste better to you than when you buy in store?

      If you feel it’s worth the investment for that, if the fruits/veggies you like grow in your area, it may still be worth it. Just depends on how much cost and whether you feel you get enough out of it to justify it. For a bad analogy, lots of people hate jogging but do it anyway cuz it’s good for their health and like how they feel afterwards.

      1. That’s so true, and why I’ve been gardening long before it’s made sense financially. I thought I didn’t like blueberries, for example, but it turns out I adore them if they’re fresh picked. The flavor and texture are completely different.

  18. Your berries look amazing!

    I never thought I’d like gardening when I was a kid, but now that I’m an adult, I find it quite satisfying to watch something grow. Being able to harvest it makes it that much better! Having said that, I need to put some more effort into trying to grow new things. We typically stick to easier things like zucchini, kale, herbs, etc.

    1. Berries honestly fall into the “really easy” category – you just have to wait a few years until they’re big enough to produce very much.

  19. Oh, so I haven’t tracked seed costs yet but I am growing things from seed (flowers too) to save money instead of buying plants. On the weekend, I really wanted to buy a cold frame and then decided I could probably put the small plants to harden off in a plastic box that I had already. Then I wanted a greenhouse! Boy that was a tough one – to not go and buy a bunch of garden kit. Trying to figure out the optimal veg plot because we rent and might move. Don’t want to kill the grass thats finally growing in the sunniest spot. Thinking of something standing up like the VegTrug but cheaper? Also don’t know how the Vegtrug deals with rain/draining. It’s raining all the time.

    1. The thing that stops me from just buying a greenhouse kit is they tend not to be great OR they are crazy expensive. And since our garden is in the front yard, when we do finally get around to making one, it needs to be at least reasonably pretty (same goes for a cold frame).

  20. Good for you!! I wish I had a green thumb! I pretty much kill everything I try to grow. I can usually get a good month or two out of our veggie plants before they die. Every year I tell myself I’m going to be better but it never happens.

    1. My initial attempts didn’t go so well. A lot of reading and trial and error and things got a lot better 🙂

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