How to Get Started Gardening in the PNW

So you want to start gardening and don’t know where to start? There’s no wrong or right way to gardening. There are some guidelines that people do follow, but one doesn’t need to follow it to the T to be successful at growing vegetables and fruit. With a little research, you can walk away with baskets full of veggies and fruit after a few months of gardening!

Gardening in the Pacific Northwest

Step 1: Find a spot where you want to start your garden.

Vegetables, fruits, and flowers all need some sun to grow. Some need more sun than other things. But you can have the biggest of spaces for your garden, or the smallest of balconies and still start a garden successfully. A little sunshine can go a long way.So pick a sunny spot, be it your kitchen window sill, that balcony, your front porch, or sunny spot in your yard and get growing!

Gardening in the Pacific Northwest

Step 2: Do you want to buy a plant (aka seedlings) from the store and watch it grow? Or start your garden from seeds?

Before I started buying all the seeds in the world, I picked up my first tomato plant from Home Depot, planted it in a bigger pot, and watched it grow all summer. By the end of summer… I had giant tomatoes hanging off the plant. Buying seedlings and transplanting them into your grow space is easier than starting plants from seeds. A lot of stores sell vegetable and flower seedlings! You can buy them from your local hardware store, like Ace Hardware, a nursery, like Sky Nursery, even grocery stores like Fred Meyer or Grocery Outlet have plants! The only drawback of buying starts from the store vs seeds, is that stores don’t carry as much variety compared to starting vegetables from seeds. Usually stores carry the most popular varieties. 

If you start your garden from seeds, there’s more variety of what you can grow. From white to purple, to orange cauliflower, and so many different types of lettuce. There’s so many more options when you start from seed! But it takes more time. As for where to buy seeds, most stores carry seeds, from Target and Walmart, to your local grocery store. My best budget friendly seed finds have been from the Dollar Tree, where they sell seed packets 4 for $1.

Gardening in the Pacific Northwest

Step 3: When can you plant things outside?

A lot of big box stores will have the plants they’re selling sitting outside too early. Plants like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants are heat lovers, and if set out too early in the season, can stunt their growth and production down the line. 

To start, look up what gardening zone you are in. Knowing what gardening zone you are in helps with figuring out what the predicted first and last frost of your area is, and how long your growing season is. With knowing these things, you can figure out if you can grow certain things in your garden. For me, I am in zone 8. My last frost hits early April, and first frost hits early November, leaving me with a pretty long growing time for my garden. Some zones have short growing seasons (think Alaska) and might not be able to grow certain fruits and vegetables outside because of it. 

So when you start your garden, check if your plant is frost tolerant or not, and protect the plant until you know that there is no more freezing weather before moving it outside.

Gardening in the Pacific Northwest

Step 4: Water Your Garden

Water your garden regularly, especially during the peak of summer. Some plants need more water than others. 

Things I wish I knew my first year of gardening:

  1. Some vegetables are easier to grow than others. Radishes, leafy greens, and beans are all on the easy to grow end. A lot of people start with tomatoes, but I would categorize them as not the easiest, since there’s a lot of disease and pests out there that can impact their growth! But don’t be disheartened, grow what you like to eat!
  2. Summer and winter squash need to be pollinated for them to develop to maturity. The squash plant will grow a male and female flower, and one needs to pollinate the other for its fruit to grow successfully. Either the bees will pollinate them, or you hand pollinate by taking the male flower pollen and putting it on the female flower.
  3. Check your garden for pests regularly. Pests will eat your plants down to the nub and are your biggest enemy in the garden. They can be rabbits, those white butterflies, etc. 

These are just some of the things I have learned over the years gardening in the Pacific Northwest. You learn something new every year gardening. Be it different plant diseases, pests, etc. Google and YouTube are your best friends. There are also a ton of different gardening groups on Facebook that can help answer questions you have. Happy gardening!

Gardening in the Pacific Northwest
Posted in

Doris Wang

Doris Wang resides in Lynnwood, WA. She is a California native who relocated to the Seattle area in her late 20’s. When she isn’t working her 9-5 job, you can find her outside. Find her in her garden tending to her plants, to hiking the local mountains of Washington, or kayaking the local lakes in her area. She is happiest outside in rain or shine. Social media handles - IG: @doristheexplorist and @grow.doris.grow Tiktok: Doris.the.explorist

1 Comment

  1. Ronetta McConnell on February 4, 2022 at 9:38 pm

    I am a Lewis County Master Gardner in training and appreciate Doris Wang’s article. As she mentioned, there is always something new to learn each year. Thank you for sharing Ms. Wang’s article!

    Also, thank you for sharing all your interesting articles and images as they are very inspiring to get out and Explore!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.