When it comes to growing vegetables, the best plan is to stick with those that grow most easily in your climate, which means, for western Washington, no melons, eggplant or pepper. These need heat and that's one thing the Pacific Northwest is short on. Cool moist weather, on the other hand, is standard and ideal for greens and enough other vegetables to fill a generous garden.
Green Leaves Galore
From pungent mustards to crisp lettuces, all vegetables in the leafy greens category are easy to grow. Spinach, kale, Swiss chard, Chinese cabbage, corn salad, endive, escarole, cress and arugula are all good choices. You can even skimp a bit on the sun, since these will grow acceptably in part shade.
Many plants, such as kale and Swiss chard, will stay green all winter, especially if given a little shelter with a plastic-covered cold frame. Others, such as lettuce, come in varieties that are tolerant of the warm spells of summer. Plant small quantities frequently, changing varieties with the seasons, and you can eat out of your garden all year.
Peas And Beans
Peas love the long, cool springs of western Washington so plant plenty. Try three or four varieties, perhaps some shelling peas, snow peas and sugar snaps, both tall and bush types. Most gardeners start planting peas in mid-February and make later sowings in March and April.
Beans need heat, but will do well if you wait until the ground warms up before sowing. Try the purple-podded types, too, since they sprout best in cool ground. Broad beans, also known as fava beans, are the exception. They thrive in cool ground and can be planted in early spring.
Cabbages And Their Relatives
Broccoli, cauliflower and all sorts of cabbages do well in cool weather. In fact, gardeners in warmer climates have trouble getting them to grow large enough before flowering to get a good harvest. These come in cold-tolerant and heat-tolerant varieties too, so you can have them available from spring through fall.
Just about any root vegetable will do well in western Washington. Carrots, beets, garlic, onions, parsnips, radish, turnips and potatos are all good possibilities. Remember, though, that potatos like a soil with a lower pH--more acid--than most vegetables. Give them their own place, with lots of compost, peat moss or other organic matter dug into the ground, and give the rest of your vegetable garden soil with a pH or 6.5 to 7.0.
Zucchini is standard, rarely failing to fruit well. Almost everyone grows tomatoes and, with enough warm days, they usually produce enough to make it worthwhile. Use early bearing varieties, though, and don't expect the kind of flavor gardeners achieve in truly warm areas.