The growing season in Washington state may be shorter than other parts of the United States, but fertile soil and ample rainfall make the Pacific Northwest well-suited to vegetable gardening. Cool-season crops are most likely to be successful in Washington, though warm-season crops can work well in the warmer regions along the coast and Puget Sound where the growing season is about 180 days. In higher elevations and the Columbia Basin, expect 120 to 150 days. Eastern Washington generally has a 120-day growing season.
Lettuce and Salad Greens
Lettuce and salad greens fare well in the early part of the growing season in Washington. Plant them about a month before the last frost date, as soon as the soil is workable. They will be ready for a late spring or early summer harvest, before the summer heat sets in. These vegetables can get bitter and tough from too much heat, and a light frost usually won't hurt them much.
Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and kale are good vegetables for a Washington garden. These should go in around two weeks before the last frost. You can sow kale directly in the garden in late spring, but cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage should be started indoors and transplanted in mid- to late spring when they have their first few sets of true leaves, usually after six to eight weeks.
Root crops have a good chance of success even in the colder parts of the state. Radishes can be sown directly into the garden a month before the last frost date. Carrots, beets and new potatoes should go in about two weeks after radishes, and you should wait until after the last frost date to plant potatoes that take longer to mature, like russets.
Beans and peas are good candidates for the Pacific Northwest garden. Peas can go in about a month before the last frost date, but you should wait until the soil is fairly dry because peas are quite susceptible to rot. Most bean varieties flourish in the warmer part of the season, so they should be sown directly into the garden in late spring, after the last frost date.
Warm-season crops like tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers and melons may not do well at higher elevations or in the far eastern part of Washington because the growing season is short and the summers are cool. Even gardeners in the warmer regions should consider row covers, cloches or cold-frame greenhouses to protect these plants in the early part of the season when surprise frosts are possible, or buy matured transplants that are 6 to 8 inches high.