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How to Grow a Vegetable Garden in the Pacific Northwest

By Barbara Brown ; Updated September 21, 2017

With careful attention to soil preparation, plant variety selection and planting dates many vegetables can be successfully grown in the Pacific Northwest. Challenges to the Pacific Northwest vegetable gardener include a short growing season in many areas, temperature extremes that can range over one hundred degrees from summer to winter, and climate conditions that are moderate and humid in the west and hot and dry in the eastern portions of the area. The Pacific Northwest growing season is also variable with almost 250 growing days along the coast to just 90 days in the higher elevations.

Find out the hardiness zone for your area of the Pacific Northwest. Most vegetable gardeners find that the Sunset climate zones more accurately reflect their garden growing needs that the more general USDA Hardiness Zones. In the Pacific Northwest, there are five Sunset Climate Zones.

Clear the area where you want to grow vegetables making sure that the site receives maximum sun hours and is relatively level. A north-south orientation provides the best sun exposure for vegetable gardens.

Get a soil test. Collect soil into a plastic bag from several locations and depths in your garden and mix thoroughly. Get your soil test done several months before planting to allow time to receive the report and add amendments to the soil as needed. The agricultural extension office associated with your state university provides soil testing for a small fee.

Prepare garden soil. Add amendments to improve soil nutrition emphasizing organic matter that has been decomposed and a balanced fertilizer. Till the soil down several inches and mix the organic matter into the soil. It is likely that your soil test will suggest adding lime to raise the soil pH. Washington State University Extension Service recommends using raised beds for vegetable gardening in the Pacific Northwest to promote drainage.

Get a planting schedule for vegetables in your Pacific Northwest zone. In general, cool weather crops can be planted in early spring and warm weather crops in late spring although the exact time will vary by location. Salad greens can continue to be planted throughout summer for a constant vegetable crop until freezing temperatures return.

Plant your seeds or seedlings in the prepared soil using a trowel for seedlings and broadcast for seeds. Leave space around plants for paths to harvest vegetables without compressing the soil or size your raised beds so that any plant can be reached from outside the garden for harvesting. For shorter growing season areas, use transplants or start seeds indoors before placing plants in the soil.

Tap soil gently around the plants or seeds and water.

Add a small amount of liquid fertilizer and mulch around the base of plants to limit competition from weeds for nutrients and water.

Harvest vegetables when they are ripe.


Things You Will Need

  • Sunset Climate Zone map
  • Soil test collection bag
  • Soil test results
  • Soil amendments such as lime and organic material
  • Tiller
  • Planting schedule
  • Trowel
  • Liquid fertilizer
  • Mulch


  • Transplants should be planted at a depth equal to the depth in their containers. Seeds should be planted at a depth three times the longest dimension of the seed. Popular vegetable crops for the Pacific Northwest include: Pole snap beans, snow/snap peas, potatoes, garlic, cherry tomatoes, summer squash, chard, lettuce, onions and carrots.


  • Do not let your garden soil dry out completely. Give the plants the equivalent of 1 inch of water per week when ambient temperatures are in the 70's and 80's. Twice weekly watering may be necessary if temperatures remain above 90 degrees for several days.

About the Author


Barbara Brown has been a freelance writer since 2006. She worked 10 years performing psychological testing before moving into information research. She worked as a knowledge management specialist and project manager in defense and health research. She is studying to be a master gardener and has a master's degree in psychology from Southern Methodist University.