This weekly column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.
That’s right fellow gardeners, don’t panic about being too late with your veggie and flower plantings. It’s only early May and we did have a frost on May 1st so just because it is all of a sudden sunny and in the mid 70’s does not mean that it will be summer next week.
Something to also keep in mind is that due to the wetter and cooler than normal April that we just finished growers do not instantly have product for a sunny May day. Crops grew slower in April and didn’t move out to the retailers as fast so growers were tight on space for the next crop which put them behind schedule. As gardeners we sometimes forget that not everything can be ready to buy when we decide that today is the day to work in the garden. It all takes time and you simply can’t rush Mother Nature.
There is still plenty of time to plant our cool season crops like lettuces and broccoli and carrots and spuds and of course peas. I had a customer come in the other day with two burlap sacks under her arm. I wondered if she was on her way to a three legged race but it turns out they were her potato planters. She had seen a You Tube video on how to plant spuds in a burlap sack by rolling the sides down to 12 inches and filling it with soil and a few potatoes. As the plants grow you roll the sides up and add soil until the whole bag is full. By the end of the season you simply cut the sides of the bag open and harvest your crop. Is that clever or what? Turns out there is also something out there called a “Smart Bag” that works the same as the burlap sack only the Smart Bag has flaps you can lift and rob the new potatoes. What will they think of next?
Speaking of whacky planting containers, we have a sample here at the nursery of a pallet that has been turned into a vertical planter. All it takes is a few slight modifications and you can have a veggie garden that would normally take up a four foot by four foot area in your yard. Okay, it looks kind of hokey but then so does the burlap sack. You should at least come take a look before you pass final judgment on these resourceful ways to grow food in a small space.
For that matter, if you want to see some more ideas on how to grow healthy food you should really stop by the WSU Master Gardener’s demo garden in Jennings Park in Marysville. They have developed a magical garden with all sorts of clever and creative ways to grow produce including multiple vertical gardening techniques, composting systems, insect prevention tricks, soil management advice and just about anything and everything you might need to know to be a successful gardener whether you want to grow flowers or veggies or fruits and berries. It’s all there to help educate us and the produce gets donated to the foodbank so it’s a win win deal. Check it out several times a season.
Finally, as much as I hate to do it I am officially giving you permission to plant basil as long as you keep it in a pot in a very sunny spot and don’t overwater it. Personally, I’m waiting until June!
Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached online at