Growing vegetables where seasons are short

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Last Updated: 
July 31, 2007

BAKER CITY - There are places in Oregon where the possibility of frost lurks threateningly through much of the growing season. In cold pockets of western Oregon, and much of the eastside, growing summer vegetables can be a challenge.

Janice Cowan, horticulturist with the Baker County office of the Oregon State University Extension Service, offers some hints on how to increase the odds for a great gardening season:

  • Choose the warmest and most sheltered spot for your garden site. Look for a place that has full sun and protection from the wind. A south-facing side of your house, garage or barn is ideal. South facing slopes are good. Avoid low-lying areas, which trap cold air.
  • Choose an area with sandy loam soil, which will warm faster than heavy clay soil. If your soil is heavy, amend it with organic material such as compost or manure.
  • Use clear plastic to warm the soil up earlier. Black plastic is not as effective.
  • Plant in raised beds, which will warm the soil up faster. Warm soil allows earlier planting in the spring.
  • Choose cool season and short season adapted vegetable varieties. Start seeds indoors for transplanting or buy starts.
  • Soak seeds to speed along the process of growing plants from seed.
  • Use floating row covers, cloches (clear plastic and hoops) or other protection to cover plants while days and/or nights remain cool. Individual covers, such as bottomless milk jugs, "walls-o-water" or old tires can provide heat and wind protection.

Cool season vegetables can germinate and grow at a soil temperature of 40 degrees. These include most kinds of broccoli, beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, kale, collard, kohlrabi, leeks, parsley, peas, radishes, rutabagas, chard, celery, turnips, lettuce, onion, parsnip and spinach.

When the soil warms up to 50 degrees, you can plant early-maturing varieties of corn, tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, squash, pumpkin, eggplant, melons, okra and peppers.

For more information on "Short Season Vegetable Gardening," (PNW 497), visit our on-line catalog. Our publications and video catalog at: shows which publications are available on the Web and which can be ordered as printed publications.

Author: Peg Herring
Source: Janice Cowan