Despite Steve Soloman’s recommendation to leave half of Pacific Northwest garden beds for fall/winter crops, I have always struggled with the timing. Seeds planted after the Summer solstice never grow well, if they germinate at all. Plants put in later do not thrive; they know that my energy is pulled off, towards the new school year, when September begins. And, if I do get the sowing times correct, there is never a real space for the plants in late July, when they have to be in the ground. This year, however, I think I have figured it out --and I am praying that writing about my success does not bring on a horde of locusts or hungry chickens in the early morning.
Step one: plant early varieties of potatoes together in one bed, as early as possible, like when the volunteers start to push up in early March. Not only will this give you a nice July harvest of taters, and eliminate some watering, it will also free up a bed just when you need the space.
Step two: plant the seeds in six-packs in early June, as part of the last round of seed starting. They can sit on the potting bench, in the shade, right on the pathway between bike parking and the house. It is easy to cheer them on and keep them moist.
Step three: after about three weeks, bump them up into four inch pots. This, I think, is key. Trying to keep young plants in a tiny pot makes them rootbound and retards their growth. In a four inch pot, they have room to move around and develop some nice roots while waiting for a space in the garden beds.
Step four: plant the early potatoes in late July, after they have dried down. While digging the potatoes, turn in all of the straw and leaf much that has surrounded them for months, thus increasing the organic matter in the soil.
Step five: plant out, tossing a handful of Biofish fertilizer into each deeply dug hole. Water in, and place your signs. I was so pleased with the final results that I even corrected the misspelling of “cauliflower” on one of the signs….although it was washed off the next day.