It's been a long time. And a difficult year. I'm sorry to miss a lovely summer and harvest season but I was having difficulty recovering from the birth of my youngest, Judah Daniel. If you want to read more about it look here.
February in the Pacific Northwest is typically cold, dreary, with lots of precipitation, sometimes in the form of snow. So what could possibly be a garden chore for this month? In my experience, proper planning for your garden takes just as much time as doing the initial planting. And with proper planning your garden will be more efficient and satisfying.
Step one for planning crops is knowing your garden space. What is your zone? What is your microclimate? Do you have clay, boggy, flood plain soil? Where is your best sun exposure? What about slopes, drainage, existing trees, bushes, or man-made structures that effect wind, heat uptake, and water drainage?
(pic: freshly harvested crabapples,)
Tip: You can even create sub-microclimates with the crops within your garden by planting for density and height in a wide horseshoe shape. The area within the horseshoe will be a significantly warmer climate than within rows. Some of my favorite garden planning resources are "Gaia's Garden," "Week-By-Week Vegetable Gardener's Handbook," and "The Vegetable Gardener's Bible." For more of a landscaping emphasis check out "The Garden Planner."
Of course, the majority of winterizing your beds and garden space should already be done but maintenance is important. Some areas of my garden need deeper mulch so I need to finish that before the end of the month so the mulch has time to donate extra nutrients before the sprouts really need them.
Once you have a basic garden plan it is a good idea to start comparing seeds and deciding which varieties you want to grow. There are a few local options for free seed trading such as the Olympia Seed Exchange, Harvest Pierce County (extension of Pierce Conservation District), and the King County Seed Lending Library besides swapping or sharing with your neighbor or at an organized seed-swap. These stock varieties that have been locally grown and donated by other growers, not regulated companies who make a living selling seed, so be aware they may have been improperly crossed or harvested poorly. The next seed swap is this weekend, hosted by Sustainable West Seattle. Check it out!
There has been some legislation discussed in other states that would force most seed libraries to close in attempts to protect the integrity of seeds. This is not expected to be an issue in Washington State in the near future but if you want more information there is a good article here.
A few seed companies operate within the PNW and specialize in varieties that thrive in our cool, maritime climate. My favorites are: