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New gardener!

Posted by spiritfruit North Idaho (My Page) on
Wed, Mar 24, 10 at 10:34

Hi everyone. Newbie gardener here. I recently moved to North Idaho from the Midwest, and last year I planted my first vegetable garden EVER (never had room for one before). In my 2009 "starter garden" I planted peas, beans, beefsteak tomatoes, cucumbers, and cilantro. The peas did great until they developed a powdery white mildew later in the summer. The beans were delicious, but the yield was low. Tomatoes didn't ripen until September, so the season was short-lived. A neighbor gave me some squash plants that flowered but did not bear fruit. And I got exactly one cucumber. It was delicious. :-)

This year I've planted seedlings indoors: so far peas, beans, cherry tomatoes, herbs, cucumbers, and strawberries. I've heard that the seedlings should not go out into the garden until May at the earliest. What about peas and lettuce--can they be planted earlier?

About my garden: I have raised beds in a fenced enclosure. My property is on an east-facing mountainside and very rocky--had to bring in soil as I don't have very much soil to begin with. Last fall I mixed horse manure into the soil, and I've also been composting. The garden gets strong morning and midday sun, then the mountain overshadows it by late afternoon. I don't require a huge yield because there are only two people in my household, but I would like to learn how to can and preserve produce this year.

All this to say, I welcome any and all gardening advice you can offer. Believe me, nothing is too basic to tell me! I have a few good gardening books (Sunset's Western Garden Book, Month-By-Month Gardening in Idaho, The Pitiful Gardener), but nothing beats the counsel of those who've been there.

Thanks so much! Looking forward to participating in this forum.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: New gardener!

P. S. forgot to mention I'm in Cocolalla.

RE: New gardener!

Welcome to Idaho.

I think the east-facing site will really help; morning sun to stop the frost that seems to settle just before dawn. Consider using cold-frames to grow lettuce and carrots and similar. If you can build a greenhouse or hoop-house, that will help. Perhaps you could attach a home-brew greenhouse to the south side of your house.

Try to find varieties of seeds and plants suited for colder weather. They make cold climate varieties for tomatoes, corn, and other vegetables.

RE: New gardener!

There was a Cocolalla gardener on this forum and one down the road at Careywood - surprisingly, since these aren't very large communities.

I lived and gardened near Bayview years ago. My brother lives north of Sandpoint. With so much variation in elevation, orientation and relationship to nearby mountains - you will have to learn a lot about your garden site thru experience.

There are a few things to "insure" better success. One of them, as Idaho_Gardener says, is to select varieties suited for a cool spring and short season (and all those cool nights).

The Bayview garden was a long time ago but Polar Vee sweet corn and Sub-Arctic tomatoes were the only choices I had for those veggies, as best as I knew. There are other choices now for short-season areas. (My garden is at a bit lower elevation now, so I've got more choices.)

I still grow an SE corn that claims good cold-soil emergence. Also, I don't grow any tomato rated for an 80 day maturity. Early Girl is a standard but you may also like Bloody Butcher, Stupice, and many of the cherries are 70 day (or less) varieties.

I was surprised how well an acquaintance could grow squash on the hill above Careywood with an eastern exposure. An eastern exposure is much better than having no sun in the morning. I have had trouble with winter squash. I grew acorn squash near Bayview but the 3 acorns I've grown in my current ground haven't had good flavor. I grow Buttercup each year and it seems to just "make it" for maturing adequately. This year, I'll try a kabocha, again.

Mildew will overtake peas at the end of their season and you may have problems with red spider-mites on beans late in theirs. I grow few pole beans because of those kinds of problems and put more trust in quicker producing bush beans. You may be able to plant those right thru June for a longer harvest.

It is hard to say when you can expect your last frost. Overcast skies are much more common the farther up the valley one goes. Cool weather in June can be very hard on the warm-season plants. Still, you need to take some risks. I expect late May and June to be frost free and just hope that the final week of June is actually warm.

Currently, the temperatures are below normal in our part of the world. I think that you should be able to plant spinach, lettuce and onion sets as soon as you can get out there. I've got my potatoes in the ground, along with sweet onion plants.

The flowering of the Oregon Grape tells me when to plant peas. Snow peas can go in earlier; they don't have as much sugar and aren't as prone to rot (smooth seed rather than wrinkled).

Put some emphasis on leafy greens early in the season. They may burn up in July but with no afternoon sun - your garden may be a real good place for greens right thru the growing season.

About all I can think of right now. You may find more help in some of the other regional forums. Sorry that I haven't gotten over here sooner than this to respond . . .

Here is Wishing You the Best of Luck.


RE: New gardener!

Hello Spiritfruit! I'm from Rexburg and I can tell you it is difficult to garden in Idaho. However, it is do-able and the challenge can be fun. The first thing that stood out to me is that your peas developed a powdery mildew. That is common if you water your plants from above from a hose or a sprinkler. I would suggest getting a drip system to eliminate powdery mildew .

I found that out using this video on this website

Yes, you can plant indoors, but I've found it hard to get the necessary light and I don't like how dirt gets everywhere. I plant as soon as the soil can be worked and put plant a protector over it. I have had 6 inches of snow cover the top of my plant protectors, but my cold hearty plants were fine. I would recommend this so you're not crowding up your kitchen or garage.

Here is a video on the same website showing how the plant protectors work.

Hope it works out for you. It's difficult fighting the cold and trying to beat the frost. Let me know how your garden turns out and what worked for you.

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