Top picks for veggies in our area

April 30, 2009

By Jane Garrison

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You’re just bursting at the seams, aren’t you? You want to get those seeds and seedlings out there, so they’ll just jump out of the ground. Well, hold back.

If you put them out in the cold, wet muck, they’ll do just what you would do — sit there and shiver, maybe even rot. The rule of thumb is to wait until after Mother’s Day for most things, and into June for heat lovers, like corn and tomatoes.

Our microclimate is so temperate, we can’t assume to grow what the rest of the country is growing, so I asked for help from our local master gardeners.

Betty Burton, our dahlia expert, loves color. She suggested three brilliant cauliflower varieties that won’t change color when cooked: graffiti (purple), cheddar (orange) and snow crown (white). They make a wonderful salad as well. She plants the red-and-white-striped Chioggia beets, golden beets and Purple Haze carrots. She claims it’s easier to get the children to eat their veggies if they are brightly colored. 

Allyson Schrier, a young mom, does not have time for a big garden right now. She loves fresh veggies, so belongs to a co-op. Arugula for salads is hard to find and very expensive, so this is Allyson’s favorite edible plant to grow. 

Louise Luce, a veteran master gardener, said she grows very little, but has to have violet podded stringless pole beans and sugar snap and Oregon sugar pod II snow peas from Territorial Seed Co.

Maureen Paszek and her husband, Joe, are just amazing. They make and grow almost everything. She says grow blue lake pole beans, but keep them picked, so they keep producing. The Paszeks are most excited about their Brandywine heirloom tomatoes that are grown under a plastic cover to prevent late blight.

Dave Kingery, our clinic leader, has a big vegetable garden with a greenhouse. Dave and his wife, Rusty, won’t buy vegetables; they grow their own. I asked him to narrow it down for people with small yards. He likes Black Beauty and gold rush zucchini for eating and as a summer groundcover. Bright Lights Swiss chard is a wonderful, colorful plant among the flowers and is delicious in salads or cooked like spinach. 

Joan Helbacka, one of the master gardener gurus, is an authority on herbs. She doesn’t grow vegetables because of the deer. She grows blueberries, lingonberries, huckleberries and perennial herbs, all good choices if deer are a problem. 

Sandy Piper, a veteran in our clinic, goes for the good stuff. She loves juicy Quinalt strawberries. She also grows lemon cucumbers and all varieties of fingerling potatoes.

This list is the best of the best, according to local opinion. If you want to know more, check out the Web site for our trial gardens in the Skagit Valley at

Jane Garrison is a local master gardener and landscape architect who gardens in glacial till on the plateau. 


If you go

Visit our clinics at Squak Mountain Nursery and the Pickering Farmers Market every Saturday from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. 

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