Month-by-Month: Chores for Gardeners in the Pacific Northwest

Pacific Northwest, including the milder parts of British Columbia, has a long season from spring through fall. West of the Cascade Range, the lingering cool spring tends to favor cool-season annuals, and the relatively cool summers encourage spectacular displays of annuals. East of the Cascades, where winters are longer and much colder, the annual season is shorter, but the heat and the dry climate are terrific for sun-loving annuals.

  • January: Order seeds for starting indoors in a few weeks or outdoors in a few months. Prepare an indoor area for starting seeds.

  • February: Start seeds of annuals indoors for transplanting in spring. If the ground isn’t too wet, you can start seeding the following hardy annuals directly in the ground late this month: calendula, clarkia, cornflower, dwarf pink, English daisy (Bellis perennis), pansy, stock, and sweet alyssum. Transplanting hardy annuals, such as pansies and primroses, if nurseries offer them and the soil is dry enough, or plant them in containers.

  • March: Prepare beds for major spring planting as long as the soil isn’t too wet. Sow sweet peas seeds before midmonth; sow seeds of other hardy annuals. Continue indoor seeding of annuals. Begin sowing warm-season annuals, such as marigolds and zinnias, for transplanting when the weather warms up in May.

  • April: Set out transplants of cool-season annuals, such as calendulas, pansies, and snapdragons. Begin transplanting warm-season annuals if the weather and soil have warmed up. Watch for snails and slugs to begin their most damaging season around young annuals.

  • May: This is the Northwest’s prime time for planting annuals. Almost anything will grow if planted now. Start feeding annuals two or three weeks after planting. Protect young annuals from snails and slugs. Sow asters, cosmos, marigolds, and zinnias from seed directly in the ground.

  • June: Planting season continues, but try to finish soon to get the longest season. Continue to sow seeds of heat-loving annuals, such as marigolds and zinnias. Soon after planting annuals, pinch them back to encourage bushy growth. Continue regular feeding and grooming, and never let them dry out.

  • July: Keep annuals going strong by feeding them regularly. If planting beds need extra watering, run a soaker hose between the plants. You can still plant annual seeds for later summer bloom.

  • August: Watch for late summer invaders, such as spider mites. If impatiens and lobelia get a bit straggly, cut them back by about a third to encourage a late summer burst of growth.

  • September: Extend the summer bloom season by removing dead flowers and watering as needed. For color until frost strikes, set out dwarf pinks, Johnny-jump-ups, pansies, stocks, and kale.

  • October: Remove over-the-hill summer annuals. Clean up beds and turn over the soil for fall or spring planting. Keep hardy annuals, such as pansies, going for another few weeks by continuing to feed, water, and groom them. Sow wildflowers and other annuals that get off to an early start in spring. Scatter the seeds, cover them with a thin layer of organic matter, and then water thoroughly.

  • November: You still have time to sow seeds of hardy annuals and wildflowers for blooms next spring. Clean up all annual planting beds.

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