Urban and Community Horticulturist, from OSU's Extension Service, Weston Miller, showed Dave how to prepare your garden for vegetables.
Site and soil considerations
Make sure that your plot gets at least 8 hours of sunlight for a successful vegetable garden. If there are any major obstructions like trees and buildings to the south of you plot, it might not get enough sunlight in the summer and you might just stick with greens and other crops that perform well in lower-light conditions.
If you have tough soil conditions, consider raised beds. By building raised beds, you instantaneously can have good garden soil. Raised beds answer the question of how we garden in inhospitable areas that are too sandy, too wet or have too much clay. Raised beds are generally 12 -24 inches high and are typically three feet wide so you can reach across easily to weed and maintain the plants. The bed can be as long as you want. Fill raised beds with a purchased planting mix from a local landscape supply company.
Regardless of your soil type, apply 5-10# agricultural lime per 100 sq. ft. to the soil to keep the pH of the soil up and provide the mineral calcium. If you have not already done so, apply lime now so that this material breaks down in advance of spring planting.
Choosing vegetables and handy techniques
Choose vegetable varieties and melons recommended by Oregon State University that are adapted to local growing conditions to produce the best yields in home gardens. We look at these varieties at least two years before we can make recommendations. Some we consider for many years, especially if they vary from year to year. We observe and measure many traits, but it's the overall score that helps us decide. If something has high scores in everything but succumbs to disease pressure, it is not recommended. Similarly, if something is highly disease resistant but has odd flavors, size or variability, we don't recommend it.
Choose high-quality seed for your vegetable garden. Germination rates on the package should be 65 to 80 percent. The package also will tell you when to plant seeds, how long it will take them to germinate, depth of planting and spacing. Although more expensive than growing food from seed, transplants already sprouted work best for tomatoes, basil, eggplant and peppers. Check that they are not root bound in the pot and are stocky and deep green, not spindly and light green.
Use a soil thermometer to check your soil temperature to decide whether plant. Soil rather than air temperature is the bellwether of whether to plant, he said. Seeds such as peas will germinate at an average soil temperature of about 50 degrees. Don't transplant crops like tomatoes until the soil temperature reaches around 60 degrees, usually in late May or early June.
Cool-season plants can be directly seeded or transplanted into the ground mid-March to mid-April in the Willamette Valley. Cool-season crops include peas, potatoes, beets, broccoli, cabbage, arugula, carrots, cabbage, cilantro, fava beans, kale, kohlrabi, spinach, chard, turnips and lettuce.
Choose easy-to-grow crops like leafy greens, peas, potatoes, parsley, and chives and shy away from crops that are more difficult to grow like heading broccoli and cabbage.
Plan to use season extension devices like cold frames, cloches, and row cover fabric to both increase soil and air temperatures around your crops and also protect your plants from pests if you ensure that the sides of the device is sealed around the edges.
Consider choosing crops rich in color to increase your consumption of phytonutirents, natural compounds in fruits and vegetables that promote good health. In colorful potatoes, the yellow color is produced by carotenoids (pro vitamin A) and the red and purple potatoes produce anthocyanins, sometimes only in the skin, sometimes in both skin and flesh. OSU has also developed a purple tomato variety 'Indigo Rose,' which is the first improved tomato variety in the world that has anthocyanins in its fruit.