This is my first year living in the PNW, and we've only been here about five months. Previously, I gardened pretty extensively in central California (in zone 9A-ish).
Based on looking at soil temperature maps and averages for my area (for example, the data from this weather station), it seems like we're having an abnormally warm winter this year, particularly in terms of soil temperature. Soil temps at and around my house are 45F-50F, when the historic January average is around 31F.
Based on these soil temps, I'm tempted to get my spring garden up and running as quickly as possible! The days aren't all that long yet, but I feel like I can still get a jump on spring peas and greens, right? (Maybe this year we can even get tomatoes in extra early for the PNW???!)
Buuuut I worry that a hard freeze is coming and I will be sad when all of my baby brassicas and lettuces get slaughtered out there. On the other hand, the seeds I'm proposing throwing down aren't all that expensive. Maybe I just see what happens. (I can also throw down extra/old seed that I wasn't counting on being particularly important in the garden this year.)
We have low tunnels planned, but haven't gotten them together just yet. Though that's probably a pretty short bit of work if we needed to pull them together quickly.
I know that the weather can be unpredictable, but I'm wondering if PNW "old-timers" might have some good advice here.
Yes it has been very mild, but even if we don't get snow or an extended freeze, it's still too early for most of your garden favorites.. Hold on until early April for the hardy crops and probably mid May for the tomatoes started in a greenhouse. Even if you get a good lucky start, the plants won't be shooting out much in the colder weather..
You can cheat forward several weeks with low tunnels, and if you want to try frost seeding or a raking in with Marh frost, it might come out ok.
I definitely recommend the Steve Solomon book Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades for a very practical and regional guide! If he says something different than me -- He's the one who is right
I live in the coast range west of portland. In March I plant potatoes, peas and greens outside and start tomatoes and peppers indoors. Sometimes a frost will get the new potato plants but they always seem to recover and frost is less likely in Portland then here. I've tried planting things earlier under cover but it doesn't seem to be helpful they hardly grow and the slugs seem extra hungry for fresh baby plants. April and May are my main planting months and even into early June for the warmer weather crops.
I sometimes plant peas in late January, and I'll probably do so again this year. My self-seeding radishes are also sprouting up. Both plants don't mind a little cold weather.
One year that also had an abnormally warm winter, I planted the peas (get Cascadia Snap peas, or Oregon Sugar Pod II, as both do well in our area and don't get the pea enation virus) on January 28th. Other people planted at the traditional times...and got no peas because it heated up too soon.
I'd plant a few peas, and then a few more a week later, and so on. That way, if winter stays warm, you'll have peas early. If we do actually get some snow, then your later plantings will do well.