Gardening answers for beginners | THE COMPLEAT HOME GARDENER

Here’s the most asked questions from beginning vegetable gardeners – read them and reap.

Mid March means it is time to plant.

Pea seeds can go directly into the ground along with cool season crops such as lettuce, kale, Swiss Chard, beets, radishes and spinach. Don’t even think of planting warmth-loving tomatoes, squash or eggplants yet and it is still too early to start tomato seeds indoors – they’ll grow leggy before the weather warms up enough to set them outdoors.

You can add instant color to the landscape by planting flowering shrubs such as azaleas, rhodies, viburnums and daphne.  Pink, lavender and white heathers and the heavenly and hugely popular hellebores are also available at area nurseries now for filling in empty pots, adding to window boxes  or  just flinging them about the garden wherever you need a shot of color.

Here’s the most asked questions from beginning vegetable  gardeners – read them and reap.

Q. I just bought some vegetable seeds.  The directions say to plant the lettuce seeds in early to mid spring. Can you give me an actual planting date?

A. How about today. In Western Washington early spring is usually March 1 until mid April. Seeds are not that particular on the date, it is the warmth and moisture in the soil that counts. Raised beds drain sooner so they can be planted in early March.

Q. I want to grow vegetables on my balcony. It gets lots of afternoon sun. I did well with tomatoes last summer. What else should I try?

A. Grow yourself a summer dinner by adding basil, spaghetti squash, cucumbers, oregano and more tomatoes. Look for compact or bush varieties that won’t take up much room and be sure all your containers have good drainage and that you are using a lightweight potting soil.

In a small garden grow what you are most likely to eat. In hot spots with little room grow  Mediterranean herbs that can handle the heat reflected off of the building.

Q. I want to remove some of my front grass and grow food – but I certainly don’t want the neighbors to complain. What are the most attractive vegetables?

A. According to garden legend  Ed Hume, the best way to create an attractive vegetable garden is to combine fine, medium and bold leaf textures.

Use the fine texture of carrots, onions and several herbs in the front with beets, lettuce and spinach behind them and backed up with the bold foliage of cabbage, kale, rhubarb and the tall drama of artichoke plants to give a vertical element.

Now keep your edibles weeded, mix in some flowers (this helps bring in pollinators)  and share your bounty with the neighbors. You’ll be cheered not jeered for shrinking that lawn.

Q. I want to plant some vegetables but my soil is full of rocks and light in color. Should I add manure? Fertilizer? Topsoil?  Please help.

A. Start small your first year and invest in some bags of compost. Visit a local nursery for advice on which bagged compost is best for your soil type.

A raised bed of at least six inches of compost surrounded by bricks, rocks or even logs will help contain the compost that you layer on top of your sad soil and then mix in with a hoe or shovel.  Sign up for classes, subscribe to blogs, read books and slowly grow yourself some knowledge on the art of edible gardening.

Your local Master Gardeners are full of free advice and also have demonstration gardens for you to visit. My vote is to start with leafy greens that you grow from seed. Spinach, lettuce and kale can be planted now. In June plant beans, and squash.

Marianne Binetti is a Northwest horticultural expert. She will be hosting a discussion titled “Recycle, Reuse Garden Art and Dirt Cheap Ideas” at 1 p.m. Sunday on the Expert Stage at the Northwest Women’s Show at CenturyLink Field. For more information visit

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Life

Washington State Fair cancelled

COVID-19 outbreak claims another event

Courtesy of Lindbergh High School.
Congrats to the Class of 2020— virtual ceremony June 15

Students were also celebrated using walk-up ceremonies at Renton High School, Lindbergh High School, Hazen High School and Talley Sr. High School

TLG Motion Pictures CEO Erik Bernard and TLG founder Courtney LeMarco on a set. Photo courtesy TLG Motion Pictures.
Local production company seeking film, TV pitches from young minority creatives

The Big Pitch competition, put on by TLG Motion Pictures (“Hoarders”), started about six months ago.

Relay for Life of South King County moves online

American Cancer Society donations to be taken during May 30 virtual gathering

Photo by Haley Ausbun
                                A woman checks out jars of honey and jam at the Renton Farmers Market in 2018. This year social distancing guidelines are changing the look of the market.
Renton Farmers Market is back June 9

The 19th season of the market will look a little different due to social distancing guidelines

Auburn Symphony Orchestra announces 2020-21 season

Begins with Summer Series scheduled to start June 21

Medic One Foundation’s Gratitude Meals offer support to first responders, local businesses

The initiative provides hearty lunches to first responders staffing the COVID-19 testing sites as they work to test their colleagues.

‘Don’t assume it can’t happen to you’

Federal Way resident Evelyn Allcorn shares story of her husband’s battle with COVID-19 after he tested positive on March 28.

Auburn dance studio finds creative solutions to keep going during COVID-19

Pacific Ballroom Dance moves to online classes; group returned home early from national competition

Photo by Haley Ausbun
                                Boon Boona Coffee in downtown Renton is well-known for its large cafe space, but owner Efrem Fesaha has found a creative way to keep people to to-go orders only, putting a table right at the door. The order from the Governor hasn’t been easy for small businesses in Renton, and many are just taking it day to day and hoping for financial relief from local and regional leaders.
Renton communities reach out during shut-in

Local organizations, volunteers and businesses try to make the best of quarantine

Renton and AARP team up for seniors

New fitness park to funded and will open late in the summer

Renton March 2020 Youth of the Month
March Rotary Youth of the Month

Rotary members recognize three Renton School District high school students each month… Continue reading