I first learned to garden on the Peninsula of the Pacific Northwest in a soft-shouldered growing season region where the only insurmountable growing challenge is coaxing plants to believe in the sun.
My Maui-born grandfather, who labored day to evening in his vegetable garden, had a list of Port Townsend-specific tomato growing frustrations that didn’t end at harvest. The sun was too weak and too infrequent, the tomatoes too pithy, the acidity too low, the plant too plentiful too late – where was the sun?
My grandparents moved from Port Townsend to east of the Cascades in 2000. In Chelan – the blue sky resort town where he was able to grow five gardens before he died – his tomato complaints were silenced at last.
Now, snuggled up to the Cascades – away from the comfort of salt air and out from under the blanket of grey, woolen clouds, the sun comes with three months of snow.
Just after the snow, there is a tepid period where people scramble to the nursery for promising plants that reluctantly sit, waiting for hope in the form of sun, insects, warm microbe-active soil, or someone to save them. Until, at last, we see two and a half months of heat and sun that then become so intense, the plants become almost recalcitrant.
Then it’s flip the switch to sweater season and the garden is dead. Plants don’t wear sweaters.
With such a short growing season, when to plant is as debatable as if I should plant.
This year, I will try again. But differently. Everything about this year is different – even the way I plan to finish it.