Five Lessons From My Inland Northwest Garden

The cool, clear nights that make autumn so beautiful here in the Blue Mountains also bring frosts that kill tender vegetables.  With the harvest spilling over boxes and racks around our tiny yurt, it’s a good time to reflect on what I learned this summer:

1) Plant more tomatoes.  They can (at least some years) ripen at 3800 feet in northeastern Oregon.

Various short-season varieties plus cans of salsa, sauce, and juice.
Various short-season varieties plus cans of salsa, sauce, and juice

2) Show My Beloved how well a cold frame works, then discuss greenhouses.

Cold frame built over hole in ground.
Cold frame built over hole in ground

3) Don’t plant so many cherry tomatoes (see #1).

Yellow Cherry Tomatoes
Yellow Cherry Tomatoes

4) Banish Hubbard to the hinterlands.

Hubbard Squash
An eighteen incher, this is one of many giant Hubbard squash that crowded out tomatoes, melons, beans, and nasturtiums

5) Beware of rattlesnakes under eggplants

Rattlesnake under eggplants
Northern Pacific Rattlesnake

Some resources for high altitude, short season gardening:

High Altitude Gardens

Irish Eyes Garden Seeds

Raintree Nursery

For humane snake removal:

Forestry Suppliers, Inc.


  1. Wow. Rattlesnake! I have to admit I’ve never encountered that in my urban Portland garden.

    You cold frame is so impressive. And I never knew Hubbards grew so huge.

    I hear ya about the tomatoes. I don’t think you can have too many. Can you?!

  2. ACK SNAKE!!!! ( I’m in NE Oregon…we have a lot of em…haven’t met one yet…happily!

  3. Lelo – I never had the rattlesnake trouble in Portland either. It does add a certain thrill to picking eggplants and tomatoes out here. And no, one can never have too many tomatoes, especially the saucy ones.

  4. Liz M – Where in NE Oregon have you not met a rattlesnake? I must confess I enjoy them, though I’ve had to teach myself to be cautious. They’re certainly not the garter snakes I grew up catching in Western Washington.

  5. Since I deplore eggplant, I’m happy with the rattlesnake being there. What a marvelous find in the garden! Though down here (in Texas) gardens usually mean coral snakes instead (hence most people are bitten on or between the fingers).

    And I keep going back to the tomatoes. They look so succulent; I just want to grab one and eat it like an apple.

  6. Hah! More eggplant for me. I’ve always wanted to see a coral snake, though perhaps not in my garden. The nice thing about rattlesnakes is that they…well, rattle. They’re also pretty slow and non-aggressive.

    Yes, the tomatoes were delicious. Were eating the last of the fresh ones now; frost has killed the vines.

  7. October is mating season for snakes here.They are very aggressive at this time of year.We have ways of keeping snakes away from the house…but I wont bore you
    with details as you dont have a lot of poisonous ones.Everything kills you here…the worst is the insects …spiders and ticks…never mind! Now about those frost cases
    you made…they look good but you could have done the same thing by just turning plastic pots upside down over the plants. Don’t know what you water supply is like
    …but I swear by wet newspaper and heaped straw mulch …do you know about permaculture?

  8. Sounds like you live in an exciting place. Most of our critters are not deadly (except the bears and cougars, but they usually steer clear of people).

    Yes, I do know about permaculture. I helped develop a permaculture farm in Nepal and am working out of that approach in establishing my garden in NE Oregon. Our cold winters don’t give us the same broad range of perennials that those in temperate to tropical climates have, but it’s still worth experimenting. I’ll be posting more on my permaculture experiments in the future.

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