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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Let the growing begin: It’s the return of In the Garden With Susan

Susan Mulvihill, a Spokesman-Review gardening columnist and an author, is ready for the 2023 gardening season.   (Pat Munts/For The Spokesman-Review)
Susan Mulvihill, a Spokesman-Review gardening columnist and an author, is ready for the 2023 gardening season.  (Pat Munts/For The Spokesman-Review) Buy this photo
By Susan Mulvihill For The Spokesman-Review

Now that the new growing season is within reach, we gardeners are becoming more cheerful by the day. It’s always a delight watching our gardens slowly come back to life.

The weather during this past fall and winter was certainly interesting, wasn’t it? The leaves on our trees and shrubs have hung on for dear life through many months of challenging weather conditions. I have to admit that even the snow-lover in me was getting pretty tired of seeing the same snow from our early November storm all winter long.

After the past few years of heat waves, drought, high winds, early snowstorms, and stubborn spring weather, there is one tool that I could really use: a crystal ball. Wouldn’t that come in handy when planning for the garden season? Unfortunately, all we can do is learn from the past and think about ways to help our plants survive and thrive through the spring and summer.

If some of your vegetable varieties struggled to grow and produce during past heat waves, consider researching heat-tolerant varieties. That’s what I did with my pole beans. For years, I successfully grew Musica until extended periods of intense heat started becoming the norm. I learned that Fortex and Rattlesnake perform well so I trialed them in last year’s garden. I was particularly impressed with Fortex so that’s what I’ll grow this year.

Placing a layer of mulch on the surface of our vegetable beds is another thing we should make a habit of. In addition to helping the soil retain precious moisture, it also will impede weed growth and make it difficult for disease pathogens to splash up onto plant foliage. My favorite mulching material is grass clippings from our lawn because we don’t treat it with herbicides; that means they’re safe to use. Other mulching options are shredded leaves and weed-free straw.

If you don’t have any shade cloth on hand, you might consider purchasing some just in case we have another heat wave this summer. The best densities to use in a garden are 30 to 50% . Shade cloth works best if you can suspend it above the plants you’re trying to protect, over hoops or stakes. If you place shade cloth directly on the plants, that cuts down on the air circulation around them, which concentrates the heat even more.

I’ve primarily used shade cloth above our tomato plants as they seem particularly susceptible to extreme heat, but it also can help extend the growing season of salad greens such as lettuce and spinach.

As you can see by the accompanying list, my husband and I are growing quite a lot of vegetables this year. Bill excels at growing onions, garlic and peppers but he’s added cabbage for future sauerkraut-making projects.

I’m excited to try two new-to-me cucumber varieties, Parisian hybrid and Mini-Me, because I’m hoping to duplicate the fabulous cucumbers I bought at an out-of-town farmer’s market last year. It also will be fun testing Burpee’s Butterbush butternut squash because it reaches maturity in a mere 75 days. It has a bush form rather than a vining habit. Perhaps you’ve noticed the Ali Baba watermelon down at the bottom of the list. I don’t typically grow watermelons because the full-sized varieties require a lot of time to mature. I was pleasantly surprised to discover Ali Baba will produce 12- to 30-pound melons in 75 days. There was no way I could pass that up!

It’s safe to say that, just like you, I am brimming with excitement at the prospect of a new growing season. Every year, we become better gardeners by learning from past experiences and missteps. A new garden is the perfect opportunity to try new varieties while perfecting our techniques.

Susan Mulvihill is author of “The Vegetable Garden Problem Solver Handbook” and “The Vegetable Garden Pest Handbook.” She can be reached at Watch this week’s video at

Susan’s 2023 Garden

Artichoke: Tavor

Arugula: Heirloom Rustic

Basil: Genovese

Bean, pole: Fortex

Beet: Cylindra, Golden

Broccoli: Belstar

Cabbage: Copenhagen Market

Carrot: Danvers 126, New Kuroda, Scarlet Nantes

Celery: Utah Improved

Chard: Garden Rainbow

Corn: Sweetness Bicolor

Cucumber: Parisian hybrid, Mini-Me

Eggplant: Epic hybrid

Kale: Red Russian

Lettuce: Bauer, Bronze Beauty, Buttercrunch, Crisp Mint, Forellenschluss, Truchas

Melon: Tuscan Napoli

Onion: Copra, Italian Red of Florence

Pak Choi: Bopak

Parsnip: Harris Model

Pea: Green Arrow

Pepper: Big Jim, Biquinho, Chili Pie, Early Jalapeno, Lemon Spice Jalapeno, Marconi Rosso, Nadapeno, Pot-a-peno, Pumpkin Spice

Radish: French Breakfast, Purple Plum

Potato: Elba, Yukon Gem

Pumpkin: Spookie

Shallot: Zebrune

Spinach: Matador

Squash, summer: Cocozelle

Squash, winter: Burpee’s Butterbush Butternut, Goldilocks, Potimarron

Tomato: Celano, Federle, Gilbertie, Orange Hat, Patio Choice Yellow Bush, Supremo

Turnip: Silky Sweet

Watermelon: Ali Baba

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