By Julie Winsel

Andrew Billing and Tim Russell, from Territorial Seed Company in Cottage Grove, are seed experts. Billing runs the trial grounds in London Springs, while Russell, who has worked for Territorial for 20 years, is the company’s marketing director. Both of them do what they love: grow plants from seed and help others do the same.

They gave some recommendations when it comes to planting directly in the ground this time of year, particularly about creating ideal conditions for your seedlings and sprouts. Two considerations to make: soil temperature and soil quality.

Because March temperatures can still be unpredictable, keeping the outdoor seeds consistently warm can be a challenge. Billing recommended combatting this with Reemay, a type of woven sheet, or other type of row cover. Cold frames or temporary greenhouses also work well to protect your seeds as they germinate.

Soil quality is also important to consider. Because the soil in the Willamette Valley is so clay heavy, the moisture presents a challenge. While Billing recommends starting to combat your clay in fall by gradually and cautiously adding in compost, perlite, or sand, your soil can also be tilled, but not until it is fully dry. This might not happen until April or May, depending on the winter rains, so you might have to be patient and focus on your transplants.

If your garden and soil are ready to go, they recommend planting spinach, radish, peas, lettuce, and carrots–all the cooler weather plants–this month and in early April. For indoor-started seeds, now is the time to plant peppers, tomatoes, onions, leeks, and some types of flowers, all that can germinate and start to sprout before being fully exposed to the outdoor elements.

While it can be hard to judge if conditions are right, sometimes it comes down to luck. “Gardening is one of those things that’s deceptively simple, yet hard at the same time,” Russell says. “It’s as simple as ‘you put stuff into the ground, you give it the right conditions, and it grows.’” But then some things are just out of your control.

Territorial Seed Company, 20 Palmer Ave., Cottage Grove, 800/626-0866,