Get ready for a riot of color when you approach the entrance to Joe’s Gardens, a Bellingham landmark farm, produce stand and garden center that first opened in 1933. Joe’s Gardens offers a huge variety of high quality vegetable starts, herbs, flowers, bedding plants and basket stuffers. And the service can only be described as “old-fashioned”—where the staff goes the extra mile to explain how and when to plant, which varieties they prefer and, as I observed, will check all the lettuce start flats to find one with a single plant for a senior customer.
I had a great time walking the farm with Nathan Weston, who with his brother Jason took over running Joe’s Gardens from their parents. Their dad, Karl, started working at the farm when he was 12, and learned the business from founders Joe and Ann Bertero.
This time of year, it’s all about vegetable plants, flowers and perennials. The greenhouses are full of starts and the beginnings of what will be full, lush flowering baskets.
Staffers stay super busy, planting seeds and transplanting starts, moving plants around as needed. They make the plants work hard—nothing is babied around here! Before they get too used to the greenhouse, where it’s warm and cozy, plants are moved out and into the real world. And this happens every 10 days (talk about turnover!).
Tomato seeds are planted in flats of 1,000 to 2,000, and then move into their own little pots.
Cold frames hold tomato seedlings that were recently moved out of the greenhouse, and are acclimating to outdoor conditions, so they can grow hardy stems and leaves. The cold frames are a little old school and labor-intensive (they get hot, they get cold, they need insulation on cool nights, and they’re back-breaking), but Nathan says they’re worth it, because they result in stronger, healthier plants. And that’s exactly what Joe’s customers have come to expect.
Good to know: everything you buy from Joe’s has been thoroughly tested, so you know it’s going to be successful in your northwest garden. If they’ll plant it in their own fields, you can trust it, too. I brought home a box full of starts, including dinosaur kale, red and green romaine (because Nathan says it’s even more nutritious than kale!), spinach, peas and French Crisp lettuce, which is slow to bolt and has a long shelf life. In fact, Nathan jokingly referred to it as “bachelor’s lettuce,” because it can stay in the fridge for a while. That works in my house, too.
Field crops are getting started, with peas, spinach, beets, carrots and lettuces. In a few weeks, more planting will commence. Most of what goes in the field actually starts from seed in the greenhouse.
Peas and lettuce are already established in the field, in perfectly straight rows that Joe would thoroughly approve.
Starting in May, farm-grown produce is available, with beautiful lettuces and tomatoes, plus carrots, broccoli, corn, swiss chard, peas and lots more. Up until a few years ago, most of what was grown at Joe’s was sent to local grocery stores for retail sale, but now the majority of crops are picked and sold right here at the farm stand.
Later in the year, you can pick up handmade garlic braids, fall squashes, cider, apples and pumpkins. Any time of year (except winter, that is) you can find beautiful plants and produce from great people at Joe’s Gardens. Stop by for garden tools, compost and soil, too—I promise you’ll be glad you did!
Note: Vegetable seeds and plants in soil cannot be transported from the U.S. into Canada.
Joe’s Gardens, 3110 Taylor Avenue, Bellingham WA 98225 360-671-7639
Joe’s Gardens on Facebook
Where else can you find garden starts in Whatcom County?
Downtown:1220 N Forest St., Bellingham, WA
Cordata:315 Westerly Rd., Bellingham, WA
Good’s Nursery and Produce
2620 Northwest Ave, Bellingham, WA 98225
Terra Organic and Natural Foods (in the Bellingham Public Market)
1530 Cornwall Avenue, Bellingham, WA 98225
Fountain District Shopping Center: 2814 Meridian St., Bellingham, WA
Barkley Village: 2900 Woburn St., Bellingham, WA
Sehome Village: 210 36th St., Bellingham, WA
800 Lakeway Dr., Bellingham, WA
1225 W. Bakerview Rd., Bellingham, WA
Vander Giessen Nursery
401 East Grover St. Lynden, WA 98264
Whatcom Farmer’s Coop (Having a Garden Center Event on March 28, 2015!)
Bellingham: 3500 Meridian Street, Bellingham, WA 98225
Blaine: 1733 H Street, Suite 700, Blaine, WA, 98230
Fairhaven: 3125 Old Fairhaven Parkway, Bellingham 98225
Lynden: 119 17th Street, Lynden, WA 98264
Ferndale: 1720 LaBounty Drive, Ferndale, WA 98248
Nooksack: 104 Nooksack Avenue, Nooksack, WA 98247
Growing Veterans Farm
Garden start sale on April 13 (tentative date, check back here for any changes)
6458 Martin Place, Lynden, WA 98264
This great organization “empowers military veterans to grow food, communities and each other.”