Gardening in Alaska can be fun if you’re set up for it early.

I really enjoy gardening. But, in Alaska the season seems very short. However, when you start your own plants, the season is several months longer. A couple of weeks ago I started by planting Brussel Sprouts and Peppers. Yesterday I planted my Tomatoes. In a few weeks I will be planting my Cabbage and Broccoli. The last veggies I plant inside, in April,will be Cucumbers, Zucchini, and this year I will try a variety of Winter Squash.

One thing you need to make sure you have here in Alaska is a light source that you can put over your new plants. For years I never did this, simply starting my plants in my windows. But my plants were always spindly looking. It worked, and when I transplanted them they always grew, but they never looked as good as the ones I saw at the greenhouses or even in my friends houses and they seemed to grow much slower initially when I transplanted them outside compared to the ones I got at the local greenhouse. I read a lot this winter about gardening in Alaska and read that you need to give them lots of up close light when they are first sprouting so that they don’t have to stretch for the light which causes them to be spindly.

I bought a shop light with daylight bulbs in it this year and have set up a small grow area in my dinning room. I didn’t get it done before my Brussel Sprouts sprouted, so they are a bit spindly already, but I’m hoping the rest of the plants will be alright. I am so excited to see my peppers finally sprouting, and my tomatoes will probably be sprouting by the time I get home from Utah, as long as my husband remembers to water them and turn the light on!

A couple of tips for starting your own plants:

1 – Make sure you don’t plant things too early. One year I planted my zucchini with my tomatoes. I had giant zucchini plants by the time I put them in the ground. But zucchini don’t like to be disturbed very much, and the plants were so big is was hard not to break and damage the plants. It took them a while to recover. So, make sure you’re planting in the right order at the right time.

2 – Use the right supplies. I like to buy the little plastic 6 pack cups with a tray to go underneath for watering. I have also used regular plastic cups with holes in the bottom. They didn’t do too bad. My tomatoes I will probably have to transplant into something bigger before they go outside, I have read that milk jugs work great for that, but I start them off in smaller 6 packs so they don’t take up so much space initially. Jiffy pots are not a good idea here in Alaska. They suck the moisture out of the soil and they don’t degrade for years so you have to remove the cups before planting, which damages the root system. Having said that, I have used them, and the plants do grow, but there is a longer recovery when putting them in the ground, and in Alaska, that’s precious time wasted.

3 – Plant extra. Seeds don’t always germinate and your friends will probably love any extra plants you might have. I usually plant a few extra plants, but I also plant 2 seeds in every cup and then remove the smaller plant when they’re still fairly small. Almost every year I have had only 1 seed germinate in some of the cups and was glad I had planted the 2 each. This is a must if you’re using older seed as they lose their vitality in storage. If they don’t germinate you might lose your window of opportunity to plant those particular items.

4 – Keep track of how much you plant and how much you use. This is where I struggle. I don’t keep very good track of a lot of our totals. But, I have not gotten enough of what I wanted many years either, so this year I am going to try to do better. I know how many potatoes and carrots I get every year, and how many we used by the next summer, so I know how many to plant the next year. But those are the only ones. I am going to do better this year though!

So there are some of my tips for gardening in Alaska, or colder climates. I also created a YouTube video if you’re interested in watching how I plant and getting my tips via video. It’s called March Gardening.

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