Preparing for summer when it's too early to garden

Published: Mar. 22, 2019 at 3:03 PM AKDT
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The temperatures are warming and it is officially spring. Even with 10 to 11 weeks before we can plant outside, there are some things you can do now that might alleviate some spring fever.

“The first thing I would recommend everybody do is plan first, because we always get so excited with those seed packets,” says Tami Schlies, certified master gardener. “And (we) buy far more than we can ever plant and then we want to plant the whole seed packet. By the time planting actually rolls around, we've got too many seedlings.”

Many gardening companies and seed suppliers have garden planners on their website but you can do it on your own.

“Right now is a great time to sit down with some graph paper and plan out your garden so you know how many of each type of plant you might want,” says Schlies. “I just plan out where the broccoli's going this year, where the lettuce is going this year and how many plants that I need. That way I know I don’t have to start the whole seed packet. I only start a little bit more, about 10 percent more, than I actually need.”

Over at the Alaska Botanical Garden, the grounds are still covered in snow but volunteers are getting plants ready. They have the setup for starting early.

“It's very tempting. We all get kind of stirred up, and that sunlight just triggers it, that we want to plant something. It's a little early,” says Education Specialist Patrick Ryan. “You can start some seeds but we've got 10 to 11 weeks to go before we can actually put them outside. So unless you have a greenhouse or a room to dedicate to that with a light set up, you probably should wait.”

Ryan has advice if you’re eager to get do something now. "Gather your materials. Go visit nurseries, all of them. Everybody kind of specializes so it's fun to know what people carry.”

The “last frost” date range in Anchorage is still considered to be May 21 to 31. In Fairbanks, the last frost date range is between June 1 and 10. Still, there are some plants that can be directly seeded before that. Cool weather crops such as peas and carrots can be sown once the ground is workable.

While the growing season is getting longer, in Anchorage, Memorial Day is still considered the safe choice.

“If you've got transplants, you know you're running a risk by putting them out, because while it might not...” Schlies pauses. “I mean we might not get a frost up until that last frost date, or we might. So it's a gamble.”

So though many of us are eager to get gardening, the best thing now is to plan your garden and gather your supplies. Check the backs of seed packets for information about how early to start your plants inside so they’re ready once that last frost date passes.