Conventional wisdom in South-central Alaska says not to plant anything in the ground until Memorial Day weekend. My gardening is anything but conventional, so you might guess I plant a lot earlier than that. Especially during a spring like this one… how can anyone wait? We’ve been planting in the garden for a month and a half, and we are already eating fresh greens from the garden. Nothing compares to the taste of spring greens straight from the garden and I have been eating them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. My body craves them like a tonic to cleanse my body from the fatty foods of winter.
The last average frost date for most of Anchorage is May 15th, but many young seedlings can handle a light frost. If you put floating row cover over your seedlings, you get an extra 3-7 degrees of protection, plus your plants will grow much faster. Floating row cover is a spun polyester fabric that lays right on top of your plants like a blanket. Air, light, and water pass right through it, but it creates an air pocket of warm air right next to the ground where your seedlings need it. I consider it essential in my garden and I also use it for hardening off seedlings and keeping out the cabbage root maggots. It lasts for many seasons and is well worth the investment.
I start planting greens in my warmest beds just as soon as they are free from snow and the soil warms up a bit. The beds directly in front of the south side of the house and greenhouse are ready at least two weeks before anything else. This year that was the first of April. Last year I already had baby greens growing in the ground when we had that late snowfall. I stapled some plastic to the greenhouse to shed the snow and they were fine. Next I like to get my carrots, parsnips, onions and potatoes planted. The sooner I plant, the sooner I can harvest and eat. I cover the carrots and parsnips with row cover because it helps keep the soil moist while I’m waiting for them to germinate. I try to plant out my broccoli and other cabbage family starts in the first part of May.
In fact, the only thing I wait until the end of May for is the tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash, which truly are frost sensitive and will do poorly if subjected to cool temperatures. With this amazing weather we’ve been having, I’m going to put all those out to harden off so they will be ready to be planted next week. It is essential for me and my large garden to spread the planting out over two months because I couldn’t possibly get it all done at once.
If you’ve been waiting to plant your garden, wait no longer! Get out there in this beautiful weather and start planting. Just remember to harden off your seedings by putting them in the shade for one week before planting. Throw some row cover over them for extra protection. Happy planting!!