Winter is winding down and it’s almost time to start thinking about the veggie garden. There will be a couple of months of predictable freezing yet, so you can’t put out “tenders,” but you can prepare for starting a few crops indoors that require a long growing season. Too soon and they might become too leggy or grow too large for the location you have for them; too late and you might just as well forget about it and just plant right in the garden plot. It’s best to know “when” is the right time for each variety you want to grow.
The earliest varieties you can consider are peppers and tomatoes. In most all regions of the U.S. these heat-loving vegetables benefit from starting indoors. Sow seeds at least eight weeks before planting them outdoors, but be sure to wait until the soil has warmed and summer
weather has settled in. Both these varieties cannot handle cool temperatures or frost, so be sure all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed to 70 degrees.
The allium family: onions, leeks, garlic, shallots, etc. are next in line. They are usually planted as sets or partially grown bulbs, but they can be started as seeds indoors now to get them off to a strong start and they can even handle a few light freezes, so you can set them out before other vegetables too.
The next logical veggies are cabbage, kale, cauliflower and broccoli. They are also frost hardy so it’s possible to sow them directly into the garden plot if you tilled it and covered it with plastic last fall.
Indoors you want to time things so you have 4-6 weeks before plant-out time to sow them indoors. In coastal areas of Alaska start these seeds
late next month. You can plan for an extended harvest if you sow seeds
through June, in successive installments. Plant the seedlings outdoors by late April to mid-May paying close attention to weather reports. You might have to cover the seedlings a few times, but you’ll have a tremendous jump on the season! It helps to harden them off a bit while growing them if you can place them outdoors on sunny days when the temperature remains above freezing during the afternoon.
Cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, melons, and gourds can all be started indoors 4-5 weeks before they can be planted outdoors. It’s possible to direct seed them outdoors, but you’ll have a bigger crop and healthier plants for this area if you start them indoors. Melons especially, appreciate warm weather, so the longer you can “push” them indoors the more likely you can get produce later this summer.
Be careful in handling seedlings because root disturbance may set them back when you plant everything out. Most root crops don’t like any disturbance at all, so it’s best to plant these directly into the garden. Carrots, beets, radishes, turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc. are all better left to plant directly into the garden. They can be planted a little before the last freeze date, because they will be slow getting out of the cool ground anyway. Take your time, enjoy the coming gardening season, and why not try something new this year! You might just be pleasantly surprised.
Email your gardening questions to email@example.com for Master Gardener answers. Perhaps your question will appear in the next newsletter! Written, edited and distributed by Di Braun for free personal use by those who enjoy gardening. Please contact the writer for details on redistribution through commercial entities. Click on http://www.aerochug.com/x-22763-Anchorage-Gardening-Examiner for an archive of landscape newsletters and articles.