A Quick and Dirty Guide to Raising Vegetables in Southcentral Alaska Step 3: Starting Your Seeds

Starting plants indoors:

My seedling cart. It's a wire rack from Costco, several fluorescent lights, and a outlet timer.

Because our seasons are so short in Alaska, you can give your plants a good head-start by starting them indoors.

In order to start your plants indoors, you will need to use some sort of artificial light. Something as simple as a couple fluorescent tubes will do the trick. You’ll want to keep the lights as close the plants as possible, but not so close that you burn the plants. Additionally, adding a rotating fan nearby will give your plants some added strength and may prevent them from getting too leggy.

Buy some plastic flats from a local greenhouse, as well as some clear plastic tops that fit over the flats.  Scrounge up empty cell containers from neighbors and friends. Reuse them every year and you’ll soon have a good stock of containers. Keep your plants moist and warm while they germinate. The plastic covering is ideal for this.

Below is a brief calendar that outlines when veggies should be started:

January:

  • Onions

April:

First week:

  • Cabbages
  • Broccoli

Third week:

  • More cabbage
  • More broccoli
  • Kale
  • Lettuce

May:

First week:

  • Corn
  • Zuchinni
  • Pumpkins

seed flat with plastic cover

Seed directly in the garden:

  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Kale
  • Swiss chard
  • Lettuce
  • Onions
  • Green onions
  • Radishes
  • Peas

Outdoor Planting/Transplanting:

The rule of thumb in Alaska is that you should not transplant your veggie starts until Memorial Day weekend. Others say you are safe as soon at the birch leaves are as big as a squirrel’s ear. Some seeds, like carrots, peas, and kale can be planted just after the soil has warmed. Check your seed packets to see. I’ve planted as early as May 9th, but that was during a really warm spring in a really favorable location. Officially the last frost date in southcentral is May 31st.

Next Step: Caring for your plants