A Quick and Dirty Guide to Raising Vegetables in Southcentral Alaska

The following is a very brief overview of how to grow your own vegetables in southcentral Alaska. It is by no means a definitive guide. It is however, a quick read, and an easy way to get started growing your own vegetables.

Your garden site:

The site of your garden is very important. Because Alaska is an extreme climate you want to give your plants every advantage. Below are some considerations for preparing your garden site:

  • Find a place on your property that gets the most sunlight.
  • Use a soil warming technique. They are listed here in order of preference:
    • Raised beds/garden boxes. These are easy to build with lumber, logs, etc.  Make them no wider than four feet. This allows you to tend your garden from both sides of the box. Make sure that you do not use treated wood!
    • Mounded beds/rows. If you can’t build raised beds, you can take whatever soil you till and form it into raised mounds or rows. You’ll have to water more often, but your plants will thank you.
    • Regular rows. If tilling is not a possibility, or you cannot get extra soil to make mounds or raised beds, you can simply prepare your site at ground level. This will make your soils a little cooler in the summer, but it’s not the end of the world.
    • Test your soil! The soils in Alaska can be weird, because our natural topsoil is so new and so shallow. Try A&L Laboratories for a home garden soil test. Turnaround time is about a month and it will cost you about $17.
    • Add compost/organic matter. This adds nutrients to your soil and helps with water retention and drainage. Consider starting a compost pile in your yard somewhere. Add vegetable scraps, dead leaves, lawn clippings, and a few shovel-fulls of dirt. Turn your compost pile every few weeks and make sure it has lots of moisture. Water it if necessary. If you don’t want to make compost, you can buy it from Susitna Organics.
    • Add organic fertilizer as necessary. If you’re creating a new garden site, you will likely need to add more nutrients. Take a look at your soil test and see what they recommend. You can order fertilizer from me, or pick some up at your local farm/garden supply store. Alaska Sea-Ag makes fish bone meal (10-18-1) for really cheap as well.

Next Step: Buying Seeds