How does your garden grow?

By the time we moved in to This Old House it was too late in the season for me to get started. “Wait,” you say, “you only got there in June! What is wrong with you! Haven’t you heard of succession planting? Many plants cannot be planted until late in the season anyhow! And what about winter crops!” But you would be forgetting that I live in Alaska, and that I still have to completely set up my beds. Sure, I could get some lettuce and herbs, and perhaps a few strawberries, before the fall frosts, but nothing like what I’d like. Being a novice gardener and light on cash, I cannot afford the amenities that would allow me to extend the growing season later. I do have most of the materials in place for extending the season early, however, and I’ve committed myself to putting my all into next year’s garden.

I had planned on building raised beds and moving the soil from the existing plot over to the new location. Less trouble than double-digging, I thought. I’ve since thought better. Since we moved in at the end of spring, we’re only going to be here for one growing season. That’s not worth going through the expense of moving things around.

What I will do is narrow the existing bed from 8×8 to 8×5, getting the bed away from the trees in one corner. I will double-dig now, put manure and other compost in now, cover it with newspaper and straw, and allow it to overwinter. I will also build some zucchini hills. Once the snow is melted in spring, I will cover the beds with black plastic and allow the soil to heat up so that I’ll be able to transplant started seedlings into covered containers. That should get me my “early” spring crop. I’ll be hoping for a second planting as soon as those plants are ready.

It is both easy and hard to grow vegetables here. On one hand, the growing season is incredibly short. On the other hand, we get roughly 20 hours of sunlight at the height of summer. Early maturing plants get incredible growth. The key is short season plants and transplanting from seedlings. Seeds in the ground can work, but it’s better to get a head start.

Next year I am looking forward to carrots, zucchini, and basil. If I don’t grow anything else, those will be it.


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