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What to plant in the fall in Alaska?

 
Posts: 66
Location: South Central Alaska Zone 4a/b
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Hello,

I am new to Alaska (Kenai Peninsula area), and also very new to gardening. As in I have never had a real garden. I have read a bit on permies about different approaches, but of course not all approaches/advice apply to this climate. I started working a few hours a week at an organic garden farm here in exchange for produce (a great deal for our home!), primarily to learn about how to grow things here. This also means I have access to plants that have been bred in this climate for 50 years or so, and are very hardy. Unfortunately earlier in the summer when one would have liked to have been planting, we did not have a place to do any of that. We just finally got into a place where I could have a small garden, and alas it is basically fall.

SO... what plants can/should be planted during the fall season in Alaska? The only one I know of is garlic, but would love to be able to plant at least one other thing with it if that's possible.. Its not a lot, but its a start for us for next year.

Also, any tips/tricks for gardening in this area are appreciated!

Thanks in advance.

Eloise.
 
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When do you get your first frost?

Maybe yesterday was the day to plant?

As you mentioned, garlic.  Maybe onions, spinach, kale, and lettuce.

Plant in post or bed that can be brought inside or can be covered to prevent frost damage.
 
Eloise Rock
Posts: 66
Location: South Central Alaska Zone 4a/b
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I have read that the average day of first frost is Sept 1... I also read that garlic should be planted a couple of weeks after the 1st frost, but before the ground freezes. So there is still a bit of time I hope.

I was under the impression that the garlic anyway was best to winter outside. Is that not true? Do they need to be brought in?

From https://www.uaf.edu/ces/garden/garlic/
"Planting time
Unlike most vegetables we grow, garlic is planted in the autumn, not the spring. Spring-planted garlic will be smaller and generally lacking in bulb differentiation. In Alaska, garlic should be planted between mid-September and mid-October, within a week or two after the first killing frost (when the air temperature reaches about 32°F for the first time in the autumn) or about four to six weeks before the ground freezes for the first time in the autumn. In Southeast Alaska this could be early October, while in Interior Alaska it’s more likely to be mid-September. The ideal planting date will vary from year to year. The goal is to plant the garlic so that it has enough time for root growth but not for leaf growth. If leafy shoots emerge from the ground in the autumn, they will be killed by winter cold. See the Alaska Garden Helper (https://www.snap.uaf.edu/tools/gardenhelper/) for your likely first frost date. Add one or two weeks for the estimated planting date."

Also

"Mulch
Adequate mulch and snow cover help protect garlic from extremely cold Alaska winters. Alaskans have used chopped leaves, straw, compost and even seaweed for mulch. Add about 4 to 10 inches of mulch. In Juneau where rains are particularly heavy, garlic farmer Joe Orsi covers his crop with a tarp in November. Other growers recommend mulch that will allow moisture to penetrate. The freeze-thaw cycles pose additional challenges for some areas, so mulch removal in spring is important to prevent ice matting. If mulch is left on the bed, the soil will not warm as rapidly and crop growth will be reduced."

Those statements lead me to believe they should be planted outside, and not brought in. Let me know what you think.
 
Anne Miller
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I would definitely use that as a guide since it is all about Alaska.

Maybe some of our Alaska or previous Alaska gardeners will chime in.
 
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Now is a great time to plant all of your fruit trees:
( https://cespubs.uaf.edu/publications/?&s=*&pt=*&cat=7 )
- Apricot
- Apple
- Cherry
- Pear
- Plum
- Strawberry (not too sure where you are but you can at least grow the everbearing cultivar as an annual)
- Artic Kiwi
- Seaberry
- Honeyberry
- Raspberry/Blackberry
- Blueberry/Cranberry/Ligonberry
- Grapes (possible)

Garlic family, Kale family and Dill/Lovage family are just about the only thing that over-winters, but maybe you can try with some of the plants in the thyme family too.  I think only the garlic family plant would really benift from it though.

(A super insulated greenhouse for your greywater system)
 
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Kenai has a similar winter climate to midwestern areas like minnesota, so you can also get advice from some midwesterners. Also where on the Peninsula is going to matter alot, the hardiness zones very from 3b to 6b, so be abit more specific. If your down in homer you can pretty much grow kale year round. If your up in kenai proper I'd focus on prepping beds for garlic and next springs planting. Also I'd love to connect with you I'm very interested in your experience and would love to share some of the results of my garden experiments, and hear more about the garden you worked in. I'm getting ready for Garlic right now aswell. Good luck.  
 
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If you're in a place where you will live a long time, the sooner you can plant haskaps,  the better. (They do exceptionally well in your climate and varying soils and they pay dividends after a few years.) Same suggestion for other trees and shrubs, as mentioned in posts above. The best time to plant an apple tree is 20 years ago; the next best time is now.

You can get a strawberry bed started.  Mulch them in case we have a winter like last winter or harsher (long, early cold snap before the snow insulated the ground, and then that brutal mid-winter wind storm that swept areas bare and had its way with some of the less hardy plants). If you know the right person,  you can get a bunch of runners off their plants right now.

Make sure,  sure,  sure to protect your fruit and berry trees and your strawberries from moose!

Now is also a good time to tromp around in the woods and get some currants to plant in your yard (before the leaves fall off, making them harder to identify). The disadvantage of doing this now is that you don't have the benefit of seeing what the plant is producing,  and some produce a lot more or better quality than others. But it will give you a start with getting some established. You may well already have some in your yard, hiding among the grass and high bush cranberries. Look around tree stumps.

Your time and effort right now might be best put into preparing beds or building a greenhouse for next spring.  For example,  you could prepare a bed with some provision for putting plastic over it during breakup to melt the snow and thaw the ground faster to give yourself an early start.

Think now about how you are going to protect your garden from moose.  That may inform how you lay it out and where you put it. Where I live they usually wait until late August to come eat beets,  kale,  cabbage,  broccoli,  etc. that are finally ready.  (I'm in the Matsu kind of near Hatcher Pass.) You can make some kind of deterrent during the summer.
 
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What is your gardening goal?

It is a bummer you missed the main season, but if the ground isn't frozen you can start prepping your beds for next year, researching and planning. Source the perennials you want for next year.

I have this book: Perennial Vegetables: From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro, A Gardener's Guide to Over 100 Delicious and Easy to Grow Edibles. I was very surprised at how many are cold hardy.

Get prepared to start seedlings indoors.

I don't know haksops but you're shooting yourself in the foot if you don't have a bed of blueberries.

Second the hardy greens.
 
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As a former Alaskan, I can tell you the first thing you need to do is build a greenhouse.  Otherwise, you're going to find moose mowing down your cabbage, lettuce, and whatever else you grow - the day before you intend to harvest them.  Depending on exactly where you live "in the Kenai peninsula area" is important.  Seward gets really cold, as does Homer and Soldotna / Kenai.  However, not many people know that Anchor Point gets the benefit of the Japan current and seldom gets below 20 *above*.  A greenhouse would solve most of your problems.

The really good thing is that the soil in Alaska is insanely fertile; just look around at how lush everything is!  Also, 20 hours of sunlight a day is literally better than having two days of growing in the lower 48.  I see you posted this three weeks ago and this advice might be untimely so, if it were me, I'd just plan on having everything ready to get going after breakup.  Having your seeds ready is a big deal also.  You'll probably need to dig some post holes so, if you know how big you want the greenhouse, you could do that now, before freeze-up; it will be a nightmare during the spring when the ground is still frozen.  Maybe you could score some seeds of those giant veggies they grow up in the valley!

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Location: zone 4b, sandy, Continental D
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Eloise Rock wrote:Hello,

I am new to Alaska (Kenai Peninsula area), and also very new to gardening.
SO... what plants can/should be planted during the fall season in Alaska? The only one I know of is garlic, but would love to be able to plant at least one other thing with it if that's possible.. Its not a lot, but its a start for us for next year.

Eloise.




This map tells me that you are in a zone 4a or 4b. In Central Wisconsin, I'm also in a zone 4b. The map will also tell you your first frost date, last frost date and the like. Bookmark it so you can refer to it when you need to:
https://www.plantmaps.com/hardiness-zones-for-kenai-alaska#:~:text=Kenai%2C%20Alaska%20is%20in%20USDA%20Hardiness%20Zones%204a%20and%204b
You also need to arm yourself with the knowledge of what your soil is like: Sandy? loamy? clayey? Is the Ph good for blueberries or will you have to fight mother nature with heavy applications of aluminum sulfate?? [and do you want to?]
Not knowing that, if you can, start planting trees: Fruit trees, ornamental trees, bushes, especially those that bear fruit.
Canada has developed a number of honeyberries you might like. The fruit is small but make the most delicious and colorful jelly.
The rubes should also do well there: Currants red and black, and gooseberries.
Blackberries do not do well here, but raspberries should do fantastic.
If you ask around you may find nurseries that are only too happy to sell you good bushes and trees at a discounted price [rather then have to bag them or replant for storage]
As far as annuals, yes, garlic is a natural and you should be able to plant until November. They don't like weed competition, though, so straw is a must.  If you go to a local Farmer's Market, you will get a good idea of which stiff neck garlic is doing well there. Jerusalem artichokes can be planted any time the soil is not frozen, too. Rhubarb is waning now, and is ripe for transplanting. Here, they are a bit pricey, but if you can get a couple of good ones, in a couple of years, you can split them. They are heavy feeders though, so be ready to help them, especially if you are in a sandbox, like me.
This brings me to feeding these crops: what is available to you? Do you see chicken manure in your future? It is when I decided to have an orchard that I also decided to have chickens, meat and egg chickens: they poop a lot, especially at night and they will be tremendous help cleaning the orchard, which is a must if you want unblemished fruit without drowning them in dangerous chemicals. I place their spent litter around trees and bushes. If you know what comfrey looks like and can get it, you could start some in your garden. I should tell you, though that chickens loooove to eat comfrey so in the orchard... well, you'd need a lot of comfrey to make up for what they will destroy.
Good luck to you. I hope this will give you a good start.
 
Posts: 27
Location: Coastal Alaska
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Homer area gardener here.  I don't know anyone overwintering annual vegetables outside in ground except garlic, and of course perennials.

The Homer Garden Club has published a book, I believe its only available directly from them, and there is a copy at the Homer Library.  Also checkout Brenda Adams book  "There's a Moose in My Garden,"  author is a Homer area gardener also.

For the record, my garden is all in-ground outside, no greenhouse, no row covers etc at 1,000ft and it produces a ton of annuals, and perennials.  So as much as everyone LOVES PLASTIC, it is not actually required to grow food.  Fences however, are required, unless the goal is to grow treats for the animals.

Honestly, with the weather we've been having I wouldn't plant anything now except garlic.  What I would do now is get a soil test and amend you soil accordingly so it will be ready for next growing season - if you do only one amendment it should be Lime.  Contact your NRCS about how to do this, its very simple and you can request organic amendment recommendations.

Where are you on the Peninsula?
 
Posts: 78
Location: Wasilla, United States
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A great resource will be to contact your local county extension office, They will have lots of great information including varieties that will be specific to your area. There are also many farm and garden groups on FB Many are localized to specific areas.

I am a bit further north than you around Talkeetna. So there are not many fall varieties for me. Though lettuces do grow well in cooler temperatures and grows fairly quickly as well.
 
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Location: NW BC
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How exciting!
While northern gardening is fun, it can also be challenging!. But having lived in zone 9b and now 4b (NW BC), I still think the northern climate is my favourite. As many mentioned, garlic is an autumn staple. I've also had success with heavy fall seeding of greens such as spinach and corn salad (mache) under a cold frame for some of the first greens in the spring (March), just plant them late enough in the autumn that they won't sprout and be sure to overseed! There isn't really much that will be harvest ready before the snow flies. If the moose don't find it, I've had mature kale last until February (or up until that -40C/F cold snap whenever that decides to arrive).  I tend to use winter as a time to relax, look at seed catalogues, dream, plan and ski. Growing pea and sunflower shoots on the sunny window sill help satisfy the growing urge.  

Although, I just listened to a CBC radio interview about a farmer growing a banana plant in his greenhouse in Fort Nelson, BC (3a). It's bearing hundreds of bananas right now, so I guess anything is possible!

A book I recommend ( by a local-to-here author) is called Gardening between the Frosts by Dave Havard.  A great guide to growing in NW BC which might lend some info for your area.
 
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