Yesterday’s snowstorm was no match for today’s sunshine, which means that spring is becoming a reality before our eyes. Many of my friends are getting impatient, ready to throw all their seeds into pots, desperate for the new life of spring. “Patience,” I tell them. “Everything in it’s time.”
Some things need lots of time to grow big enough to go outside, but some grow really fast, and will outgrow their pots in a hurry, becoming spindly and unhealthy. A good rule of thumb is that smaller seeds, like celery, tomatoes, and most herbs, have less energy in them and need longer to get growing, while larger seeds, like pumpkins and sunflowers, tend to shoot right up. Some vegetables, like all root vegetables and generally beans, peas, and grains, don’t like to be transplanted at all, so it is best to start them right in the ground. Root vegetables, in particular, can be planted just as soon as you can get into your garden…. they know when it is the right time to come up!
Right now we have about 6 weeks before our last average frost (May 15, in most parts of Anchorage) and about 8 weeks until most people start planting outside (usually Memorial Day weekend). The moon is also growing bigger and will pull those leafy green vegetables right out of the soil. So, this is a great time to start most everything in the Brassica family (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, but not turnips, which are also in the family but a root vegetable!) as well as an early crop of lettuce and chard, and any herbs you still want to get going.
The Brassica family of crops tend to do exceptionally well in our cool climate and long days, and will play a major part in our Alaska Food Challenge. How lucky that these vegetables are also extremely healthy for you, packed full of vitamins, minerals, and cancer-fighting compounds! I’m pretty sure we could survive the winter on sauerkraut alone, but just to add variety, we will put away tons of broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, mustard, and kale. Today we are starting a half-flat (36) each broccoli, cabbage, and kale, and a 1/3 flat each basil, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, chard, and lettuce.
If you have a small to medium-sized garden, you will probably only want to start one flat with all these goodies. It’s really easy to plant too much! Sow your seeds shallowly, only 1.5 times the diameter deep, firm them in, and keep them evenly moist until they germinate. Before you know it, you will witness the miracle of the seed as it comes to life.