Summers may be short in Alaska but they provide long growing days that lead to monster 100-lb. cabbages, 22-inch beans and 4-lb. ears of corn at the Alaska State Fair. Home gardeners can take advantage of the state's strong Master Gardener program to learn the basics of coaxing a more modest harvest from backyard plots. A lengthy list of vegetables can be made to grow in the Last Frontier as long as they receive a little extra TLC to deal with the peculiarities of an Arctic and sub-Artic climate.
For obvious reasons, cool season vegetables do best in Alaska. The state's gardeners enjoy great success with the cole and Brassicaceae family of vegetables, which includes cabbages, cauliflower, broccoli, turnips, Brussels sprouts and kohlrabi. Most cole crops can be started indoors around April 15 to May 1, four to six weeks before setting out when the soil warms on June 1, according to Heidi Rader of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service. Potatoes also grow well even above the Arctic Circle, especially the Alaska Frostless variety, which features frost-resistant foliage.
Warm Season Crops
Carrots, turnips, radishes, beets and lettuce need to be seeded directly around June 1 in their outdoor bed at a shallow depth (1/8 inch) compared to the Lower 48 so that seeds can warm up. Plant beans, corn, cucumber and peas ½ inch deep. Plant beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, green onions, radishes and turnips, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, mustard, rutabaga and spinach at ¼ inch deep. Soak peas and beans for four to six hours in warm water just before planting. Start celery around March 1 to 15, 10 to 12 weeks before setting out on June 1.
Corn, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, celery, cucumbers and zucchini require starting indoors before the ground warms up around June 1. The UAF Cooperative Extension Service recommends starting tomatoes between March 20 and April 1, seven to nine weeks before outdoor planting, and zucchini between May 1 and 10, three to four weeks before outdoor planting. Transplant outdoors using plastic mulch to warm the ground and plastic covers to warm the air, including greenhouses, hoop houses, high tunnels and frost cloth.