Winter Gardening Alaska-Style


veggies in bowlAh, yes, winter in Alaska. Today it’s 33 above and raining on top of a foot of brand new snow. Spring, however, is around several corners yet; it’s only February after all. Three more months till the birch leaves are the size of mouse’s ears, and I can work the garden soil, start pressing vegetable seeds into rows. Three more months of enduring a palette of white, blue, and dark, then brown and muddy.

But in my mind, the picture is clear and bright and full of green. My winter garden comes to life in visions of tender spinach leaves growing bigger every day under the long northern summer sun, until they are themselves like salad plates; feathery green carrot tops waving gently in the breeze as their orange roots reach ever deeper; purpley-red radishes ready to eat in no time; tight little broccoli heads forming and expanding despite my worries they won’t.

spinach in the garden

Even the mosquitoes are welcome in these dreams, for the smell of Off is our summertime perfume. Inside our little old run-down greenhouse, tomatoes bask in the heat. The raspberry bushes – Boyne and Killarney and Goldens – are forming fruits, luscious and juicy, ruby red and yellow. Salad tonight! Jam tomorrow!

These are the dreams that sustain me through the rest of winter.

I fertilize my garden visions with seed catalogs and photos from last year’s crops, water them with research on irrigation methods for our planned garden expansion, light them up by talking to other green thumbs. I even plant some actual seeds for basil, parsley, and cilantro, and when they sprout, set them in a cool room on a table by a big window. I build a fence of sorts with cardboard and duct tape around the edge to keep the cats out. Can reality rival my imagination?

Deb LaCombe Fitzgerald
10/22/2012 8:31:12 PM

I only discovered your blog today 10/22/12.... hope you write more, your an inspiration to me here in western (no where) Pa!!! I've just tried winter gardening this fall, though today was in the 70's!!! My peas are growing nicely as my cabbage and turnips are.... hope they fare well as the weather cools!

1/6/2011 10:25:18 AM

Susan, what a great blog. I'm lucky to have such a great neighbor! I liked seeing all of your pictures too. I'm going to have to get better at taking pictures this year. I tried mulching last summer and I hardly got any weeds, but it seemed like there were more slugs. So, now I'm planning on surrounding my veggies with beer! :-) I got my Territorial Seed catalog in the mail yesterday, so I've already started the dream!

2/23/2010 10:58:52 AM

Alice: Have you tried quick-growing veggies like spinach, radishes, and lettuce? All three of these do very well in AK, and though we have the long days during summer, they might also work for you in Butte. You could even try starting some seeds indoors to get a jump on the season. Good luck! MountainWoman: Alaska's not so far away--come visit anytime! I dream of living elsewhere sometimes, too, where I could get in my car and drive any direction instead of only north (basically to Fairbanks or to the Alaska Highway and Outside) or south (to some smaller communities). I've driven all of our main roads a million times, and though I'm always up for a road trip, I do tire of the same scenery. The trick to living happily in AK, I think, is to get away every so often! But I never want to leave in summer--only in winter! Alaska Susan

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