Moving to AK, what can we grow??

irenes(z9 Las Vegas)April 25, 2006

Hi. We are moving to Ak in about 3 wks, hopefully buying a house soon afterward and getting our garden started. We are coming from Las Vegas, so it's quite a change. My dh and I are originally from Ky and HATED the desert, so planted flowers anywhere we could but military housing was kinda strict. The house we are looking at buying in AK has almost 5 acres of land, and I'm very excited to start planning what we can grow. In Vegas we grew sunflowers, four o'clocks, stocks, marigolds, zinnias, plus lots of things we couldn't name that came from mixed packets. I really liked the four o'clocks and zinnia, lots of color with very little effort.

So, what will grow in zone 1? Will early June be too late to plant things? In Vegas our garden went through several phases, pulling out things that couldn't stand the heat and putting new things in. We grew almost everything from seed, only buying plants if they were super cheap. Also, any tips for growing things indoors? I think having lots of colorful, scented plants will help the winter blahs. I've also talked dh into buying a parakeet, I like listening to them chirp, very cheerful.

I'm sooo excited to be moving, that was one of the deciding factors for dh joining the military. Hopefully we'll be able to get a house with lots of land to play with. Right now we're in Salt Lake City and I'm drooling over all the beautiful daffodils, tulips and hyacinths I see everywhere. I can't wait to have my own garden again!


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Hi Ruth!

I am in Zone 1b but I think you may have more coastal climate influence than me, as I am a ways interior in BC.
I take it you're new here? Me too, and this is a big moment for me! I can actually GIVE some advice! A wonderful bunch of garden addicts here, very willing to help :)

So first, I was tipped off to the University of Alaska in Fairbanks (UAF-I think)and their experimental gardens (Georgeson Botanical Gardens). You'll be right there to see for yourself, but if you do a search it'll come up and they have a nice website. Lucky you! Let us know what they've got going on there when you get settled.

Around here we usually wait for May long weekend (Victoria Day) to plant most things. The odd time we get a way with sneaking things in the week before. I've been late and planted a week or so into June, but I think its best to getter done in good time because our season is so short. We've had snows and frosts every month up here, but generally we're safe for June and July (that'll be a little different than Vegas, eh?) By August the nights really cool off and we could get frosts again.

I think you'll be surprised once you get planting what you can actually grow- I know I was. I push zone 3 and when I feel risky I drive it up to Zone 4 :)! That's experimenting though!
We grow great snow peas, carrots, potatoes, beats, and greens. I keep trying herbs, but they seem to like more heat. Hmmmm. My standbys in the flower garden are columbine, yarrow, monkshood, poppies, cranesbill, maltese cross, globeflower (absolute must have in a northern garden for the early blooms-gotta get the right variety though and I'm not sure what that's called. Maybe someone else does...), mints (can be invasive), I'm supposed to grow beautiful delphiniums..., shasta daisies (the smaller old fashioned kind), daylillies and regular lillies. There's at least 2 more in this group that have been gardening longer than me who could extend that list. I know hardy lilacs grow, but I've been wanting to try more flowering shrubs and trees. If you happen to come across any varieties that are thriving up there, I'm dying to know about them!

A couple tips that I've learned is to absolutely maximize your sun and aspect. Plants that need shade in warmer zones seem to be fine here in the sun and too much shade just seems to be too cool for much growth. I'm sure there are some exceptions to that -just haven't found them yet!

Starting some plants inside will help get a jump on the growing season. I've been introduced to Winter Sowing from this group too (there's another Garden Web forum on it) I haven't tried it yet, though.

Anything you can do to warm your soil up a little faster helps. I'm going to get some raised beds built this year for veggies--hopefully. Any perennial stuff though, make sure it's down in the ground for the winter.

Mostly we're just later in the spring and earlier in the fall! Happy Gardening and good luck...

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 1:33PM
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mcav0y(z3/4 Anchorage)

are you moving to Fairbanks? Fairbanks is cold in the winter (gets down to -50's a few times a year) and warm to hot in the summer (70's, but it can get up into the 90's).
Regardless of where you are relocating the cooperative extension is a great resource:
They have lists of popular herbs, annual, perennials, fruits and veggies for Fairbanks. Here is a list of perennials that do well in that area:
There are also a few great books on gardening (ornamental and for food) in Alaska, but most are a bit dated.
June should be fine to plant annuals and other decorative plants. It might be a bit late to start things that need to go to fruit, since the growing season is so short.
I agree with xtreme_gardner about maximizing sun. When I started gardening last year, one of my biggest questions was "if full sun mean 6-8 hours of sun, and the sun is up for 20 some hours, doesn't that mean that everywhere except under my deck is full sun?" I have found that because the sun isn't as intense, partial sun and shade plants do well in what would normally be considered "full sun" areas.
Because of the extended daylight, everything grows like crazy here. Alaska boasts some of the biggest and most colorful flower baskets that I have ever seen!
Basically, the growing season is short, but intense, and you'll be arriving right at the begining!


    Bookmark   April 26, 2006 at 9:40PM
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emily_ak(z2 AK)

Welcome to Fairbanks, where it is currently 38 degrees F and sunny. (Overnight it got down to 20 degrees F, which is foiling my plans to start leaving some of the perennial seedlings and leeks outside.) You've gotten some good advice from the earlier posters--go to the Georgeson, go to Cooperative Extension (they are wonderful people). I would also strongly recommend going to some of the wonderful greenhouses we have in town. The four main independent greenhouses (in order of where I spend the most money) are Plant Kingdom, Holm Town Nursery, Ann's Greenhouse, and Hawk's Greenhouse. The Farmer's Market (on Saturdays) is also a good place to start. Plant Kingdom is my favorite because it is (1) on the way home from work, (2) is closest to my house, (3) has wonderful display gardens with annuals, perennials, trees, and shrubs planted, and (4) does some Saturday classes on a variety of subjects. Later in summer they will have "Garden Walks," walking through the display gardens to see what's in bloom and what has overwintered. There are several box stores in town with garden departments--Fred Meyers, Lowes, Home Depot, Wal Mart. I would suggest using caution about buying plants there. The box stores have a tendancy to stock plants that do well where corporate headquarters is located, and Fairbanks is a much, much different environment than Alabama or Washington.

In general, we can count on a 90-day growing season. Planting day is Memorial Weekend, and the first frost (depending on your location) is mid-September. So, early June is definitely not too late to plant things!! We can grow cool season crops really well--broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, lettuce, kale, potatoes. Things like tomatoes and peppers need a sunny location or a greenhouse. Many annual flowers do really well--in fact, because our temperatures tend to be a little cooler than the lower 48, our flowers typically last longer. Perennials I'm not so good at (I've lived in Fairbanks for 12 years now, but we just bought a house last year, so I'm just starting with perennials). Common ones are delphiniums, columbine, tiger lilies and asiatic lilies, shasta daisies, bleeding heart, irises, campanulas, veronicas, and peonies.

Summers are short but intense up here. In June and July, it never gets dark. It's not uncommon to be puttering outside, or fishing, or whatever, look at the clock and realize it's 2 am. Plants tend to grow prodigiously during that time, but even so, nights stay cool.

Good luck with your move, and welcome to Alaska!
Emily in sunny, muddy Fairbanks

    Bookmark   April 27, 2006 at 4:10PM
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mcav0y(z3/4 Anchorage)

I just had lunch at the Holm Town Nursery. It was great to eat in the warm, humid environment with the smells of dirt and plants everywhere. They were starting to put out their plants and lots of different types of plants in small numbers.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2006 at 8:54PM
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I can help you with suggestions for flowering shrubs and trees. I have taught classes for years on growing flowers in Interior Alaska. I have handouts that I can e-mail to you.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2007 at 5:17PM
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Hi Alaska_Flower,

Thanks for the offer! I'd love to hear any suggestions you have.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2007 at 3:18PM
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Moving to kenai late summer..maybe next spring I would like to grow shrubs and flowers...its a must since I am moving from Hawaii. What can I grow that will keep coming back in the spring that will make me feel at least a little more at home?

    Bookmark   July 3, 2011 at 5:26PM
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mytime(3/4 Alaska)

There are so many perennials that thrive here that a definitive list would be too lengthy. Look at any nursery website that lets you sort by zone to get a start, but generally avoid (at least until you are more experienced with what to expect climate-wise) plants that have late summer or early fall bloom. Then, you'll have to actually see your property to assess shade, moisture, soil conditions, space, and orientation to sun, etc.
My personal favorites are hardy roses, iris, delphinium, peonies, trollius, pansies, poppies (both perennial and annuals that reseed) and a wide range of native plants that have beautiful blooms. For shrubs, lilacs and spirea are my favorites, and hardy as can be. You can also grow fruit, although (obviously) it won't be the same ones you are used to in Hawaii.
You will be amazed at what you can grow here!

    Bookmark   July 3, 2011 at 7:01PM
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