Planning Your Garden
First, figure out how big your garden is or will be. Starting small – 100 sf or less, is good. Also decide what you are going to grow. If you are a new gardener, start with what everyone else grows if you want to be successful, but don’t forget that gardening is a great chance to run some fun experiments too! The Yarducopia list for Anchorage, AK looks something like this: beans, beets, radishes, kale, lettuce, carrots, potatoes, asian greens, edible flowers (borage, violas, calendula, marigold, nasturtium, sunflower), broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, raab, brussels sprouts, cabbage, turnips…and more, but you get the idea! Don’t grow anything your family absolutely won’t eat (but remember, kids are more excited about veggies they grew themselves, and everything tastes better from your own garden.) Grow the most of what they will love. There are various ways to figure out how many plants you have space for, including your own calculations based on spacing requirements on the seed packet and fancy online calculators. I used this plant spacing guide, it shows how many plants you can fit in a square foot. Knowing that the yarducopia gardens are generally 100 sf, I figured out how many of each thing we planned to offer would fit in a garden. Fiddle with it until you are happy.
Order twice as many seeds as plants you want to start, to allow for non-germination and thinning/selecting plants. This is usually not a problem for the home gardener, as seed packets usually have way more seed than you need for a season. You can swap seeds with friends and at organized seed swaps as well. Most seeds can be planted in subsequent years with only slightly lower germination, but some do better than others. Tomato seeds last, leek and parsnip not so much.
To select which varieties of each vegetable to order, refer to a local cooperative extension guide, ask your neighbor what works for them, or at least make sure that your seed catalog description looks promising -for Anchorage, we need plants that do well with cool weather, long periods of daylight, and a short season.
When your seeds arrive, some will need to be started early. If you are not set up to grow seedlings inside before you plant them out in your garden, buy these from a nursery, at the farmers market, etc. This calculator will tell you what date to start seeds indoors and when to transplant outside (or direct seed outside.) In Anchorage, Mid-May is a reasonably likely, but not 100%, gamble for a last frost date. Some things can be seeded or planted out before this, warm weather crops (like squash, tomatoes, etc) might need to be even later for success.
There’s more to it – planning for succession planting, space-saving companion planting techniques, season extension, etc that I recommend you explore, but those are the basics! So we’ve sorted our seeds into those that will be greenhouse started by our grower in the coming weeks and those we will plant directly in gardens and we are excited to someday soon see the first little baby sprouts!