Early to mid-March is when we start planting our seeds in our indoor garden. As of today, we are officially twelve weeks to the average last frost within Interior Alaska!
It’s hard to believe it by looking outside, but summer is not all that far away!f
If you want to know the reasons we choose to grow our garden almost entirely from seed, check out this article.
Figuring Out What You Need To Plant:
Earlier this year, we worked out our garden plans. This involved what we were going to plant and how much of it we were going to plant. In this process, we worked out our crop rotation plans, companion planting concepts and integrated a few new crops into our plans.
We also ordered our seeds back in January. We prefer to get an early start as sometimes, those in the lower 48 will wipe out seed selection by the time we even think about starting seeds. People in zones 7 and above generally start their seeds in January, so we try to order when they’re thinking about it. If you haven’t yet done this, it’s time for it to be top of mind.
You can certainly go into the seed planting a little more loosey goosey than we do. It’s easy to get carried away, though, so having a plan helps you along the way. We tend to plant our flowers with less of a rigid schedule, whereas we have exact ideas of the fruit/vegetables we need to plant.
For us, we need to be sure that we have sufficient quantities of what we’re looking to grow. When you need high quantities of certain things and lesser quantities of others, it’s great to have a plan. Our plan basically has the following information:
- Where we intend to grow each fruit/vegetable
- How many of each fruit/vegetable we intend to grow
- When we need to plant each fruit/vegetable, based on our seed starting schedule
- Where appropriate, unique varieties of each fruit/vegetable we will grow
We use an online planner for planning out our gardens. At our scale, this is very helpful and saves us a lot of time. For a smaller garden, we would probably just use pen and paper, or perhaps a spreadsheet for the planning efforts.
Our Planting Schedule For March 2020:
It’s important not to go crazy when you start planting your seeds. If you started things like cucumber or tomatoes this early, they’d be humongous by the time it’s safe to put them outside. Also, planting too much early on can severely restrict your indoor growing space for things you want to grow later.
We like to schedule our planting for the weekends since we tend to have more time. There are four weekends in March that we are planning on starting seeds.
The items that we’re actually planting this year are in bold, but we’ve provided all the varieties in our seed planting schedule for convenience.
- March 7/8
- Onions Seeds
- Begonia Tubers
- Wax Begonia
- March 14/15
- March 21/22
- Green Onion
- Shasta Daisy
- Dusty Miller
- March 28/29
- Althea Zebium
Highlighting What’s New To Us In 2020:
As with every year, we try to change things up and add something new. This is a bit similar to the UAF variety trials, but with a lot less scientific rigidity associated with it.
The big March addition for 2020 is the shallot. We’ve grown shallots before, but not in the subarctic. We are interested in seeing how they do up here so we have a sizable trial of 64 of them we’ll attempt to grow. On deck this year is a long day variety of shallot seed from MIGardener.
We have only been marginally successful with growing onions from seeds in the past up north. For our onions, we strongly prefer onion sets, which are second year onions. We’ll see how they do and if they survive our initial trials, we’ll be growing them a lot in the future!
Growing More Than You Need:
In general, we prefer to have a few more plants of each type than we’re actually going to need. This allows us to pick from the best of the best, ensuring a more successful garden. It also helps us when things don’t quite go right, which can happen even to the most experienced of gardeners.
We start almost all our seedlings in a 1020 tray with a 200 cell insert. When we use our seedling tray, we are sprouting the seeds of our fruits and vegetables in multiples of 10 in most cases. There are a few exceptions to this, primarily our vine vegetables such as cucumber and squash which are grown in their final transplant pot.
We generally plan on raising our garden starts around the “six pack” system. We will eventually transplant our initial garden starts into deep cell 606 tray inserts for standard 1020 garden trays. In general, we prefer these inserts to be complete so we’re not wasting growing space on empty cells. This means we calculate our the plants we will grow to maturity based on multiples of six.
So, for an example, if we need 32 of a certain kind of vegetable:
- We would likely plant about 40 cells, sometimes with more than one seed in each cell
- If our seed was older or had low germination, we might plant 50 cells.
- We’d raise 36 seedlings to transplant maturity
- We’d plant 32 of them into our garden
This gives us room for 8 to 18 total failures from the initial seeds, depending on how many initial seeds we planted. For this example, we’d also have 4 spare, fully mature plants. We usually give away our excess to friends or to fellow community garden members.
Getting Through March Is The Easy Part!
Fortunately, for us, March is a relatively light month for planting seeds. While there’s a few things that take a long time to germinate or grow, most of our fruits and vegetables are still coming.
April is by far our busiest planting month. This is when the overwhelming majority of our fruits, vegetables and flowers are seeded. We’ll be planting hundreds of seeds this April and we’ll try to do a follow up article on April planting.