With our final April plantings completed, it’s time to start looking at May! The garden is still only getting started!
May is always an exciting month for us. This is when the snow finally recedes and more importantly, the soil starts to become workable. We can begin direct sowing some of our crops right into our gardens! How exciting!
May is definitely the point of no return for planting most things that should have been sowed in April. We wouldn’t recommend sowing anything now that should have been sowed in March, there just isn’t enough time left.
The Scope Of May Gardening Within Interior Alaska
May’s Planting Tasks
There’s just a little bit of indoor seeding left. For May’s indoor planting, we are left with the fastest growing plants of them all. Cucumbers!
The biggest change is that we can begin direct sowing our root crops right into the garden once we get about two weeks or less to last frost. We gauge this by the weather and wait for low temperatures to consistently be above freezing. We try to get most of our root crops planted so we have more time later in the month when we need to be planting the rest of our transplants.
The Up-Potting Will Eventually End, We Promise
One of our primary tasks for may is continuing all the transplanting from our seed trays into their semi-permanent transplant pot. We are looking forward to kicking all the seeding trays out of the grow room and just having more mature plants! We absolutely need every square inch that our four seedling trays are currently using.
Fertilize Our Garden Starts
While we grow our garden starts in high quality soil, it’s still usually a good idea to supplement your plants with a fertilizer. Once your plants have their 2nd set of true leaves, they’re ready for fertilizer. We like to use a water soluble fertilizer at roughly 1/4 strength to help maintain vigorous growth.
Continue Hardening Off All Our Plants
We will be hardening off almost all our plants in preparation of planting them outdoors. Some of our most cold hardy crops will live outside once evening temperatures are consistently above freezing. Our warm weather crops will be hardened off as well, but we’ll continue to bring them inside until a week or two after last frost.
Prepare The Gardens! It Is Time!
One of the largest tasks for May is preparing our gardens for the year. We are aiming to try to get the bulk of our plants in the ground by our last frost date, or June 1st! Sometimes we try to squeak them in Memorial Day weekend.
Our primary garden preparations include cleaning up anything that we didn’t get to last fall. Many times, we find it easier to let the cold temperatures kill off our plants so they are easier to remove in the spring.
We’re also adding compost to all of our beds and preparing our beds with fertilizer, azomite and possibly more greensand. We’ll be tilling the top layer at our community garden to incorporate the compost and make planting a little easier. We have found our soil “cakes” pretty bad there and a light tilling is a beneficial practice.
Finally, we’ll be preparing our container gardens. Preparing our containers is always a lot of work, but a worthwhile effort for the northern gardener. Our plan calls for the production of quite a bit more soil this year as we are expanding our container gardens even further this year. Our migration to sub-irrigated buckets means we can not only grow more, but also put less demand on our off grid water systems.
The Interior Alaska Planting Schedule For May
May features a pretty light planting schedule overall with only a single indoor planting scheduled. The remainder is direct sowed, right into the garden!
For things that are direct sowed, we are paying attention to the weather. If late snows or unseasonably cold temperatures are in the forecast, we’ll hold off until these are relatively clear. We’re looking for most nights being above freezing, but a few little dips to near freezing temperatures aren’t of major concern.
- Melon (Marginal crop, we are trialing Minnesota Midgets this year)
- Canary Bird Vine
- Sweet Alyssum
- Forget Me Nots
Direct Sow Between 5/18/2020 to 6/5/2020
- Radish (often succession planted)
- Spinach (often succession planted)
Our Grow Rooms Are Getting TIGHT!
We started putting some of our cold hardy plants out into our small, temperature controlled greenhouse in mid April. Throughout most of May, we will be trying to transition our hardiest plants outdoors as soon as we can. We do this in a few phases, since our greenhouse is quite small and only capable of handling seven 1020 trays at a time.
We’re not yet ready to put our cold hardy plants in the ground. We wait until at least Memorial Day weekend. But, we will keep our cold hardy plants outside in their trays when evenings are expected to be above freezing. We usually keep them close to the house, so they get some radiant heat. If sub freezing temperatures are expected, we’ll just bring our plants inside at night and put them out the next day. It’s low tech, but it works.
For all frost sensitive plants, we will harden these off during warmer days in May, typically those above 60 degrees. However, these plants will continue to be raised indoors until outdoor temperatures are suitable for them to live outside. Since they will be hardened off, we can keep them outside when evening low temperatures are expected to be above 50 degrees. We usually like to have these plants in the ground by June 5th, except for peppers which stay indoors until mid June.
Garden Projects Can Finally Get Started!
The first project is building a soil sterilizer out of a 55 gallon drum. We will put up a post on how we build this unit, but the goal is to round out our home grown compost production with full sterilization capabilities. You could say that we are “less than careful” with our compost and we get a lot of seeds (from weeds, flowers and plants) in our compost. Our goal is to neutralize these with our soil sterilizer just in case hot composting didn’t get to it. It will also help with the long term management of our container garden soil, allowing us to kill off any bad stuff that gets in from re-using it every year.
The second garden project we are planning for this year is building our permanent greenhouse! We are so excited about this! We have our design figured out, we have saved up the cash for it and we honestly can’t wait! The goal is for a 10×12 greenhouse that will primarily be used to grow our warm weather crops. We will also use it next season as a second layer for our garden start production. This has been years in the making, so we are thrilled to finally be at this point!
This year, we are also planning on replacing the mulch (we use weed fabric) at our Fairbanks Community Garden. Our current weed fabric was the “cheap” stuff and now that it’s on its fourth garden year, it’s a little worse for wear. We have a few plans to make it better and more suitable to our growing space. Our plan is to replace it with a higher grade 20-year fabric in the hopes that we can get it to last a good 6-10 years.