Alaska Zone - Knowledgebase Question

Fairbanks, AK
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Question by naughton
January 13, 1998
I was hoping you could give some suggestions for which vegetable plants (Burpee seeds) I could grow here in Fairbanks, Alaska where the warm weather is very limited. I grew tomatoes in planters last year (my first try) that did not do well in this climate (short cool summers with few very warm days). The growing season is only about 60 days, if we are lucky, before the temperatures start getting too cool for plants. I intend on starting seedlings indoors well before the warm weather arrives...something Idid not do last year. Nevertheless, I need to know what specific tomato and flower seeds would do well considering the cool temperatures here even in summer. Any help you can provide would be appreciated.

Answer from NGA
January 13, 1998
It'll make a big difference to start your tomatoes indoors! Burpee's fast-fruiters are 'Early Pick' (62 days), 'Early Girl' (54 days) and Medina (60 days). You might want to try 'Red October Hybrid' (68 days), a winter storage variety, so you can enjoy ripe tomatoes long after your short summer ends! Start them about 6 weeks before you put them outside. They'll need a gentle transition period ("hardening off) of about a week before you plant them outside. During that week, gradually expose them a to the elements a little more each day. Start by leaving them outside in a sheltered place for a few hours during the sunniest/warmest part of the day, and give them tougher conditions each day. On the last couple of days,leave them outside overnight.

Fortunately, your summer days are long, so you can maximize the sun's effects. Place the planters in the warmest, sunniest spot in your yard - a southern exposure is preferred. Place reflective material (foil covered boards) behind the bed to increase light intensity. Mulch plants
with black plastic, or IRT (infrared transmitting mulch) which will increase soil temperatures. If you cage your tomatoes, as the plants grow taller, wrap the base of the cage with black plastic or tar paper, which will absorb sun and radiate it towards the plant. Some gardeners even build mini-greenhouses over their plants with row covers. This helps maintain higher nighttime tempertures, which are critical to fruit ripening. Gardener's Supply (; ph# 800/863-1700) offers various hoops, row covers and mulches for these purposes.

Here are some hardy annuals that should succeed in your garden, if you start them indoors: alyssum, pansies, bachelor buttons, cosmos dianthus, and baby's breath. There are perennials, too that you can try to overwinter, or just grow as annuals: rudibeckia and shasta daisy are just two I can think of. Your extension service (907/452-1548) can provide you with a more complete list of flowers that will enjoy your short summers. Hope this helps!

Hope this helps!

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