Part of the Local Foods Challenge is helping people share knowledge and learn by providing access to place-based techniques and resources in each of the 10 food systems categories:
Thank you to our contributors for sharing their knowledge for this feature, which focuses on the “Grow” and “Share” categories. In this post, we feature responses from community members regarding what you can still grow this time of year.
During Covid-19, many Southeast Alaskans are becoming more interested in food security and making sure our food systems are more resilient. A big aspect of this interest involves growing our own food. Gardening in this climate provides unique challenges, however, in combination with our other wild foods in Southeast Alaska, we have an equally unique opportunity to strengthen our food system. Some vegetables grow extremely well in our climate, such as herbs, greens, carrots, potatoes, and rhubarb.
With May almost over, some may be thinking it is too late to start gardening – It’s not! There are still many delicious and healthy foods to start growing in Southeast Alaska. We asked some growers within our communities to share their answers to the following question:
What are your three favorite easiest things to grow in the Southeast
that we still have time to plant?
Foundroot, a small farm and seed company in Haines, Alaska run by husband and wife team, Nick and Leah, answered:
“There are loads of things you can still be planting right now but some of the easiest are going to be greens, radishes, and green onions. The easiest greens are the really hardy ones.
Lettuce has a tendency to bolt (go to seed), especially around solstice, and Spinach won’t stand the light at all. We prefer to grow Arugula as one of our fastest and easiest options instead of lettuce and we love using Orach as a spinach replacement. Radishes do great all seasons and we love the colors in our Easter Egg Radishes. Same goes for green onions and our Crystal White Wax make perfect pearl onions for summer kabobs on the grill. You can plant all of these every two weeks through August to get weekly crops throughout the summer.”
BUY LOCAL: Foundroot’s mission is to develop a secure Alaskan food system and resilient northern communities by growing flower, herb, vegetable, and seed varieties adapted to the Alaskan bioregion. Our work flows with the cycle of the seasons. Winter to spring we run an online seed store with over 70 varieties proven for northern gardens. Summer to fall we are farming to test our varieties, show the potential of northern food production, and provide for our community. We strive to cultivate a community of growers, seed-savers, and educators working together towards a future of food sovereignty through the small but ever mighty seed. Learn more at: https://www.foundroot.com/
Ed Buyarski, a master gardener in Juneau, recommends still growing peas, carrots, and potatoes.
A great resource from him is: http://www.seakmastergardeners.org/index.html.
Additionally, stories featuring Ed, including specific tips for gardening during a Pandemic and tips for new gardeners can be found: https://www.ktoo.org/tag/master-gardener-ed-buyarski/.
Jen Landry with Stellar Botanical Health https://www.stellerbotanicalhealth.com/ in Gustavus:
“It’s not too late to start anything, except hothouse crops like basil, tomato, peppers, and winter squash, but the easiest things to grow in Southeast that there is still time to plant are:
- Cilantro. Plant a little row of cilantro every 2-3 weeks until mid-August for a continuous supply of cilantro to freshen up your meals all summer long. Cilantro takes very little work and grows fast. Just make sure to harvest it when it is about 5-6 inches tall or it will bolt. Most people don’t recognize cilantro when it bolts and gets lanky but it is still edible.
- Kale. Kale seeds can still be put in the ground. Plant them thick for baby kale greens. Transplant young seedlings about a foot apart for large plants you can harvest into the fall. Varieties like red russian kale or redbor grow quickly for young greens. Varieties like Winterbor and White Russian are best for easy to grow for large plants you can harvest all summer into the late fall.
- Beets. Beets do best directly seeded into the garden. Plant them thick and thin the 5-6″ young plants for early greens/young roots. We plant ours thick (but not super thick) and then do multiple thinnings throughout the season getting progressively bigger greens and roots with each thinning. Early varieties like Cylindra, Kestrel have plenty of time to mature.
BUY LOCAL: Find Jen’s produce in Gustavus or in Juneau at the Salt and Soil Marketplace
Florence Welsh, a long time Sitka gardener and wild food gatherer says, “I don’t really have favorite vegetables to grow. They are all pretty much favorites because they taste so wonderful homegrown compared with store bought.
From my viewpoint, although it is getting late, there is still time this season to grow quite a few vegetables successfully. Healthy soil and location with sun play a huge role in success.”
Listed alphabetically and noting from seed or plant start:
Beans – Pole And Bush Varieties – From Seed – Best In A Greenhouse Environment
Beets – From Seed
Brassicas (Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, Kohlrabi) From Starts
Carrots – Only The Earliest Varieties – From Seed
Cucumbers – From Start Or Seed – In A Greenhouse Environment
Dill – From Starts
Fennel – From Starts
Kale – From Seed
Lettuce – From Seed
Mustard – From Seed
Parsnips – From Seed
Peas (Shelling, Snap, Or Snow) – From Seed
Potatoes – From Seed Potatoes
Spinach – From Seed
Swiss Chard – From Seed
Tomatoes – From Starts – In A Greenhouse Environment
Turnips – From Seed
Zucchini – From Seeds Or Starts
Her SITKAVORES blog has some info on how to get the veggie seeds and starts going: http://sitkavores.blogspot.com/.
Joe Orsi, owner and Juneau farmer at Orsi Organic Produce, replied:
For outside: potatoes, rhubarb, peas, kale, and carrots (but you need to thin them out).
For undercover or in a high tunnel: zucchini, cucumbers, and tomatoes.
Orsi recommends a crop variety list at the UAF Cooperative Extension Service that can be found here. Search for “Recommended Variety List for Southeastern Alaska”.
Orsi recommends Juneau folks visit the community garden at Montana Creek to observe and learn from the gardeners there who are growing these crops.
BUY LOCAL: Learn more about Orsi Organic Produce at https://www.orsiorganicproduce.com/ and find his vegetables on the Salt and Soil Marketplace
For additional resources on Growing, visit the Local Foods Challenge site’s list of resources: https://www.saltandsoilmarketplace.com/localfoodchallenge-resources and also consider signing up to participate in the Challenge!
If you don’t have a greenhouse or your garden beds ready or planted yet, you can still speed things up by doing starts inside your home by a sunny window and transplant them later. Egg cartons can be reused for this purpose!