Now that you've chosen the site for your fast and easy veggie plot, you're ready to plan the rest of your yard -- always keeping in mind that you have a busy life and limited time.
Start by looking around: Do you have a spot where the snow is melting slowly? Against a fence? On the un-sunny side of the house? A place that's in shade maybe half the day?
Sounds like a perfect spot for tall, shade-tolerant perennials.
The two best features of such plants are obvious -- they're big, and they come back by themselves (mostly) year after year.
Tall perennials are not just for shady spots. Some of the most spectacular flourish in the sun, in broad sweeps of foliage and flowers in larger yards, along inclines, or just as back-of-the garden soldiers.
If there's a problem with perennials, it's there are so many it's hard for the new or weekend gardener to know what to plant first.
The following suggestions come from experienced gardeners around town. They're offered as a place to start:
FILIPENDULA: One of many "frothy" blossoming perennials, it is generally successful in Anchorage conditions.
Color runs from white to rose, depending on variety. Anna at Sutton's Greenhouse said she will be selling one that grows 5 to 7 feet tall. Full sun to partial shade.
LIGULARIA: This is a spear-like blooming perennial that can grow 4 to 5 feet and is often called "The Rocket."
Can tolerate a lot of shade. The flowers are a vibrant yellow and gold that brightens up the yard later in the summer. Good survival skills.
PERSICARIA POLYMORPHA: This is another frothy flowering tallboy; "a spirea on steroids" is how one local gardener put it.
Once established, it arrives in late spring but grows fast with a profusion of white blossoms. Moose don't seem to like it, but it does send out runners that you'll need to chop if you don't want it to spread.
For a picture of how beautiful this can look in a master's garden, see the online version of this column at adn.com. Don't be put off if it's listed for Zone 5. It seems to do fine here.
You can see a pink variety in the East Garden at the Alaska Botanical Garden. You may have to order it by mail. This one likes sun.
MEADOW RUE: Proper name, Thalictrum. This is one of the most popular local perennials. It is perhaps too easy to grow -- gardeners complain it's a thug, hellbent on taking over the whole garden if you relax your guard for a minute.
Usually grows 3 to 5 feet, and is another small, airy flower. Works in part shade.
DELPHINIUM: This is the other most popular local perennial. There are many varieties, the tallest shooting up 6 or 7 feet. Even taller sometimes. It produces long spears of impressive florets, usually blue but also in pinks and white.
These hardy, ubiquitous garden favorites have gotten a bad rap lately because of a critter called a leaf roller, or delphinium defoliator. It does what its name suggests. It can be controlled with Bt -- bacillus thuringiensis -- a biological pesticide. We think it's worth the trouble.
Before you shop, it's probably a good idea to read just a little about perennials, so you know what to expect. Some are more work during the first year but the payoff is their return, year after year.
Talk to the people who run local nurseries -- not necessarily the person ringing up your purchase. Managers and owners are very knowledgeable and they want you to be happy so you come back next year.
A super source of perennials is the annual Alaska Botanical Garden plant sale, on May 26 this year. It's almost all perennials and you know they're healthy.
It's open to the public and sells out early, but members get in early. Another good reason to join.