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It’s time to seed your ideas for this year’s garden

  • Author: Jeff Lowenfels
    | Alaska gardening
  • Updated: January 7
  • Published January 7

It's time to start daydreaming about the seeds you'll try this year - or go ahead and try some indoor winter gardening. (Getty Images)

As everyone else has already made clear, good riddance to 2020. What a strange year, so full of unexpected things! The big exception was gardening, which kept so many of us sane.

Right now, I am hoping our ship rights itself, and we can face an upcoming summer season without having to wear masks and social distance as we plant and weed. To get into the gardening mood, this is the traditional time to check out print and online seed catalogs. This week I discuss the “standards.” These are the catalogs to start with, to spend some time with, as they could be all you need.

Let me start with print catalogs. I have already mentioned The Whole Seed Catalog from Baker Creek ( I mention it again. Honestly folks, this is the one I personally get lost in. It is a gigantic compendium of fabulous heirloom offerings, each beautifully described and gloriously photographed. You won’t want to throw it away when next year’s arrives. It is that worthy.

That is it for the print catalogs. Really! There is simply no need to cut a tree down in order to buy seed to grow one, I always say. Don’t waste the paper. The rest of the seed and plant offerings you should pursue are all easily read online.

This has advantages. I used to suggest readers cut pictures and information from print catalogs and paste them into a booklet. Now, if you are the creative type, you can open up a word processing page on your computer or tablet and cut and paste to make your own how-to/what-to guide for what you want to grow.

As always, I encourage you to start with websites that contain great, cool-season growing tips. Take notes. Go to Nichols Garden Nursery, Territorial Seeds and Best Cool Seeds. All of these seed houses cater to Alaska gardeners. So does Ed Hume Seeds. And, don’t forget Renee’s Garden, especially when it comes to sweet peas.

Back in the early days, the standby print copy was Thompson and Morgan ( It is full of English seeds, so some of their new offerings may not be available elsewhere. I have noted in the past that they have adapted well to the web and this year the pictures seem even prettier and crisper.

As you check out new offerings, remember that it is really easy to order online. This has its advantages as well as disadvantages. I warn you not to go overboard, if you order anything at all. There will be seed racks and open nurseries this spring and, if the last year’s experience demonstrated anything, we must do everything to keep local nurseries, indeed all local business, open by buying from them.

The one big exception are seeds you might want to use right now. You have lights, right? Why not try your hand at indoor winter gardening? Lettuces, tomatoes, cukes and herbs are easy. We have three or so months left (which is as much as we get for our outdoor season). That is plenty of time to grow a garden and pursue new catalogs.

Jeff’s Alaska garden calendar

Tree and Light Recycling: ALPAR, in partnership with the Municipality of Anchorage Solid Waste Services, and Carr’s/Safeway is, once again, hosting free Christmas tree recycling Dec. 28-Jan. 15. Live Christmas trees can be dropped off at Anchorage, Eagle River and Palmer Carr’s store parking lots. Look for the signs and barriers. Recycle Christmas string lights and bulbs: free drop-off at the Anchorage Recycling Center (6161 Rosewood) or Total Reclaim (12050 Industry Way No. 10).

Forcing bulbs: Time for tulips to be exposed to light. Start amaryllis by watering and giving dormant plants light.