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Growing your own celery could put you off store-bought celery forever. But you need to start seeds now.

  • Author: Jeff Lowenfels
    | Alaska gardening
  • Updated: March 4
  • Published March 4

Early March is the time to start lobelia from seed in Alaska. (Getty Images)

Ah, March. The daylight is back to the point many of you are going to start seeds without supplemental lights. It works in a greenhouse. It is less successful before a southern window. Why don’t you just go ahead and get some lights? Note that you will be able to use them next fall and winter, as well.

OK. I can’t remember how we left the discussion last year on starting gladioli. I have been following the ancient advice of pioneers and starting a few corms right about now. Then a reader pointed out he had been putting his right out in the soil come mid-May without starting them. His bloomed the same time as mine. Perhaps we should plant a few now and then some later, just to make sure planting them directly outdoors really works.

In any case, mask up and visit a nursery to buy your gladioli corms now. There are a bunch of different sizes and flower types from which to choose and to collect. Don’t forget to keep different kinds separated and labeled. The same goes for tubers for begonias and dahlias. These go fast.

And while you are out and about, check out the seed racks. I keep reading about potential shortages, but I am not sure who is putting out those stories. Still, go get seeds.

Which brings me to those big boxes of tubers and corms and rooted perennials found at national chain stores. Make sure what you are buying will grow here in Alaska. Google it. And look at instructions. Do you have the time and the room to grow as many of the items as are in that big bag of them?

Seeds to start this time of year? I used tell folks that next to celery, the first seeds to start are lobelia. The hanging varieties are a must in baskets. These days, they are readily available in six- and four-packs from local nurseries, so you may not want to bother. They take a while to get going, and you cannot let them dry out during the next two to three months. Still, if there is a particular strain you want, this may be your only way to get it. Do not cover the seeds. They need light to germinate, so just lightly press them into the soil.

And while celery takes a lot of looking after, it is well worth growing. It tastes so different from what you get at the store. You will not believe the difference, and it may spoil you off store-bought celery. You need to start seeds now. Again, there is a reason you buy at the store. Growing celery is a long process.

Pansies are an Alaska favorite. They are available wherever plants are sold, but that doesn’t mean you will find what you need for your landscapes. Start them in the next couple of weeks so you will have flowering size plants by the time we plant out. Follow the directions on the package. They are really easy, but the trick is to make sure the seeds are in total dark. A black plastic covering over the pot or flat will do the trick.

If you are seeing hungry moose in the yard these days, you might consider taking out some of last fall’s Plantskydd and reapplying it on a warm day. In lieu of this blood meal prep, I know one pioneer who keeps urine in a jar and sprinkles it around plants the moose like.

Finally, the last wind knocked down limbs and one reader was fascinated by the different lichens she found on some. She wanted to know if they grow in the winter, which I don’t think they do. They are dormant except on sunny days when water is on them.

Lichens are fascinating and Alaska has her share. If you want to be able to identify any you find in your yard, check out What terrific pictures. You might consider printing them out in a booklet to take with you on your next walk. Lichens are everywhere.

Hang in there. Just a couple of months now. …

Jeff’s Alaska garden calendar

Snow shoveling: Might want to stop piling snow on flower beds.