Springtime is taking hold, so plan and plant accordingly

If my records and calculations are correct, the geese will be back for the season next week. If we have any doubts about the appearance of spring this year, their arrival is the end of them. Yippee.

This means, of course, that the bears are back. They are hungry after hibernating. It is time to take down those bird feeders and put any seed left in a secure place. I know, I know. Last week I told you to stay off wet grass this time of year. Just walk to your feeders gingerly if you have to. You do not want bears hanging around. Once they know there is a source of food, they will come back.

Next, two of my favorite food plants, tomatoes and broccoli, should be planted in the next week or so. No, let me correct that, given global warming here. Start tomatoes now. Indeterminate will flower all season. Determinate-only flower one time. Both have their advantages, so try both. Both really do need an outdoor greenhouse, cold frame or a really sunny summer window, though there are a few varieties that will fruit outdoors. Local nurseries carry them. Early birds get the worms.

Your broccoli seeds however, should be staggered as noted last week. Plant a few every four or five days so the flowers don’t appear all at the same time. If you have friends who also grows broccoli, try sharing seeds of different varieties. Most important, save some of the seed to start a “second” crop in July. Broccoli is a staple crop in Alaska gardens, so go for it.

Similarly, cauliflowers do great here. While a broccoli plant can be harvested several times before it is done, cauliflower puts out one big head. Again, I suggest staggering the planting of seeds so you can stretch out the season. Of course, only you know what your family’s tolerance is for Kohl crops like broccoli and cauliflower.

On the flower front, this week or next is when you should start cosmos, which I think are one of the easiest flowers to grow. Cosmos seeds are so large and grow fast so they should be planted in individual containers. This is a great gardening project with kids. Use a tall paper or used styrofoam cup with drainage. There are several different varieties of cosmos, all of which do well here. I like the tall ones with fluted petals. Give cosmos really good light while indoors as they grow tall and can get spindly.

OK, some readers end up with spindly plants. If the plants you start from seed are not in good light they will start leaning toward the light. At the very least, turn them every day or so. If they are stretching out in a Dr. Seuss manner, use your grow lights to supplement the natural light they are getting. You will see a huge difference. In fact, you can use those lights even if seedlings are not getting spindly or leaning toward the window.


We have many more choices of things to grow before we plant outdoors in mid-May, so even though you are not a real gardener until you start at least something you grow in your gardens from seed, you don’t need to start something this early. There are many more choices coming up.

Finally, nurseries are open. They have all you need from seeds, mycorrhizal fungi seeds should be rolled into pots, soil and labels. Your seedlings don’t need fertilizer until you get ready to harden off. Do visit your favorite nurseries this week to see what they have going on.

Jeff’s Alaska Garden Calendar

Alaska Botanical Garden: lots of things to do.

Herbs to start from seed: Sorrel, summer savory, parsley.

Vegetables to start from seed: Head lettuces, cabbage, kale, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower.

Flowers to start from seed: Dianthus, larkspur, stock, asters, nicotiana, cleome, annual ice plant, zinnia, salpiglossis, snaps, cosmos, lupine, Malva.

Jeff Lowenfels | Alaska gardening and growing

Jeff Lowenfels has written a weekly gardening column for the ADN for more than 45 years. His columns won the 2022 gold medal at the Garden Communicators International conference. He’s authored several books on organic gardening, and his latest book, "Teaming With Bacteria," is available on Amazon. Reach him at