Whether fruit, flower or vegetable, here are the best plants for Alaskans to start from seed now

I write for several venues, as some may know. The editor of one of them does not like my assertion that you are not a real gardener unless you grow at least one plant from seed. She suggests a better posit would be to declare you only get bragging rights if you grow a plant from seed.

Either way, this week you can start planting seeds indoors without the need to use supplemental lighting. If you have lights, use them by all means, but know from this point in the season on, you don’t need them to become a real gardener or to develop bragging rights.

There are so many things to start indoors from seed now so they will be big enough to transplant out when the soil is warm. I guess going with the bragging-rights theme, I should suggest everyone try to grow a couple to a few tomato plants. They are easy, almost unstoppable and come in a zillion different varieties. And, not many other veggies garner such bragging rights as do tomatoes, especially grown in Alaska.

The hinderance for Alaskans in growing a good tomato are night temperatures below 55 degrees. These cause flowers and fruit to drop off the plant. A summer greenhouse or cold frame may be in order, or you can try the so-called Siberian types which will set fruit at cooler temperatures. Look for a variety called Glacier, which was the first of these — supposedly smuggled into the West after breeding in Siberia.

As for flowers, you really can’t find an easier plant to grow than cosmos flowers and they are always pretty enough to brag about.

There are several varieties ranging from tall to dwarf, fluted petals or not and with orange, red, pink or white flowers. The seeds are marigold-big, so this is a great plant with which to start young gardeners. More so because they almost never fail to germinate and mature.

On the veggie side of the ledger (tomatoes are a fruit), consider broccoli. Easy to germinate, this is a backbone vegetable plant for Alaska gardens. If harvested properly, plants will continue to yield new edible flowers for a while. The trick to growing broccoli so you don’t freak out the family is to stagger your plantings over the next few weeks so it all doesn’t become harvestable at the same time. The same goes for other vegetables that you would normally find for sale in six-packs.


OK, I know it is out on a limb for some, but consider growing autoflowering cannabis from seed. It appears it is now legal to send cannabis seeds in the mail. Unlike other forms of the plant that require shorter days than nights to initiate flowering and thus are pretty much out of the zone for most of us, autoflowers are day-neutral; they don’t care about the hours of light or darkness and can go from seed to flower in 100 days or so.

These are smaller plants as well, two to three feet, so they do great in containers or in the ground, right out there amongst the annuals and perennials. These are very pretty plants and seeds can be bought for plants that produce CBD as well as those that generate THC. (See, for example)

Finally, now is the time to visit nurseries for some of those plants you won’t be starting from seed. Bring plants home and continue their growth without the need for supplemental lights. We won’t start hardening off things until at least May and more likely mid-May at that, so consider your space before overloading it.

Remember, too, lights or no, roll all seeds but those in the cabbage family, in mycorrhizal fungi. Legumes should be rolled in a rhizobia mix nurseries carry. Label your efforts so you know what you grew.

That is it. Time to plant something so you can brag about, perhaps over what a real gardener you are!

Jeff’s Alaska Garden Calendar

Alaska Master Gardeners’ Annual Conference: April 7-8 and open to the public in Anchorage this year. Tickets for the Friday night party at the Nave are $50. The Saturday conference at UAA, is $120 (lunch included). See Full-time students can apply for a student pass by emailing

2023 Alaska Pioneer Fruit Growers Grafting Workshop: April 15 at Begich Middle School. The public is welcome to attend from 1-2:30 p.m. for grafting instructions.

Alaska Botanical Garden: So much stuff to sign up for. Did you join?

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

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

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

Tubers and corms: Start tuberous begonias and dahlias. Plant a few more glads.

Visit nurseries: There will be numerous scions from many different apple varieties from which to choose!

Jeff Lowenfels

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 is the author of a series of books on organic gardening available at Amazon and elsewhere. He co-hosts the "Teaming With Microbes" podcast.