Alaska’s indoor gardening season is starting. Here’s what to know.

April 1 is the start of the indoor gardening season in Alaska. It should be a month or so earlier, but trying to convince every Alaska gardener to install and use some sort of growing light system is a Sisyphean task if ever there was one. I try and try. Alas.

So, I use April 1 as the start instead because on that date the quality and amount of Alaska light through a south-facing window is sufficient to germinate seeds. It’s important then to be able to grow seedlings that won’t be spindly and not worth the effort results-wise.

I don’t need to repeat the rule: You have to start something from seed yourself if you want to call yourself a real Alaska gardener. Sure, buy starts, but grow something all by yourself. It is easy. It is fun. It is gardening as opposed to simply buying.

Another reason April 1 is the start of the season is the deepening hue of the local birch. How can you not notice? There is a red that deepens as the temperatures warm and the day length surges. The sap is running up from the roots, which is not the normal flow, and the buds are clearly swelling. This means you should not prune any until leaves get to nearly full size unless you want sap pouring out of your cuts.

I am not suggesting you avoid cleanup. We have had one heck of a winter, and your shrubs and trees no doubt show that with broken limbs or worse. Your yard is going to be a mess. It might be a bit early to go out and clean things up, but it isn’t too early to collect what you will need to do the chore: chain saw, pruners, perhaps a pole-mounted branch saw and the like.

In fact, you probably should just let it be for a while. The lawn doesn’t need the trampling and, as noted, there is that sap. And, it is always better to see what greens up before you cut branches so you know what really needs to be removed.

Do note that the big stuff — trees of any considerable girth that need to come down — is best left to professionals. Now is when you should be making your appointments. They are already booked up.


My advice is to just have them cut down trees and, as with any that are already down, have someone who uses firewood come and buck it up. Either put up a sign or go on Facebook or Neighbor to Neighbor and let one of the many who use firewood take it away. Free wood is wood gone.

Since you are going to let professionals handle the big stuff, you don’t need a big gas chain saw and probably shouldn’t be using one. Instead, you might want to invest in a battery-operated saw. These have blades that are seldom longer than 14 inches, which is about a big as you need though still dangerous, but not a noise or gas polluter. Make sure you get one that is comparable with other gardening equipment like weed eaters, trimmers, blowers and even mowers. Gas engines are on their way out of the yard.

Obviously, you need to visit nurseries. They are all now open. Now that there is enough light, you can buy a tomato or two. Don’t get carried away, however, unless you have a lot of windows. These little starts will grow quickly now that we have enough natural light.

Jeff’s Alaska Garden Calendar:

Vegetables to start from seed: Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, head lettuce, pepper, Brussels sprouts and tomatoes.

Flowers to start from seed: ageratum, auto-flowering cannabis, cosmos, snaps, seed dahlias, godetia, aster, celosia, malva, salvia, lupine, achimenes (tubers), brachyscome (15C), dianthus (5), stock (10L), lockspar (20C). (The numbers represent the days to germination, while C means grow cool and L means seeds need light.) Sweet peas if not started already.

Herbs to start from seed: Sorrel, parsley.

All stored plants: Should be out of storage and starting to grow. Pinch back to shape and cause branching.

Tuberous begonias: Start.

Dahlias: Expose last year’s tubers to light so eyes develop before dividing and replanting.

Alaska Pioneer Fruit Growers Grafting Workshop: This event is April 13 at Begich Middle School and is free to the public from 1-2:30 p.m. There will be grafting instructions and advice regarding growing fruit trees in Alaska as well as rootstock available for purchase.

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.