Here’s one of the many truths about Alaska living: the standards for fresh fruits and veggies are quite low, availability can ebb and flow, and “in-season” produce doesn’t really exist in Alaska. #alaskaproblems
Often, the shelves of store-bought produce are empty, and I guess I kind of expected that. When we do come upon stocked bins, I often wonder what they do to make the products last from the lower 48 to the grocery shelves to home. I kid you not, the tomatoes from our Costco last for at least a month at home. Hmmmmm. But almost always, the produce prices blow our minds (I’m looking at you, $9.99 watermelon).
Now, there is a farmer’s market in Healy from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and I went consistently in July & August. But there’s really only 3 different local growers with produce, and they weren’t always present, plus the selection was limited to greens, zucchinis and the occasional cucumber.
So of course I wanted to grow my own! I’ve kept a garden successfully other places we lived, but I knew it’d be different here. My uncle has lived in Alaska for well over 30 years, and his gardening game is on. I asked him if he thought I could grow anything in Healy, and he said, “you could try?”
Spoiler alert: futile attempt on most items.
The lettuce & strawberry starts we purchased from Denali Grown, Healy’s local greenhouse, did great. I mean, I think we got like 10 strawberries, but still! And the lettuce was definitely most abundant and yummy.
Other starts, such as the sunflowers, zucchini & beans my uncle gave and the pepper plant I purchased, are still working at it. Now that we’ve had our first frost, I had to move what I wanted to salvage indoors. I think I’ll get 2 zucchinis, although I’m not sure about the pepper; it’s trying, but I’m doubtful. I did get 20+ beans. And the sunflower never sprouted and didn’t get bigger than my forearm.
The green onions & cilantro I planted by seed did fine.
But other things I planted by seed inside mid-May, like the tomatoes & cucumbers. Fuggedaboutit.
All the plants spent June-September in containers on our deck. Our long days meant full sun on the plants from about 2pm until 10pm. The main problem was there wasn’t a ton of sun this summer, especially in June and July. And it wasn’t very warm (not that it really ever is warm in Alaska, but I digress).
On the bright side, we didn’t have any critters getting into our plants. Mainly because they were on our deck, which is at least 10 feet off the ground. The moose can’t even reach them! The other problem animal—snowshoe hares—didn’t wander onto our deck.
So, I’m calling it an experimental summer for gardening. I learned a little about what does well and what doesn’t in Alaska. A little greenhouse might be the key to actually producing fresh homegrown goods in the future!