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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Seed Buying - It's what to do when It's -30 to -40 for days!

What to do on the -40 degree days?  Shop for seeds!

I've hit the seed catalogs.  It's the happiest thing I can think of (well besides dreaming of a trip to Hawaii) when it's been -30 to -40 for days on end.  I'm ready to think of green, growing things!  A girl can dream anyway.  I tend to buy from Denali Seeds because they are for and sold here in Alaska, and Territorial Seeds, which is where I ordered from this year. I actually am trying to keep my seed purchasing to a minimum this year, I have a bunch of seeds leftover from last year when I bought everything new.  I seal them in ziploc sandwich bags, and zip everything in a gallon ziploc bag and keep it in the garage, the coolest part of my house, but heated so it doesn't freeze.

  Tomatoes are the one thing I have yet to get to grow more than 1-2 green ones per year here in AK.  I was hoping that a greenhouse would help, but we had a very cold year and everything was 2 weeks behind, and my greenhouse was taken over by powdery mildew too.  I started them indoors in early March, but over-watered or something and most died and I had to start them again the beginning of April.  I will try a different soil, and water very carefully this year.  I do plan to start them the first couple weeks of March.

A fellow AK blogger at Wild Roots Homestead posted a pic of a bunch of actual tomatoes grown right here in interior alaska, and from last year, when I got nothing.  She recommended some soil treatments and varieties, I wish I could, but cannot find the actual post.  I do remember her saying she has put fish parts under the plants.  I have 19 fish heads in my freezer and I'll definitely give this a try this year.  , she also recommended several varieties of tomatoes.  I cannot remember them all, but found a couple of those I remembered  from Territorial Seeds, Oregon Spring, Siletz, and Sungold cherry tomato.  Last year I grew Manitoba Heriloom tomatoes.  I think those have promise, and did set fruit, maybe in a warmer winter I may get someting.  I also grew Nova and got basically nothing.  I have a few seeds of each left and will try those again.  I also have some seeds I saved from my CSA box that had damaged heirloom tomatoes that I'll give a try.  I have no idea what the variety is. 

So my tomato plan for the year:
  • Start seeds early March on a warming seed starting mat 
  • Different soils when I re-pot my starts
  • Careful watering
  • Fish fertalizer until they flower, then will use a blooming fertalizer
  • Put out in greenhouse as soon as it is warm enough.  Sadly this is early-mid may at the very soonest.
  • Place a fish head under each plant
  • To limit powdery mildew I will be very careful to keep the leaves dry and ventilate better.  It was a VERY wet year for us, which is unusual, so a normal year may help. 

I'll keep you posted on my progress.  Does anyone have any other suggestions for me?


  1. http://wildrootshomestead.blogspot.com/2010/02/good-and-bad.html

    Is that the post you're looking for?

    Haven't started blogging, but we also live in Interior Alaska. We've had decent success with a few hydroponic experiments, and I think we'll have spectacular results if we actually put more time into it. Fresh tomatoes in February? We'll see.

    Keep blogging!

  2. It sounds like you have a great plan! I think you're going to see results!

  3. Good luck! I live in Colorado at 9000 feet and have terrible luck with tomatoes because our outdoors growing season is less than 2 months long! That doesn't stop me from trying every year though ... I did get a few (like 3-4) tomatoes last year, but I have to start my plants inside now (December/January) to get them big enough that they will be do anything outside! :) I just start them from seed and place them by windows that get good sunlight. BTW, just found your blog and Alaska is our dream someday ... we just got married this fall in Alaska actually!

  4. R. Lyons, thanks, it isn't the same post, but still has great into! We've never tried hydroponic, but I think my husband is thinking about it.

    Thanks mountain Home Quilts. Here's hoping I get some this year!

    Jane, I really do love it here, I love Colorado too! What area of AK did you get married in? In the interior I get about 3 good months. How do you pot your tomatoes indoors? Any particular soil or fertilizer you use. Mine have turned yellow and died the past 2 years. I'm thinking I overwatered them. Space is also always a big issue for me.

  5. We got married in Talkeetna ... my husband has family in Anchorage, so it was in between where they live and Denali (where we wanted to be!) lol.

    So, I actually make my own potting soil -- I posted it here - http://thehealthybeehive.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/homemade-potting-soil/. I also have some pictures of some of my plants there too ...

    I have these flat trays (http://www.johnnyseeds.com/p-6426-jumbo-plug-flats-5-pack.aspx) that I start the seeds in, and when they get big enough, I transplant them into regular pots. You could be over watering them... I struggle with that too. Funny story, I had some tomato plants in pots that I brought inside last September, and they have been growing inside. I just have them in huge pots, right next to a window. Just this last week, I saw actual tomatoes growing on them! Oh and I talk to them and tell them how pretty they are - I'm quite sure that doesn't help but you never know :)

  6. I know that seed warming pad is very important. Good luck and I will stay tuned : )

  7. Jane I love Talkeetna! Thanks for the link for the potting soil, I'll definitely check it out, and the other info.

    I'll keep everyone posted on my tomato progress this year.

  8. I wish you great gardening success this year. I know its tough up there. My sister-in-law lives and gardens in Willows and she always amazes me. I look forward to your next post.