The cruelty of May gardening

With apologies to T.S. Eliot, I’ll posit that the most cruelest month for Alaska gardeners is May for the following reasons:

  • It’s inevitable that the wellbeing of tiny seedlings is sacrificed in the rush to prepare for planting outdoors.
  • The speculative garden projects recorded in a garden journal from the lazy comfort of a couch in December evaporate due to springtime commitments to family, friends, and community.
  • Mistakes are made, as experimental seeds (ahem, I’m looking at you, Snake Gourd, Lagenaria siceraria) and the most reliable ones (my oldest brassica seeds seem to have finally aged out) refuse to germinate.
Snake gourd seeds from Monticello failed to germinate! Hmm, more research needed (when I have time) ……

I was lucky this year that my seedlings flourished despite periods of benign neglect. A few tomato and pepper plants suffered minor leaf edema due to water stress. However they developed strong root systems and relatively sturdy stems.

In the daytime, a shaded area of my greenhouse is now covered in bitter greens (radicchio and chicory) and other vegetable seedlings. Peppers, tomatoes and mint wordlessly beg me to plant them. For now I’m just giving them bigger pots. I bring all of my vegetable seedlings into the kitchen at night because I don’t want to expose them to temperatures in the 30s. I suspect some of them might otherwise bolt early.

Another way I was lucky is that I received my first-ever soil sample results from Brookside Laboratories of Ohio yesterday, giving me enough time to prepare my raised beds before it’s time to start planting my seedlings. I reviewed the results from three soil tests and it looks like all of my vegetable beds are doing well. How boring! Once again, routine inputs of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium should do the trick this year. I didn’t even need to consult a specialist for organic fertilizer recommendations, thanks to this handy interactive spreadsheet from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service.

Back to the theme of cruelty, I won’t be able to join a number of gardening-related events and activities in May due to scheduling conflicts. One of these is the annual seedling exchange of the Alaska Permaculture Guild, which I’ve never missed before. I’m still not sure what to do now with all my spare tomatoes and pepper seedlings, LOL. I’ve always been able to trade them for interesting new plants at this seedling exchange.

I’m also attaching a PDF of this summer’s schedule for Alaska Native Plant Society field trips, which are a great way to learn about native plants – edible, medicinal, poisonous, etc. — from local amateurs and professionals while enjoying the Alaska outdoors. You can also follow and/or like the society on Facebook to get notifications of hikes that aren’t in the published schedule. It costs only $15 per year to join the group.

I’m looking forward to June, when the seedlings go into the garden soil and slow down their growth a bit. Hmm, maybe in June I can reengage on some of those speculative garden projects!

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