An Alaska Gardener’s Winter To-Do List

Begin preparations now to make the next growing season a success.

Investigate new plant varieties in seed catalogs. Try a few new varieties each year and compare them with others that have been consistently dependable. The Cooperative Extension Service has publications available on recommended varieties of vegetables and fruits.

Review your garden journal. Use what you learned to improve your garden next year.

Build or plan projects for next season. Spring is usually a very busy time. Accomplish as much as possible in the winter to make spring less hectic. Boxes, hangers, cold frames and indoor lighting may all be projects that can be accomplished indoors during the winter.

Improve and organize your food storage facilities. Determine storage requirements for each crop that you grow. Temperature and humidity control are important. Don’t forget space requirements differ too!

Collect containers and protective covers for seedlings. Clear plastic containers are potentially usable as hot caps for protecting newly transplanted crops and as collars to prevent pest problems

Try new recipes for stored produce. Tasty, fresh and nutritious produce is the reward of your gardening efforts. Obtain recipes from your local Extension office. Trade recipes with friends and neighbors.

Avoid applying salt to paths and roadways near plants. Use urea or other fertilizer that can benefit plants next spring. Apply sparingly since fertilizers contain salts also. Sand or other inert material can be a good alternative.

Save wood ashes. Wood ashes help recycle waste and will reduce the requirements for lime.

Cut brush and branches for peas, beans and tall flowers. Using naturally available materials for trellising can reduce the overall cost of gardening.

Compost kitchen scraps. Egg shells, coffee grounds, and fruit and vegetable scraps (no meats, fats or salad dressings) can be composted for later use in the garden.

Swap gardening stories and information. Study insects, birds, plants diseases and gardening techniques. Successful gardening requires constant learning. Benefit from other gardeners’ experience and use books, magazines and Cooperative Extension Service newsletters and publications.

Keep track of what you’re buying in the store and think about how you could replace it with homegrown produce. Gardening provides you with nutritious alternatives to store-bought vegetables, and you know what conditions they were grown in from seeding to harvest. Cost, freshness and quality are areas of concern for all consumers.

Learn more about gardening. Read books or blogs about gardening or sign up for a workshop or a class like the Alaska Master Gardener class.

Garden indoors in pots and tubs. Be aware of the plant requirements for light and temperature. Winter produce is a real treat.

Rest. Dream. Plan. Looking forward to spring can make the winters seem shorter. Plan ahead so that next year’s garden will be the best one yet. Before you know it, spring will be here.

Source: Heidi Rader, University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture.