Monthly Garden Calendar for Alaska

Organic Gardening Month-to-Month Almanac

By Linden Staciokas

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APRIL

Some gardeners in Fairbanks fantasize about May, which means direct seeding, and others who long for June 1, when transplanting takes place. But I dream of April. I see the promise of spring everywhere. Saw horses and plywood turn my dining room into a nursery for tuberous begonias, roses, fuchsias, and geraniums. And my kitchen and half of the garage are crammed with three-tiered light tables full of seedlings. By September, I will know failure and frustration, but right now my garden still has the ability to match the dreams of it I have been nurturing all winter.

Delight in Dahlias. In mid-April, cut off the top portion of gallon-sized plastic milk jugs and punch two drainage holes in the bottom. Fill with a 2:1 mixture of potting soil and seed starting mix. Place one tuber horizontally into each milk jug, cover with four inches of soil, and water well. As soon as a stalk appears, whisk that container under lights and begin weekly feedings with a diluted fish fertilizer.

Dazzling Dianthus. Another flower that is widely grown but in my experience is seldom thought of as a cutting flower is the dianthus—although there are a number of taller varieties, even the short bedding versions will last for 10-14 days in water and can look quite dashing in lapel vases or spilling out of shot glasses. I favor the carnation type, especially in deep red.

Sun and Shade Basics. Where we live, full sun means roughly eight hours of direct sun every day. Part sun means about five hours or less of direct sun. Dappled light, also called filtered light, means there is something blocking direct sun all of the time but it does peak through during part of the day. Full shade means basically no direct sun reaches the area.

The Dirt on Daylight. Many flowers and vegetables are day neutral, meaning they are not very particular about the lengths of their days and nights. Other plants are long day plants, which means they require a short period of darkness each day to perform well. Still other plants belong to the short-day group, meaning they don't do well in places like Alaska, where there isn't enough darkness for them.

April Seed Starting. During the first half of April, be sure to start these vegetables: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, chives, greenhouse cucumbers, eggplant, leeks, marjoram, mint, oregano, papers, sage, winter savory and thyme. These flowers also need to be seeded by about the 15th: asperula, asters, bells of Ireland, calendula, cosmos, dahlia tubers, daisies (English and African), dianthus, feverfew, gladiola corms, godetia, hollyhock, impatiens, kochia, layia, malope, malva, nemesia, nicotina, petunia, phlox, schizanthus, snapdragon, statice, strawflowers, tuberous begonia tubers and verbena.

Clean Your Seed Area. It's easy to forget that your seed starting area is getting more crowded. Don't reuse six packs without sterilizing them with a 10:1 water and bleach solution, keep a fan running on low for a few hours a day so that there is plenty of air circulation.

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