Sunday, October 07, 2007

Flowers, giant vegetables, and even tomatoes -- gardening in the Last Frontier

Back in August, I went to Alaska on vacation. My travelogue is posted on my personal blog, so I won't bore you with that here. Instead, I'd like to share a few garden-related observations from my trip.

  • Anchorage is filled with flowers in the summer, with colorful planters all over downtown. According to the Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau, Anchorage is the City of Flowers, with the city planting 461 flowerbeds and hanging baskets every summer.
  • I went to a small farmers market in Anchorage, where I learned about the Alaska Grown movement. Alaska does have agriculture, especially in the Mat-Su Valley. Cool-season crops and berries predominate. According to some literature I picked up at the Alaska Grown booth at the farmers market, the long summer days up there speed growth; 30 days of an Alaska summer creates the same amount of growth as 60 days in more temperate latitudes.
  • Giant vegetables are a big thing (hardy har har) in Alaska--especially cabbages. Several Alaskans have grown world-record vegetables in recent years:

  • Alaskans grow--or attempt to grow--tomatoes. Tomatoes up there need nighttime protection (the temperature dropped below freezing at least once while we were in Anchorage, and we were there in August), but they do grow. I saw several makeshift greenhouses, while I was there, including this one behind an apartment in Whittier:
    How to grow tomatoes in Alaska

I doubt I'd last long up there. I complain because I can't grow citrus in Portland without a greenhouse.


Anonymous said...

Janet, I experienced the same thing!
Biggest flowers I ever saw. Growing Lobelia in the south is tough...but up there it's a snap. Zinnias the size of small cats! My husband and I are moving there within the next 2 months and can't get there soon enough.

Are the LARGE veggies edible?

Drop me a line if you take a notion.
Take care!

Janet said...

Thanks for your comment, and good luck with your move. As far as I know, the giant veggies are perfectly edible. I don't know how the unusual growing conditionsaffect the nutritional content (hmm... now there's a topic for a grad student in agriculture) or taste though. If you find out, please let me know. I'm curious.