This year, we're finally going to start asparagus. And I'm going to start tomatoes and peppers from scratch - seed. I've started peppers from scratch twice recently, but haven't started tomatoes from seed since 1984.
In 2009 and 2010, I was unhappy with the starter varieties of tomatoes and peppers available at Anchorage and Mat-Su commercial greenhouses. It seemed like every greenhouse was getting their stuff from the same sources.
We've already started our garden, with five varieties of garlic I planted last September. I ordered them from Irish Eyes Garden Seeds in Ellensburg, Washington.
This winter, we're ordering our seed from two places:
We've been pretty satisfied in the past with Nichols Garden Nursery near Albany, Oregon. They offer a lot of hardy bean and carrot varieties for Alaska.
And this year, we're going to try a seed company I heard about at a local garden supply in Wasilla last summer - Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Their inventory of heirloom tomato seeds is huge! Not a bad pepper seed source, either.
This year, I'm going to intensively plant individual lettuce heads from seed in small starter sets. I just started doing that in 2009, and find it hard to believe I hadn't done it earlier. I may even try spinach that way.
I can't wait to start. I'll be planting the first tomato and pepper starters at the end of January.
Update - Sunday, 6:25 p.m: I just found Jeff Lowenfels' article in the ADN from December 31st, on ordering seeds and other mid-winter preparations for the coming growing season. His article mentions both Nichols and Baker Creek seed sources, along with some others that are useful for northern climates.
One of Lowenfels' recommendations is also mentioned in the comments below by seedman:
Have you tried any of the Siberian tomato varieties found at Seeds Trust? Bill McDorman went to Siberia in 1989 and brought back 60 delicious varieties, surly adapted to Alaska too! They have been searching the world for more than 25 years for vegetables adapted to the coldest climates.
I was unaware of Seeds Trust. Sounds like it will be worthwhile finding out more about them. Here's a link to the Seeds Trust web site.
One commenter asked how we keep the Black bears out of the garden. They've never been a bother here, though they occasionally visited our garden when we lived on Fairview Loop Road. Moose live in our marsh in the winter, but have never visited our garden in the summer. Knock on wood, eh?
Another commenter, new to Alaska, wants to start gardening, and hopes to find learning resources. Lenore Hedla's Alaska Gardener's Handbook is the standard. Ann D. Roberts' Alaska Gardening Guide, Vol. One is excellent, but difficult to read.
The ADN carries all their gardening articles under the sub-heading Talk Dirt to Me.
top image - Ananas Noire or Black Pineapple Tomato from Baker Creek
bottom image - five kinds of garlic from Irish Eyes