Warm weather kickstarts growing season on peninsula

It’s been a long, chilly spring for gardeners in the central Kenai Peninsula, but growing season is finally opening up.


The warm, sunny weekend marked one of the first stretches of summery weather the central peninsula has seen so far this year. Cool temperatures have dominated most of the past few months since the snow began to melt, accompanied by frequent cloud cover and rain.

Commercial greenhouses have been packed with floral baskets flushed out, waiting for customers to pick them up — as they were waiting because of the chilly weather. Others have been nursing their plants along, waiting for plants that have normally budded bynow to roll into spring.

Though it may have felt like a drawn out spring, things are really only about a week behind usual, said Janice Chumley, the integrated pest management technician with the Kenai Peninsula Cooperative Extension Service. However, it’s still getting cold at night despite the extended sunlight, so gardeners are still waiting for the soil to warm up.

“I think that all of us tend to remember the really warm summers that we had a couple of years ago, where it came really early, breakup was a breeze, and it was warm and it just stayed that way,” she said. “I think that this, oddly enough, is a little bit more typical. It used to be that people never recommended or planted until the end of May or the beginning of June.”

It has been overcast but not terribly wet — the rain that has been falling has been light and scattered, not soaking into the soil, she said. The melting snow should saturate the soil better now that the temperatures are more consistently warm.

“The trees have just leafed out,” she said. “It’s right about now … that the soil should be warming up sufficiently to be able to plant outdoors. We all just need to be a little bit patient and harden things off before (putting) them outdoors.”

Things are actually roughly right on schedule for the Kenai Parks and Recreation Department. The workers usually seed the Field of Flowers on Lawton Drive for the year around the first week of June, which they plan to do soon, said Parks and Recreation Director Bob Frates.

Volunteers can work with the city on Saturday to plant flowers in the city’s beds. Call the Kenai Parks and Recreation office and plan to be at the Kenai Fire Department at 10 a.m., where volunteers will receive a plant diagram, Frates said.

The Central Peninsula Garden Club is also planning its annual plant sale for Saturday, starting at 10 a.m.