Giant Vegetables

Last week, Kat asked, “I was wondering, though, with your super-long Alaskan days, do your plants grow super big? Or does it otherwise affect them?”

My answer: yes and no and probably.

Clear as black-out curtains? I’ll try to explain.


Alaska has a reputation for producing giant produce. John Evans, who lives about 50 miles from where we do, hold numerous giant veggie world records. Our community and state fairs are showcases of seemingly mutant vegetables.

The extensive summer daylight in AK causes plants to grow quickly and in some cases, extra large. You should see our dandelions; a better name might be “grandelions.” But it takes more than the sunlight to produce giant veggies.

Rumor has it that the Matanuska Valley, carved by the Matanuska Glacier, is fertile land. Presumably, glacial silt contributes to fertile soil. However, most of Alaska has a very thin soil layer, and plenty of permafrost. We look out at the Matanuska Glacier, so are above the valley. Our soil is pretty lousy. In fact, we’ve brought in the topsoil in our garden, and we’ve done little to improve it as yet. It’s on the to-do list. People who grow giant veggies actively cultivate them. As yet, we’ve never done that.

My primary gardening goal is food. As I understand it, many veggies are at their eating best when they are relatively young, which I presume means before they become giants. I tend to harvest before anything has a chance to grow extra large, although some of my spinach was pretty darn big when I returned from the lodge, and it was delicious and tender.

So, to answer the question, do our super-long days make our plants grow super-big. In some cases, yes, but not so much in my garden. Although, the crazy turnips seem extra-large to me, but I don’t know beans about turnips. Does the sun otherwise affect them? Probably. Our growing season is short, and it helps plants grow quickly, which is useful. Another rumor suggests plants that grow quickly are sweeter than those that grow more slowly. I don’t know if that’s true or not.

Consider this: Alaska’s trees tend to be small (southeast trees excepted). Why doesn’t the extensive sunlight make our trees grow super-big? I would guess it’s mostly a soil issue. That thin soil layer can’t support huge trees. Roots spread wide rather than going deep. Big trees might just blow over. The farther north you go, the smaller the trees get.

Categories: Alaska