Mild and Wild: Soldotna’s Climatic Zone

Soldotna is a great place to grow cooler weather plants and vegetables. As a USDA Hardiness Zone 4a (-30 to -25 degrees F), we can grow a number of cold resistant fruits and veggies very well. From my experience and that of other gardeners in the area, kale and rhubarb do very well here. Not only is the climate relatively mild in the summer with long days and the temperatures hovering just under 60 degrees, it is located close enough to the ocean to benefit from fantastic natural fertilizers – salmon. Cook Inlet is about 6 miles away as the crow flies and the Kenai River winds it’s way through the area surrounding town.

The Kenai River is an important feature in the microclimate near Soldotna. Photo by author.

Despite the fantastic organic matter available in this area, winters are long and the decaying process is slow. First frost usually occurs as early as September and won’t relinquish its hold until May or June. Additionally, a few miles away from the old path of the Kenai River where I live, the soil is a sandy loam, which is great for drainage and root space, but needs a little help from mulch or compost to retain moisture and provide the microbial environment plants love.

Cold winter temperatures make it necessary to grow some plants indoors, like this marigold. Photo by author.

There is a great new wave of appreciation for locally grown food around Soldotna, with multiple farmer’s markets in town and the surrounding area displaying an exciting array of greenhouse and outdoor grown flora.The Food Hub recently added Soldotna to their drop off list, providing much needed local variety from the Peninsula and beyond. There is also a very supportive gardening community in Soldotna. The Central Peninsula Gardening Club, established in 2007, has many events and an active Facebook page that offers helpful advice year round.

Weather Station Data

To extrapolate information on the frost dates and precipitation for my area, I actually used information from the weather station near the Kenai Municipal Airport, which is almost nine miles away. This weather station is considerably closer to the ocean and is closer to sea level than where I am located in Soldotna, but it was the nearest station that had consistent data and a complete data sheet I was able to download.

Average Temperatures and Precipitation Near Soldotna 1981-2010

May June July August September
Average Daily Temperature (°F) 46.0 52.5 56.3 55.0 48.1
Average Daily Maximum (°F) 55.8 61.5 64.2 63.9 56.9
Average Daily Minimum (°F) 36.1 43.4 48.5 46.2 39.3
Average rainfall (in.) .91 1.07 1.84 2.69 3.27

Dates of First/Last Frosts

32°F is used here to determine frosts. Probable Growing Season (90% probability) Possible Growing Season (10% probability)
Date of First frost 9/27 8/26
Date of Last frost 5/09 6/09
Freeze Free Period 224 287

Let There Be Light!! Day Length

Dates when day lengths are longer than and shorter than 12 hours 3/19 9/27

 

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