A GUIDE TO GROWING HEMP IN ALASKA
Is growing hemp in Alaska even possible in a place known for blizzards, igloos, and endless nights? Surprisingly, in some part of this massive state, it actually is.
While it’s certainly more difficult to grow hemp outdoors in Alaska than in most of the “lower 48,” it is possible in certain locations. However, as the climate warms up, additional areas might open up. Researchers are starting to try out some strains of corn near Fairbanks, and hemp usually can follow places that corn goes.
Plant Hardiness Zone(s)
Plant Hardiness Zones: Zones in this state run from 1b up through 6a. Most of the state is inhospitable to hemp crops in terms of zones 1a, 2a, 2b, 3a, and 3b. However, there are limited stretches of zones 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, and even some 6a in the coastal regions facing the Pacific but not the Bering Sea. These generally run from Juneau up to Anchorage and then down the chain of Aleutian Islands on the southern sides.
Thermal Zones: Alaska has five distinct climate zones, but in terms of planting hemp, it’s really only possible in the subarctic maritime and continental maritime zones along the Gulf of Alaska coastline along the Pacific where the ground has no permafrost.
Length of Growing Season
Length Of Growing Season: At the time of writing, the duration of the growing season in Alaska was in a state of flux, likely due to climate change and rising temperatures. The average was 105 days, up from an older standard of 100. However, one summer actually hit 120 days, which is perfect for the four months hemp usually needs for full growth and maturation.
Average Annual Sunlight
Average Annual Sunlight: As most people know, anything inside the Arctic Circle completely loses the sun during the winter, and most of the state has really short days during that time. What matters is the sunlight in the growing zones of the south, which typically only get between 30 to 41 percent of the total possible sun. Many locations only get between 85 and 126 sunny days each year, evenly split between sunny days and partly sunny ones.
Average Annual Precipitation
Average Annual Precipitation: Interior and northern Alaska can be so arid they’re considered desert climate, but it’s the rainfall in the growing areas that would be of more interest to you. They vary quite wildly too, as you might see over 200 days of precipitation each year with more than 100 annual inches around Anchorage or Juneau, with less but still significant rain on more westerly plateaus and islands. This is unsurprising given how many storm fronts form in the Gulf of Alaska.
Elevation: Mount McKinley is the highest point in not just the state of Alaska, but also the United States, and indeed the whole continent of North America. The mean elevation for the state sits at 1,900 feet, but the growing zones for hemp crops are typically closer to sea level given how they border the coastline.
Soil pH: Alaskan soil tends to be on the acidic side, frequently dipping as low as 4.0. Adjustment is necessary most of the time, as 6.5 is ideal for not just hemp but many other crops or plants that you might be interested in cultivating.
Soil Composition: For most of the state, it simply doesn’t matter. However, in the coastal stretches where hemp might grow, the soil is often volcanic in nature. The usual fertilizer recommendation for the state is often 8-32-16, which is high in phosphorus. There is a lot of phosphorus in the soil already, but the presence of other minerals binds with it in ways that make it unavailable to plant roots. Over time, fertilizer use can make the phosphorus levels go too high.
Two other facets regarding soil composition worth noting. First, the usable soil in Alaska is usually only the first 12 inches. Following that, the ground is often frozen solid for either most or all of the year. Many parts of the state can’t even bury their dead until summer, if ever. Secondly, moisture retention in the soil is very poor.
Potential Pests: Given the northerly latitudes of this state, the biodiversity is unlike a lot of the lower 48 states. However, slugs and aphids in particular still plague many who try their hand at farming in this state.
HEMP HARDINESS SCORE:
Click here to read about how we calculate a state’s Hemp Hardiness Score.
Obtaining A Hemp Grower’s License In Alaska
Under federal law, it is illegal to grow hemp anywhere in the United States without first obtaining a grower’s license from the appropriate regulatory body for the state in which the interested party intends to plant the crop. For information on the legal status of hemp in Alaska, as well as a breakdown of the application process, click here.