The garden is a Memorial Garden, a garden of benevolence, a garden of love. It is a gift to our community from the God of Love, Jesus the Christ. The first “seeds” for our garden have come from members of the congregation and a designation from the congregation’s memorial funds. These seeds have brought us to the beginning of a journey that will last for many years. Guided by the Holy Spirit we will plow forth until row upon row of our work is accomplished and our community is better nourished. The Lord invites you all to be part of His work on earth strengthening and feeding His children. The garden is made possible by generous donations from the community, and grants from the ELCA Domestic Hunger Grants, the Alaska Food Policy Council through the Municipality of Anchorage, the Alaska Women's Giving Circle, The Alaska Master Gardeners of Anchorage, the generous support by the congregation of Lutheran Church of Hope, and support from the Alaska Synod of the ELCA.

Food from the garden in 2019 was sent to Lutheran Social Services Food Pantry, the Tudor Road Gospel Rescue Mission, and to Bean's Cafe.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

How Much Seed Do I Need?

How much seed do you need to plant a 10 foot row or a 100 foot row for that matter? I had no idea, people have really worked this out. Please don't laugh too hard, I was new at this. At least one seed catalog I received this year has that information. I'm sure most of the others do as well. I had just never looked for the information. In the 2021 catalog from Johnny's Selected Seeds there is a chart on page four.
You can call the seed companies and they will be ahppy to tell you especially if you order from them. There are a number of web sites that have the information you can use your favorite search engine to find different ones if you like. You will need to be careful though as a lot of the charts you find on the web are for farmers and they only talk about seeds per acre. Seeds per 100 foot row are easy to break down into smaller units, however, seeds per acre is much tougher. I was surprised by the number of seeds needed. The chart at the right comes from Johnny's  Selected Seeds catalog.

Here are just a few examples of seeding requirements for a 100 foot row. It takes 800 beans to seed a 100 foot row, 1500 beet seeds, 3000 carrot seeds (sounds like a lot), 1.25 pounds of peas, 1.5 ounces of radish seed and a third of a ounce of turnip seeds. Turnip seeds are really small and light. Planting will be so much easier this spring. Or I should say knowing how much seed to purchase will be easier.

Most of the sites give the information and I think assume that you have a planter and are not doing it by hand. Obviously they are also set up for use in the lower 48 states.

Many of the seeding suggestions just will not fly in Alaska for planting in an outdoor garden. Things like squash will never mature if you direct seed them. The soil is way too cool for them to germinate unless maybe if you put clear visqueen over the row. That being said, you should be willing to experiment with "marginal" species. You might live in a micro-climate within our zone 4 area. Yup, most of Anchorage is classified as zone 4b. But be careful, there are places in town, especially on the east side that are probably lower.

If you are going to try to grow fruit trees, yes they grow here, be sure they are grafted to root stock that is hardy to zone 3. Pears will grow just fine when grafted to crab apple root stock. Be sure to find out what the root stock is before you buy or plant.

Monday, January 17, 2022

To Direct Seed or Not?

Should I start the seeds indoors or direct seed them when the temperatures warm up? This question has posed a conundrum for gardeners forever. There are some things that you must direct seed because they do not transplant well at all. Generally crops with long taproots that are the crop like carrots and parsnips should be direct seeded.

If you are going to grow peppers you will need to start them inside or in a heated greenhouse by the beginning of February or at least the first of March. You can transplant them into covered beds and they will do fine outside after the danger of frost is history. I usually grow three or four types of chiles. Some years they do better than other depending on the weather.

Leeks and bulb onions need to be started in February as well. There is not a problem with transplanting. If you try direct seeding you will get green onions from both but not much more. Green or bunching onions should be direct seeded but in raised beds of some type. Putting them in the flat ground has not worked well for me. I think the soil is too cold even though onions to well in cool conditions. If you are going to do bulb onions be sure to get long day varieties. I have experimented with bulb onions with little success but they are so tasty I still trying to get something that will work. You may have better success in the interior because of the "hotter" summers.

Carrots, these orange beauties do not transplant well. If you try, you will get really gnarly roots. For some reason transplanted carrots just don't do well. If you get really strange shaped roots it's usually because they have been disturbed during growth somewhere along the line. Most people think the "unique" shaped roots are because of rocky ground or some such but usually because of cultivation or hand weeding the roots were messed with and go bonkers. So direct seed carrots and try not to disturb the roots.

Most types of beans should be put directly in the ground. Beans will germinate faster if you soak the seeds in water about 24 hours before you plant. They don't like to have their roots disturbed. If you must transplant them start them in individual pots and try to disturb the roots as little as possible. Bush beans and "pole" beans fall into this category.

Squash is sensitive, too. I have tried many different things to make them grow better. It turns out you will get the earliest harvest by starting the seeds in small pots first. Usually two to three weeks before you want them to go into the ground. So no earlier than the first week of May, When you transplant once again try to disturb the roots as little as possible. There is another way as well. Put your say zucchini seeds between two wet paper towels. Cover them. Put them in a plastic bag or wrap them in cellophane. Then leave them in a warm place for a week. The seeds will sprout. Once sprouted you can plant them in the soil and they will do fine. The sprouted seeds will be behind the transplants about two weeks. After that you won't be able to tell which were which.

Just about all of the brassicas can be direct seeded. Again things like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli  will harvest a little later. This type of crop transplants very well. They can be put in the ground before the danger of a light frost has past. They are tough. They can take a beating. Just remember those little plants grow to be very large. Plant them at least 24" apart.

No need to start peas. You can put them in the ground as soon as you can work the soil. They will germinate faster if you soak them in water for a day before you plant. Make sure you have something for them to "climb" on. It makes harvesting much easier.

Most everything else that can be direct seeded should go in the ground by the middle of May. There is always an exception and in this case it's lettuce. You need to direct seed this crop but not until after the danger of frost is well past. In Anchorage and south central Alaska that usually after Memorial Day.

Have fun! See you in the garden!

Monday, December 13, 2021

When to Order Seeds?

Radishes
 I know this seems a weird question to many people. Of course, you get seeds just before you are ready to plant. While it is probably true that you can get some type of carrot seed anytime you want to buy it, you may not be able you got the variety you want. During the winter/spring of 2021 some seeds were very hard to find. Many popular varieties were sold out by February. Well that's no big deal, just buy another variety. Well if a variety is sold out that's probably because it's very popular. It's popular because it provides excellent yield, great flavor, or maybe both. It may be "new" and in short supply anyway. Seed is usually viable for at least a couple of years so order early.

I bought my 2022 seeds in November of 2021 from Johnny's Selected Seeds. One item I wanted won't be available until March of 2022. I ordered the rest and will get that one variety as soon as it's available. Fortunately, that particular seed doesn't have to be started in January or even April. It can be direct seeded so no big deal. But for the 2021 season I didn't order until January of 2021 and some of the varieties I wanted had already been sold out. I substituted for other varieties but I was not happy.

Green Onions
 Sometimes if you order your seeds all at once you will get free shipping  because you exceeded some dollar threshold. The companies that offer "free" shipping generally charge more for a packet of seeds so be careful when you order and look closely at shipping charges. And there are some that charge a premium price for shipping to Alaska, Hawaii, etc. Why does that matter. I tried to order a specific variety of pepper from a company. The seeds were expensive to start with plus they charged shipping. There was also a shipping surcharge for Alaska. That one packet of seeds would have cost me $21.50. But the seed packet price was $6.75. Needless to say I didn't order from that company.

Research the varieties you want to grow. Make a list. Go to several websites. Do the "baskets" and check on the shipping. Talk to your gardening friends. You can save a lot of money on seeds by shopping around. It just takes time. In the winter, what else is there to do. Just kidding. This is a shopping trip that you can do from you kitchen table.

Lastly, be wary of some vendors on Amazon. While Amazon stands behind their products sometimes the vendors don't send you the things you ordered. If you put cabbage, turnip, and kohlrabi  seeds next to each other you won't be able to tell them apart. Seed sellers can't either. Use a trusted source. Also if you order direct from the vendor on their own website you may get a better deal.

Have fun! See you in the garden!

Sunday, November 28, 2021

The 2022 Season has Begun

 I know it seems early to be talking about the 2022 gardening season. Yet I have been studying seed catalogs for about 6 weeks. Have been deciding what to discontinue and what new things we should be the next experiment. Most of the last week has had single digit highs and below zero lows and I ordered seeds. Just about everything is on it's way for the new season. We will begin planting at the end of January and that's not very far away. Looking forward to getting my hands in the dirt again. The tentative schedule for 2022 plantings follows.


Jan 29        Petunias, lobelia, leeks, and onions


Feb 29        Peppers


Mar 19        Repot things planted on Jan 29.


April 9        Brassicas


April 30    Zukes


May 1        Begin hardening off, weather permitting


May 1-8    Till, potatoes and peas in the ground


May 15-21    Brassicas in the garden, peppers in the beds


May 22-28    Zukes in the ground and rest of the seeds planted.


May 29    Weeding begins


June 24    Harvest radishes and bok choi

Hopefully all will be well in 2022. Thanks for reading and stay safe. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Award Winning Garden

 In 2019 and 2021 I entered crops in the Alaska State Fair. In 2019 the crops entered did quite well with firsts, a second, and thirds. There was no fair in 2020 because of COVID-19. In 2021 I also entered crops from the garden. This year there was a division champion, many firsts, two seconds, and an honorable mention. In the picture below the white ribbons and left are from 2019. The ones to the right are from 2021. The exquisite quilt was a gift from Donna Dooley who lives down the street from Bonnie and I. I thought it would be a great medium to display the awards. As you can see I will have to find a different way to display awards from next year, if there are any.

2019 and 2021 Awards
I have been asked by some why the awards are important. Isn't it enough just to provide food for those in need through the Lutheran Social Services of Alaska (LSSA) food pantry and other places? I have to say
"Red" Cabbage

that the awards show people receiving the produce that the food is excellent quality. Often food pantries and other places that feed those in need get the left overs, the expired or nearly expired foods. The garden provides fresh, excellent quality, fantastic tasting food for those served. Though I haven't talked with many I know the quality and freshness of the food is greatly appreciated by our clientele. The quantity and quality allows the food pantry and others to use at least some money in other areas of need than having to purchase fresh food. The garden also provides foods that are not usually available in pantries. Leeks, onions, and carrots are seldom seen in food pantries because even low quality produce of these varieties bring premium prices in the grocery stores and farmer's markets.

Habaneros

Prior to 2019 I was reluctant to enter anything in the Alaska State Fair because of my lack of experience and I did not think the produce was award worthy. I was blown away in 2019 when I won awards. I was amazed at being awarded division champion in 2021 for a lovely "red" cabbage. I am aware that the exhibits at the state fair are beauty contests. However, in most cases the 

Leeks
beauty is much more than skin deep. Pretty food is also most often tasty. It shows good care and hard work in growing winning entries. I look forward to the garden producing more award winning crops in 2022.



Tuesday, November 23, 2021

2021 The Year of COVID-19


Potato Harvest
Onion Thinnings
Using the protocols of masks and distancing we were fortunate that no one working in the garden during the 2021 season got COVID. Actually the pandemic might have been a boon for the garden. We had more volunteers than ever. People came for a half hour or for many hours a week for many weeks. A very special thanks to all the volunteers of 2021 from January to October.

"Red" Cabbage
Radishes
In January of 2021 we planted petunias, lobelia, leeks, and peppers. In March these all were repotted. The lobelia and petunia seeds are really tiny so they were just sprinkled on some media to sprout and begin the process. They really grow slowly. These were made to put in baskets that we hang on the garden fence. The peppers were started about 3 weeks to a month to early so they will be planted later in 2022.

Turnips
The spring was quite cool so the planting was what I thought was late. However the first radish harvest was almost the exact day of the previous year. The final harvest for 2021 was 4,948 pounds. Smashing the old record of 2019 by about 800 pounds. I was truly amazed. So while the summer was generally cool the garden still flourished. Everyone is looking forward to 2022 and hopefully a new record harvest.

Zukes


 

We had a couple of turnips this year that were nearly 5 pounds each. They were not woody at all and tasted excellent. There were also a few carrots that were nearly a pound each. Many of the potatoes were more than a pound and a half. You have to love the long summer days in Anchorage. The plants just keep making that sugar. All day and nearly all night making things sweeter and sweeter. That's one of the big reasons our produce is so tasty.

Carrots


2020 Over?

  

This is a post I wrote at the season end in 2020 and never published. So will do it now and put a few more out about 2021. Sorry for be so neglectful of this blog. I will try to do better in the future. If you are interested in helping with this blog please let me know.

As 2020 comes to an end I have been once again neglecting this blog. Seems July was only yesterday but alas it was four months ago. The garden did flourish this year. The goal of 4500 pounds did not happen but with nearly 3800 at the Lutheran Social Services Food Pantry I would call the season a success. Next year hopefully we will do better. Since the gardens inception in 2015 we have grown more than 8.4 tons (16,800+ pounds) of produce. With a little luck we can go over 10 tons in 2021.

The biggest crop for the year was turnips coming in at more than 1100 pounds. The biggest surprise of the year was dill. That harvest was nearly 26 pounds, that's a lot of dill. We did have some vandalism this year that effected the harvest. With the location I guess it's to be expected but is was still distressing.

There won't be any fava beans planted in 2021. They have not be very successful for 2 years now so they are going to go by the wayside. Next season pole beans will be tried in there place. We will have to sacrifice some of the pea space for the beans. We will see if the substitute works out okay. I'm also going to put in a horse radish patch. Haven't decided where to put it yet but it will be enclosed so the roots don't escape into the rest of the garden. I will be changing the cultivars of carrots and beets in 2021. This change is based on results from some tests done by the Cooperative Extension Service in 2019. The change could increase the yield by as much as 20% with no sacrifice and quality or taste.

I'm also thinking about building two more elevated boxes. The elevated boxes are much easier to maintain than the main garden so the increment of work is not appreciable. They work really well for some of the crops and having 8 will allow for more "rotation" of the things that get grown in them. The onions do much better in the boxes than being direct seeded in the garden. The soil is probably too cold for good germination. The boxes are also every easy to make into a mini-greenhouse. All you have to do is put some hoops on and cover with plastic.