The garden is a Memorial Garden, a garden of benevolence, 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, a Domestic Hunger Grant from the ELCA World Hunger, generous support by the congregation of Lutheran Church of Hope, and support from the Alaska Synod of the ELCA.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Pepper Update 1/15/18

All Three
The jalapenos got their first true leaves on January 1. The poblanos got theirs on the 4th and the yellow was on the 6th. We also had another yellow wax sprout on the 6th as well as another poblano. Don't know if the latest poblano will make it though. It has no leaves. It's just a stem.

The tallest of the plants is about 2.5 inches. I will probably transplant them to 4 inch pots at the end of the month. I have ordered new 4 inch pots from Amazon. They are supposed to arrive today. I will be planting some basil seeds this week. Will see if I can coax in some fresh basil for later in the spring.

I don't usually have great success with houseplants unless they can survive neglect really well. Of the five or six we have there is one that wilts when it gets very dry and comes right back after it is watered. I always know it's time to water them when that plant wilts. I'm pretty sure I won't get away with that with the peppers and basil. This is a science project for me so I will report on the results whether they are good or bad. I will try to do an analysis on why the projects turned out the way they did as well.

Friday, January 12, 2018

"Building" a Garden part 1

The most important thing to consider during your planning is to make sure the garden has 10-12
hours of direct sun every day. If you can't get to 10 hours a day place it to maximize the sunshine. In Anchorage that mostly means to keep it from under trees, away from the north side of the house, and away from fences tall enough to shade the garden. It really makes no difference which side of the house or that another structure is near as long as it has the sun. If you need to take down a couple of trees, I would do it.

The next thing to consider is how big should it be. Gardening is a commitment in time and energy. The bigger the garden the more time it will take. Preparing and planting are the easy parts. The time consuming part is the weeding and care. And of course the most fun part is eating the harvest of your labors. It's generally easy to make it bigger in subsequent years. If you make it too big the first year and it becomes a burden you won't be back to do it again the following year.

Next the decision, is it raised beds or right in the ground. There is the option of doing a lasagna garden as well. Research will be required. Raised beds are easier to start than right in the ground and you can always change if you want. You can do a combination of methods as well. And some people swear by lasagna gardening. The choice is yours. Each type has it's own rewards and the harvest is the goal.

If the site is wooded you have your work cut out for you. You will have to clear it. If you used raised beds or lasagna the stumps will have to cut to ground level. If you don't remove them they may make sprouts and grow up through your garden beds. There are other problems you could have down the road when the stumps and roots begin to root. They will leave holes or trenches in the garden.

If you are going to plant right in the ground you will have to remove the stumps and roots. In the garden behind the church we did this with a backhoe. It's not a practical solution for every location but it worked at the church. You will also have to find a place to put the debris. Much of it can be taken to the land fill or the wood lot. You can always pay someone to haul it away as well.

The first time you work the land you will have to till it. Break up the sod. Remove the roots. If you have a lot of sod and can remove it before you till your life will be easier later. Grass is great in a lawn it's just another nasty, persistent weed in the garden. I will not get into whether you should till it or not after the first time. Everyone has their opinion. Read what you can and do what you think best.

Once you have the sod broken up you will need to add some fertilizer. Do you want to use organic or manufactured. Again I will not get into this debate. But you will need to add amendments to the soil to help things grow. Usually soil in previously wooded land is poor in nutrients. Lawns are generally high in nitrogen and low in the other stuff. You will also need to check the ph. ph tells you how acid or alkaline your soil is. A ph between 6 and 7 is usually satisfactory. If it's too much one way or the other you may have problems. If you are growing potatoes you will want it more acid, could be down as low at 4. This will cut down on the amount of potato scab.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year

Wishing everyone a most joyous new year. Today we had the unexpected arrival of another Hungarian yellow wax pepper and another jalapeno. That makes 8 in all to start the new year.

Have a happy and safe celebration if that is what you do on New Year's Eve. If you don't celebrate get a good night's sleep to be well equipped to face the beginning of 2018.

Blessing to you all.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Pepper Update

On the solstice my true love sent to me 2 jalapenos. On the second day of Christmas (the 26th) my true love sent me 1 pablano. On the third day of Christmas (the 27th) I received two more pablano and one Hungarian yellow wax pepper. So for future reference the jalapenos sprouted after 12 days in the ground, the pablanos 17, and the yellow wax 18.

Don't know if that's normal or not. From what I have read the ideal germination temperature is 75 - 85 F. It turns out the temp in the room averages about 60 because of the big window in the room. I did order a heat mat and installed it on the 23rd. Don't know if that helped the pablanos and yellow wax or not. Would have to do some more tests to find out

The jalapenos still don't have any true leaves. I haven't kept track enough in the past to know if this is slow or normal. I will keep better records and should be able to make a judgement on that in a couple of years. Or find some literature that will point me in the right direction.  According to Wikipedia the plants with produce peppers in 70 to 80 days. That of course implies that the temperatures will be much warmer than in my house. 80 days would put the first peppers at the middle of March. My bet is not before the end of March or the beginning of April.

According to Wikipedia the pablanos, these are also called ancho, will take about 200 days to mature. I'm pretty sure that means to go to red color. I harvested a couple of these last summer in some elevated beds I have at church and I know it wasn't 200 days. They would have been frozen solid. So green pablanos in probably 120 days. Again all I can do is wait.

Hungarian Yellow Wax
According to totally tomato the Hungarians should mature in 67 days. That would mean I can have peppers in March sometime. These are know as cool climate peppers by many. In 2016 I was able to harvest about 15 pounds of these from about 30 plants. In 2017, a much cooler summer I go only about 4 pounds from as many plants but there were other problems as well. So once again will see what happens in the house.

The jalapenos are easy enough to see. The pablanos, there is one each in the center of the cells on the right side and there is one in the cell with the probe. The picture for the yellow wax there is one sprout in the the lower left cell. They will be more visible in a couple of days but they are there and growing. I was beginning to get concerned that I would have to replant. Collectively these peppers are called chili in North American and Central America. They are called aji in South America.

Plan to try some basil this winter too. Will plant that in a few days. 

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a most joyous New Year.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Holiday Gifts for the Gardener

6 Pack with labels
You may think it's too late to talk about this now. I should have posted this a month ago. You can still make it happen. What should you get a gardener. There are tools they always need and use. You may not think of them as tools but I'm sure the gardener does. Here is a short list.

Gardening books, Gloves, Hats, Aprons, Pots,
Potting soil, Twist ties, Twine, Marking stakes, Labels,
Log books, 1020 trays, 4 and 6 packs, Tray covers ,
Wagon , Gift cards to garden centers

The list goes on and on. Maybe a special plant that they have been wanting but can't bring themselves to purchase. You know that special peony that is just too expensive. The Northwest Flower and Garden Show is in Seattle, WA the first part of February. Maybe a ticket to the show or a ticket to Seattle. The spring Alaska Master Gardener Conference could be something to think about. It's in Fairbanks, March 24. Don't have any details on that but a round trip plane ticket is only 10,000 miles and about $12. Let your imagination be your guide.

Happy Holidays

Friday, December 15, 2017

How Hot Are They Really

The peppers that I'm growing in the house are actually pretty mild as hot peppers go. I guess I should say something about how hot peppers get their rating. There are chemicals in the peppers that activate the pain receptors in the mouth. These chemicals are called capsaicin.  It is one of many related active components found in chili peppers, collectively called capsaicinoids. The Scoville scale, created by Wilbur Scoville, it used to rate pepper "hotness". The scale goes from 0, bell peppers, to about 2.5 million, dragon's breath. I couldn't find a usable picture of dragon's breath to post here, sorry. Suffice it to say when they get up that high they are really hot.

Of the ones I planted the poblano or ancho is the mildest. It's rate from 1,000 to 2,500. These are the peppers generally used to make chili rellenos in Mexican restaurants. They can be very tasty. Next on the heat scale are the jalapenos. They go from about 2,500 to 6,000. Most people are familiar with this variety because they are used extensively in nachos. The yellow wax peppers are very mild when they are harvested in the pale green stage. They might even rate lower than the poblano at this stage in their life. When they become a bright yellow they are about the same as a ripe jalapeno. When they get orange or red they are about 10,000 on the scale. That's nearly twice as hot as a ripe jalapeno. However, as peppers go they are all quite mild.

Hungarian Yellow Wax
The question usually arises, why are some peppers of the same species hotter than others? The answer is that it depends mostly on the weather. Dry hot weather tends to make peppers spicier. Cool, wet weather makes them more mild. The next question people ask is, can you do the same thing in a greenhouse or other location? The answer is yes. You have to stress the plants when they begin to bloom. The only way to stress them is to deprive them of water. Let them generally dry out until the leaves begin to wilt. Once this has occurred you can water them vigorously again and the crop should be hotter. 

My sample plants are very small in number but I want to see if I can make a significant difference in spiciness by stressing a couple of the plants of each type of peppers I am growing. I may have to get some assistance from my friends if anyone is interested.

I will keep you posted on the results.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Growing Peppers in the House

Hope to grow some peppers in the house this winter. I am going to try some Hungarian yellow wax, jalapeno, and poblano (also known as Baron, and Ancho peppers). I bought the seeds from Johnny's Select Seeds. Hope they work out okay. Will try to keep things posted on here so everyone can watch the progress. With a little luck I should have ripe peppers by the time I plant to get seedlings in the spring for the elevated boxes. Johnny's says you can grill these poblano peppers. I just might give that a try this spring if I can get them to grow.

The peppers were planted on December 9, 2017. Did a four pack of each variety. If all goes well there should be plenty of peppers for eating in March, maybe even February.

One would think you  could grow these outside in Alaska. The packets show 58 to 65 days for green or yellow peppers and 80 to 85 days for red ones.  However, they fail  to state that the warmth of the soil and the air are also huge factors in how quickly they grow and ripen. I will try to keep track in the house and  then track the ones I plant in the elevated beds by the garden. Soil temperature in the house will be about 70 F. I know they will get plenty of water so that won't be a problem. Air temperature will be about 70 F as well. Humidity could be a problem. It's usually about 20% in the house in the winter. Will have to make sure I do something the moisture in the air. Don't know what yet, but will think on it. I might even do a little research to see if others have solved the problem without a humidifier.