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 Alaska Food Policy Council through the Municipality of Anchorage, the Alaska Women's Giving Circle, generous support by the congregation of Lutheran Church of Hope, and support from the Alaska Synod of the ELCA.

Food from the garden in 2018 was sent to Lutheran Social Services Food Pantry, the Tudor Road Gospel Rescue Mission, and to Bean's Cafe.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Planting


When spring arrives we are all excited about planting the garden. We plan. We prepare the space. We sow seeds. Larger seeds like beans and peas are super easy to sow and even smaller ones like radishes or onion are doable. Then there are the sand grain size seeds like carrots or the tiny round ones like turnips requiring relentless and continuous thinning. We can actually eat those thinning. But early on it’s a real pain. The same thing happens with the beets, turnips, radishes and all those other small seeds. 

Planter
We try everything to keep from thinning those plants but usually to no avail. We have all tried the shaker method, mixing the seeds with sand, and then there is the tedious task of making seed tape if we choose. Making seed tape seems to be the only reliable method but it takes almost as long as thinning the crop. Is there a better way?

I have discovered a better way. Now let it be said that my vegetable garden is bigger than most in the Anchorage area (9000+ sq. ft.) with the longest rows about 75 feet. Until I purchased a really cool planter I had the same thinning problems that everyone else does unless of course you are very, very careful. I have not thinned my turnips this year. The plants are about two inches apart and that is the way the seeds went into the ground. My beets and carrots are not quite as precise but I have yet to thin either crop. I will have to thin the carrots some but I can probably wait until the end of July. My second and third planting of radishes are two inches apart. No thinning required there. And next year I hope I won’t have to thin the carrots either.
Planter with Seed Hopper

How did I do this? The planter, a Jung JP-1, was purchased last October. It’s not cheap. The planting wheels cost $20+ each. The machine itself is $400+. This thing is worth every penny. My garden looks better than ever. One of the reasons is all that time I spent thinning in the past is now spent weeding and I am nearly keeping up with that. The time savings is phenomenal. Now the preparation of the soil takes most of the time before weeding starts. After prepping the soil for the third radish planting it took two minutes to sow. Most of that time was checking to make sure I had the correct wheel in the seeder and making sure the “trencher” was at the proper depth. The machine creates a trench at the proper depth, drops seeds at the spacing you set, covers them, and presses the soil down around the seeds. When you get to the end of the row you pick up the seeder and move to the next row or put it back in the garden shed. It’s certainly not for everyone but if you have a 1000 sq. ft. vegetable garden or more you might consider getting one. This is an amazing tool. In the long run you will save a huge amount of time and quite a lot of seed as well. Buy less seed, spend less time thinning, save money, and enjoy gardening even more, if that is possible.
Gears

Extra gears
With this machine it’s possible to sow seeds as close together as an eighth of an inch or as far apart as 12 inches. This is done with a system of gears that make the seed wheel turn at specific speeds allowing the machine to drop seed more or less frequently depending on your selected spacing. The number of “holes” in the seeding wheel also effects the sowing rate. Your rate of walking or running for that matter has no effect on the spacing. The gears are easy to change. You don’t have to worry about losing the gear combinations for spacing. The gear chart combinations are on the seeder. You look at the spacing desired and the chart will tell you what gear to put on the front and back sprockets.  After one changes gears a couple of times it’s really easy. Like any other tool there is a learning curve. The more you use it the more accurate the setting will be. This is a case where practice does indeed make perfect. I didn’t purchase this machine initially because I thought it too expensive. But I would say it has paid for itself in time savings alone. I highly recommend it.
Seed Wheel

Three years ago I bought an Earthway seeder ($100) that did fine with big seeds like green beans but not so well with little or tiny ones. It would be great for corn if you want to give that a try. For carrots, radishes, turnips, and beets it’s about the same as the shake method but faster. Certainly the same amount of thinning is required as with the shake method. I still use it for green beans as it does a great job. I also planted fava beans this year but planted those by hand. I continue to sow peas by hand since they’re planted along the fence.
Spacing Chart

I did save some shipping expense by having the Jung seeder shipped to my brother’s in the lower 48. When I visited him in October last year I brought it home as baggage. Since I’m a member of Alaska Airlines Club 49 I get two bags free so I didn’t open the box and called it a bag. The Earthway I purchased from Amazon and since I’m a Prime member the shipping was free.



Monday, January 7, 2019

January 2019

 It's tough to look at your garden in the winter. It's covered with snow like a thick down comforter. The hoarfrost makes the fence so fuzzy you can't see through it. The temperature is freezing maybe below zero. You really want to get out there and dig, not in the snow but in the dirt beneath. It's frozen and even a pick-axe will have trouble putting a dent in the soil. It looks lifeless.

That leaf mold, compost, or yard litter you spread last fall is under the blanket of white. What's happening to it? The critters that break it down in warmer weather are still there. Not only are they there, they are working hard. They work more slowly but they are hard at it making organic matter that will hold the ion nutrients the plants need. The more organic matter the more nutrients. Your garden will thrive and the critters won't be stealing nutrients from you vegetables and flowers.


Without that cold weather many of our northern plants would not survive or bear fruit. Rhubarb is grown as an annual in the southern US because it doesn't get cold enough for it's winter rest cycle. Many of our fruit trees need at least a specific number of days concurrently near or below freezing (chill hours) to  be able to set fruit the following year. People don't grow apples, as a rule, in the southern US for this very reason. Our warming climate may have adverse effects on some of our fruit tree crops in the future. Winter is a time of rest and revitalization for plants that live in the north. Whether it's fruit trees, rhubarb, or flowering bulbs and shrubs without winter many of them would rot in the ground.

January is the time most gardeners look forward to the warm spring weather. Most wish they could get out and dig. I have already received gardening catalogs from Harris, Johnny's, Seed Savers Exchange, and Territorial. Most people call these publications seed catalogs. I try not to because most of them cover so much more than just seed. It's refreshing with the snow and the cold to browse through the catalogs dreaming about what might be in the spring and wishing you could plant those "exotics" that just won't grow in your zone.

Use winter to research that new season extending idea you had last fall. Low tunnels, row tunnels, IRT plastic all can be used to extend the season and coax those exotics to finish their life cycle. If you haven't thought about how to make it happen during the winter you probably won't have time when planting, weeding, harvest, or other season comes around. Use the "slow" winter period to try to make your garden dreams come true with careful research and meticulous planning. Okay maybe not so meticulous but some plan is usually necessary. Make the most of your winter because all too soon you will be busy with the garden and digging in the dirt.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Radio Debut

Don Bladow
On December 18, 2018 the garden manager, that's me, made his debut on radio. I talked with Amy Pettit on the program Ag Matters at Radio Free Palmer,  The program originally aired at 7:30 AM on December 18, 2018. It is available as a podcast on their website. The program is a half hour and you can listen by clicking on the link Ag Matters. The program name is listed as Rose Memorial Garden but that is the correct program, regardless of the title. If you would like to learn more about the Alaska Farmland Trust click on the name and you will be taken to the website.

A special thank you to Amy for having me as a guest on her program, Ag Matters. Look forward to doing it again sometime.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Planting Flowers in Your Vegetable Garden

Pollinator
You certainly want to attract pollinators to your garden. Bees, butterflies, ants, humming birds (yes, we have hummingbirds in Alaska), and other birds as well. There are many warm climate crops that benefit from pollinators. If you grow melons, winter squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, anything that blossoms to set fruit you want pollinators in your garden. If you live in cold climates you may have to hand pollinate in the green house. If you do this a few times you will long to have pollinators to the task for you.  The blossoms on potatoes are attractive to bees. While you don't need to pollinate the potatoes for a harvest you still attract them for the other things you do need pollinated.

Potato Blossoms
If you have fruit trees, you certainly want pollinators around. Even in Alaska we grow apples, cherries, pears, and all kinds of berries. You lucky people that can grow citrus certainly need the blossoms pollinated to get good crops.

Flowers are a great addition to the vegetable garden. I inadvertently planted nasturtiums among my squash last summer. They brightened up the endless green of the garden. You could also harvest the blossoms of the nasturtiums to spice up a salad or just to munch on while you work in the garden.  You can grow a lot of flowers in the garden just be sure you don't introduce what you might call a weed after a time. If you don't want flowers growing among the vegetables you can plant them along the pathways. You can plant them on the periphery. They not only attract the bees and butterflies but they make your garden look more attractive as well.

Rufous Hummingbird
When you select these flowers be careful. Sometimes we haplessly introduce invasive species. Non-native plants can sometime reek havoc on the plants native to an area. They tend to take over and fill in the niches that should be reserved for our native plants. If you want an excellent example of an invasive species just look at a field of dandelions any place in the USA. This is an invasive species. It is native to Eastern Europe and Western Asia. Now it can be found most any place people from Europe settled throughout the world. Here in Alaska vetch and hawkweed are invasive. The European bird cherry (Mayday tree) is taking over our parks and bike trails. If you are not sure about a species check with your local Cooperative Extension Service. They will be glad to provide information. They are a great source of information for anything to do with gardens. All you have to do is ask.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Leeks

Leek Seedlings
I gave leeks a try this season. At 100 days to maturity it was nip and tuck whether they would make it. I started seed on the 31st of March. I thought that may be too soon but was willing to find out as things progressed in the spring. I was thinking about trying to direct seed some to see what would happen. Soil temperatures are usually the problem with this type of "crop". I chose not to direct seed as I read more about the crop. Leeks don't make the list of the suggested varieties from the Alaska Cooperative Extention Service (CES). The publication number in case you would like to order it is HGA-00031. So we will see what happens.

The seeds that were planted took only 6 days to germinate. So the on the 6th we had what looked like tiny chives growing in the starter trays. At a little more than three weeks they still look like chives just taller. Water, light, and nutrients for the next 6 to 8 weeks will hopefully yield viable seedlings.

Planting the seedlings seems to be pretty much the same as potatoes. Dig a trench about 6 inches deep. Plant the seedlings in the trench. As the seedlings grow gradually fill in the trench to get nice white areas above the roots. If you don't trench or hill them you will get a very small white portion and much more leaves than you expect. As the season goes on I will try to give updates on the progress. If all goes well I will try them again next year.

Harvested Leeks
This is sort of an addendum to this entry. Starting the seeds two months before you want to plant is just about right. They seemed to transplant just fine.  I put them in the garden on June 5th. Will see how they progress over the summer.

The progression was amazing. As I read more about leeks from various sources I found out they are quite frost tolerant. They will even do well in snow as long as the ground doesn't freeze. Any way, I filled in the trench they were planted in as the summer progressed. For much of the time they just looked like green bunching onions. As the summer moved on they got bigger and bigger, who wudda thought. When I harvested them the first week in October some were and inch and a half in diameter. I would call that a successful experiment. Altogether there were 25 pounds of leeks. I will be planting them in 2019.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Mission of ELCA World Hunger -- God's Work, Our Hands

July 2018
I recently became aware of a video that is used to support and promote the ELCA World Hunger Holistic Mission. I am proud to have the Harvest of Hope Memorial Garden be a part of this video and ministry. There is also an article in the fall 2018 issue LifeLines about the garden. The work that is done in the Lutheran Church of Hope, Harvest of Hope Memorial Garden is being recognized throughout the country. A special thank you goes out to all of the people that made the garden a possibility and a reality. The list is much to long to include here. But thanks to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, volunteers come from all over the city, south central Alaska, and as far away as Oregon. Together we do God's Work with Our Hands. Praise the Lord.

The video link is here. The download link to the article is here it is a full color PDF and does take some time to download please be patient.

Monday, November 12, 2018

2018 Harvest

 
Brussells Sprouts
Seems I have been neglecting my blog these days. It's really kind of silly of me because I have many drafts ready all I pretty much have to do is post them.

Chieftain Potatoes
For the 2018 season I set a goal of 4000 pounds (2 tons) for the harvest. I didn't quite make it but came close at 3641 pounds. Once again it was a learning experience. Don't plant squash and brassica starts too early. If the squash are blossoming when you transplant them you started too early. The cabbage, broccoli, and sprouts were all pretty root bound when they went in the ground. The cabbage heads were small in general. The broccoli mostly bolted or had very small heads. I was disappointed. The sprouts did about as expected but some of the stalks were pretty small. The only things that seemed to be started at the right time were the peppers and leeks. The peppers did well, 9 pounds this year with only one box planted. The leeks which were an experiment produced 25 pounds of lovely plants. I will do a separate entry on the leeks.

Chieftain Pototoes
Beets
The single largest crop was the turnips, 700+ pounds. The month of July I used a wheel barrow to harvest turnips. I planted radishes three times and ended up with well over a hundred pounds of them. As we were harvesting the crops this year I examined pretty closely what locations had the best yield. Turns out the north end and the west side of the garden did the best. The east and south sides were in shadow much more of the day and I'm convinced that had something to do with the yield. The peas on the north fence did much better than those on the south fence. Everything was pretty much the same except for the shadow. The remedy will be to remove some more trees from the south and east sides of the garden to increase the sunshine throughout. Which means there is lots of work to be done this winter to get things ready to go for the spring. Hopefully we can get into the trees before there is too much snow.
Carrots

Leeks
I will be spending some time in Florida and Arizona this winter. Will have to fit the tree cutting between the trips or wait until March. The winter harvest is better for turning bowls but then that is another post altogether.