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.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Soil Testing

I actually talked about this a little bit in the entries on pH in February, 2018. But maybe something a little more comprehensive or at least just addressing soil sampling should be added. Testing the soil will get you much more information than just pH. You will get nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K) information on the garden. N, P, and K are the chemical symbols for these nutrients. They are also called macro nutrients. You will also get parts per million, ppm, on other elements your crops might need. The other elements are called micro-nutrients and trace elements. You also get the amount of organic matter that is in your soil. The organic matter helps to keep nutrients in a state that you plants can use and also increases the holding capacity of the soil. The holding capacity refers to both nutrients and water.

The N, P, and K are what most fertilizers try to handle. Some also contain some micro-nutrients and trace elements but that is not their purpose. You could just put fertilizer on your garden without getting it tested. Generally you will want fertilizer that has "low" nitrogen content and higher phosphorus and potassium. Nitrogen helps plants make green stuff like foliage. The phosphorus and potassium help plants to "fruit". It the garden we usually want fruit and not foliage so less emphasis on the nitrogen.

To find out what your soil needs, you get it tested. The testing starts with obtaining a soil sample. If you have a relatively small garden take a scope of soil from 3 or 4 areas in the garden and put them in a clean bucket. Mix the samples together thoroughly. Once this is complete take about a cup of the mixed up soil and put it in a plastic bag. Label the bag with your name and address and the type of testing you would like done to it. The bag labels are a precaution in case it get separated from the forms you will submit with it. Fill out the appropriate forms for the test facility. If you have a garden larger than a 1000 square feet you might consider dividing up into areas and having each area tested.

There are many test facilities but only a few to testing appropriate for Alaska's soils. The soils we have are are kind of unique because of the combination of volcanic ash and glacial silt. The cold temperatures have an effect on the soil as well. I send my soils to Brookside Laboratories in Ohio. You can check out the test information on the Alaska CES site. The site lists other labs for soil analysis and the types of tests necessary for Alaska soils.

Once you get your results in email. I would refer to an article like this one to understand all of the numbers. It will take a little time and study to work it all out but I'm sure you will be able to do it. You can always go to your local horticultural person to get some help. They are really busy in the spring so be patient but be persistent.

Now that you are armed with the information you need you can pick up fertilizer, whether organic or not, and help your garden produce the best vegetables you can. Be sure to plant at least one row for a local food pantry or soup kitchen. Many garden supply businesses give plants or seeds if you tell them that is what you are going to do with it.

May your harvest be bountiful and have a great time in the garden.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Winter in the Garden II 

January 2023 is now history. My brother used to live in southeastern Wisconsin and at the end of January would always have a party to celebrate the "death" of January. I didn't do that but the event we had at church on the 28th sort of commemorates that party. We planted petunias and lobelia. We anxiously await the germination of these seeds.

Gardening season has begun. The day are getting longer now by 5+ minutes each. That means we gain almost an hour of daylight every 10 days. Indeed spring is just around the corner. This month we will put leeks and onions in pots with some soil. By the middle of March there will be greens plants on tables and racks in the narthex. Each month from now through the middle of May there will be new plants springing to life. By the middle of May they will be moving to the garden. I look forward to planting once again inside the garden fence and hopefully in the completed greenhouse.

God’s peace be with you all.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

 Asleep in the Snow

Here we are nearly in 2023. When I was a kid I never thought i would ever be living in the 21st century. Here we are nearly in 2023. When I was a kid I certainly never thought I would ever be this old and living in the 21st century. Well I made it and am certainly glad the Lord has put me on this earth for all of those years. Hopefully, I will be able to be here for many more years to come.

The garden behind the church is sleeping now. Putting together the energy to bring forth a bumper crop of veggies for the summer of 2023. While the garden has been sleeping the gardener has been busy. The seeds are all selected for 2023. Some will go into the “ground” as early as January 28th of 2023. That is the first planting for all of you curious people. We will plant petunias and lobelia that day. 

These will go in the baskets we hang on the south side of the fence. We will plant two trays of petunias and two of lobelia. The petunias will be a mix of red, white, and blue. The lobelia will be blue and purple. I always look forward to putting the first seeds in the ground. It will be exciting for the congregation to watch the first planting begin to grow. About mid March, maybe earlier, we will transplant them into “larger” quarters and there they will await the move to the outside in the middle of May.

Keep an eye out for those first green shoots in the narthex in February. Be safe and may the Lord watch over you each and every day.

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?

 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.