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.

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.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Summer of 2017

Ready to Plant
I have been neglectful of my duties as a blogger. Please accept my apologies. I will certainly try to do better from this time forward.

First off, I would like to thank my numerous volunteers. Without you there would be no garden and the fresh produce we provide would not exist. Thank you for your help and I look forward to working with you and others next year.

The garden was a success this past summer. The harvest was about 2950 pounds. This is not nearly as much as I had hoped. Since we nearly doubled the size I was expecting to at least double the production but alas that did not happen. We did provide food to more organizations this year. We gave produce to Lutheran Social Services of Alaska, the Anchorage Gospel Rescue Mission on Tudor Road, the Downtown Soup Kitchen Hope Center, and to Bean's Cafe. All were very appreciative of our contributions. Once again, thank you for your help.

The weather for the summer of 2017 was not nearly as nice as the previous year. A cool, wet season was not a conducive to growth as the warm weather of 2016. Hopefully next year will be better but could very well be a normal summer like the past one.

Orchard Planting
We did do another expansion this year. We planted an orchard with 5 apple trees. I harvested apples from the trees in front of the parsonage as well so they were added into the mix. The new trees will be a few years before there is any production but I am looking forward to the harvest. Many thank to all of the volunteers that helped put in the orchard and fencing it as well. Two additional apple trees were planted inside the garden. These were grafted in April and they will take longer to produce but again will be a welcome addition to the harvest.

I am beginning the planning for next year as we speak. I hope to once again increase the harvest. I will not however, make predictions on the amount of increase. Will depend on the weather and other activities. I look forward to writing more in the weeks to come. Enjoy the season and stay warm.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Beautiful Day in the Garden

Volunteer Orientaton
Yup, it was a beautiful day in the garden. I spent some hours in the Alaska Botanical Garden today. It is a lovely place to visit. I went to volunteer orientation and plan to spend at least a couple of hours every week there this summer to various tasks that are needed.

If you haven't been to this lovely place you should make every effort to do that. They are open basically from 9-5 each and every day. Sometimes earlier and sometimes later. There are many beautiful places to explore and if you are so inclined opportunities for you to get involved. If you have a few hours to spare any day during the week you won't be disappointed with a stroll in the Alaska Botanical Garden. You might even get some ideas that you could use in your own garden. Don't have a garden? You could certainly start one!

Monday, May 22, 2017

First Planting Day

I wasn't sure how the day was going to turn out. There was certainly a lot of rain yesterday. I had hoped the garden would dry out so we could begin planting today. Dry it did and plant we did. A very special thank you to my lovely bride, Bonnie, for her hard work today putting 144 broccoli plants in the ground. That is really a gross number you know. After she left I also put another 68 cauliflower plants in the ground. So with the potatoes that have been planted the garden is about 25% awaiting a harvest sometime later in the summer or fall.

Sharon had previously planted peas and lettuce. Those are breaking through the soil. It's exciting to see the miracle of new life happen right before your eyes. Unfortunately I don't have pictures of those plants poking their leaves out of the earth, maybe later this week. The lettuce is hardly noticeable unless you know what to look for anyway. And the peas actually look more like weeds so it might be better to wait.

Rod and I attempted to get the elevated beds covered up today but the visqueen is  not the proper size so we will have to wait to finish those up. We did get the hoops cut and mostly installed. Rod also put together the frames and the wire for the cucumber "enclosure". He was slaving away on that while Bonnie and I did the planting today.

Hopefully the weather will hold and we will be able to get the rest of the cauliflower, the sprouts, and the squash in the ground. Supposed to rain Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. So I guess the seeds will have to wait 'til the weekend. It was a great day.

See you in the garden.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Nearly Ready to Go!

Here it is already the middle of May. The sun is warm and bright. Peas are in the ground. Some potatoes are in the ground with more to come. And there is lettuce getting ready to sprout.

Hydrant with Meter
Nathan hooked up the water meter this week. Friday morning I was fortunate enough to get it tested and inspected. Talked with Nathan about the irrigation system and it's starting to come together. Many thanks to Nathan, Sharon, and Rod for their assistance this week it has been wonderful getting so much done.

Box Cover

Getting plants ready this year has been a real chore. The expansion made it impossible for me to grow enough starts to fill the garden. I am putting out a call for some assistance. I will need the following plants: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage both green and red. When you are out and about see if you can scare up some spaghetti squash. I would really like to try that this year. If you can purchase them and bring them by the church next week that would be great. All help is appreciated. I will be trying to direct seed some cabbage and broccoli this year so there may be two harvests.
East End

I have redesigned the elevated beds this year and they will have covers that can be opened so there will be access to the whole bed. At least that's the plan. I combined many ideas that I have seen on the web over the winter and hope that this will work well when completed. I still have to test the seeder that I purchased over the winter. That test will come very soon.
West End

The soil temperature today was 50° F. That's pretty warm for this early in the season. The air temperature over the garden has been as high as 78° F. The low temps are still in the upper 30s and low 40s so hope there won't be a frost.

Well the water is ready to go, the ground is ready to plant. All we have to do is "git er dun"!

See you in the garden!


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

May Day

No it's not a distress call. It's the first day of May. The garden is free of snow. Now for it to dry out so we can get in and prepare it for planting. There is much to be done in the meantime.

Peppers & Pak Choi
Will need to purchase some some fencing to close the 18 inches of open space at the bottom of the south side of the fence. Peas will be planted there to take advantage of the "natural" trellis created by the fence. Hope to get those planted next week some time. Need to build covers for the boxes so they will be easier to water and weed this year. Will be making a lean-to greenhouse on the north end of the garden so will have to do some construction for that as well. The chipper/shredder will have to be assembled. Start up the compost bins again. The lawn in front of the church that must be assisted with a wake-up. Must check the lawn tractors to make sure they are working properly. Need to cull the three or four push mowers we have. Which one is worth keeping and what to do with the rest. And there is always the possibility the none are worth keeping.

Apple "trees"
I did a tree grafting workshop on April 15. Two apple trees are now waiting the warm weather to begin growing anew.  One is a State Fair and the other a Carrol. These varieties are supposed to be good eating. More are in the wings so we may end of with an orchard in the near future as well as a garden. It will probably be 5 or 6 years before these will bear fruit. We do already have a State Fair and a Norland tree in front of the parsonage that are bearing well now.

Sunflowers & Cukes
So the church will be a fruit grower a well as a veggie grower. The bee hives are in place and the ladies (worker bees are female) are hard at work as we speak. The tour of the garden this year will include many more things than just walking the rows.

Plants for the garden are growing. We have peppers (many varieties), cucumbers, sun flowers, and squash. Soon there will be cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. Still need to purchase some seeds but the seeder has been assembled and will soon be tested.

The list is long. Time will fly. All will get done. At least that's what I keep telling myself. If you have some time the next two weeks stop by and I will put you to work. You can call the church office to see if I'm around. Chances are I will be.

May the Lord be with you. See you in the garden!


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

April Fool

March this year came in like a lion and when out the same way. It was the 9th coldest March on record for Anchorage. The highest temperature recorded for the month was 35° F. Last year it seemed like we had record high temperatures every day.  Then at the end of the month it was the coup d'gras, 9 inches of new snow. The snow was melting. Yes, it was slow. The snowfall on the 28th was just too much for me to take. The last time we had this much snow on the ground on April 1 it took until the 28th of April for it to officially melt away.

I did pick up a new chipper/shredder up at Home Depot today. I ordered in the middle of March knowing it would be the end of April before it arrived in Anchorage. But it's here now. It's still in the box and probably will be for the next few weeks yet. After all, everything I would want to chip or shred is covered with snow.

The highs for the next week or so are supposed to be above normal. That's good. I would like all of the lows to be above freezing as well. A little rain would speed things up. But I'm afraid that any precipitation we might get would be snow. I certainly don't want snow.

I did talk with Sheila Toomey today about being put on the Alaska Master Gardeners Anchorage (AMGA) garden tour this summer. That's sounds like fun. We can spread the word about the mission of the garden and what the plans are for the future. I will probably put some seeds in dirt this week to get things moving along. Looking forward to the first planting of the year. Though I do still have to turn some bowls for the sale at the end of the month.

Thanks for reading, may the Lord be with you always, and we will see you in the garden.

Monday, March 20, 2017

"Lean to" Greenhouse

I spent some time with Ira Edwards yesterday. He was very generous with seeds for the garden. Thank you Ira! We also talked about season extending things for the garden. He make use of his garage wall to make "portable" lean to greenhouses. After talking with him I think I will do an experiment this year on the north edge of the garden. Will try to grow some cucumbers in a make shift lean to style greenhouse like Ira does. I will have it open on the ends most days so won't have to do any hand pollination. Since that will make it easy for our lady pollinators to get in there. Also will be experimenting with a number of types of peppers this year. Hopefully we will be broadening our horizons and harvest for the fall.

Today it's almost 30° F. Come on spring!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Chilly March

March this year has certainly been different from the past two. Temperatures that are 10 to 15 degrees below "normal" makes one feel that winter will never be over. I am anxious to get dirt under my finger nails again. Seems that it will be a while before that happens. The garden looks the same as it did last month so no new pics today.

Even though it's cold the preparations are beginning. I have a new drop spreader to use on the lawn at church. I also have a seed planter that I will use in the garden this spring. It still needs to be assembled but it is in the box awaiting a screwdriver. There seem to be more and more gardening meetings to attend. I went to a seed exchange last evening and heard a talk on lighting for inside gardening and one on adaptive gardening for persons that are disabled or unwilling to get down on the ground. Both were interesting and informative.

I am turning bowls from the trees that were harvested from the garden area. The spring sale will help defray the costs of the garden. Will have the bowls for sale at church and will be attending Synod Assembly in Juneau at the end of April to sell there. By the end of the week there will be 100 or more. I hope to have about 200 by the time I go to Juneau. I will be taking some larger ones that are not from the garden trees just in case some wish to buy bigger bowls.

Still researching varieties of veggies to plant. Have some sources for seeds that are priced right. Hopefully there will be some that are useful.

Looking for warmer weather and thawed ground in the garden.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Winter in the Garden

It has been a much colder winter than we have had in a number of years. Some would say much more "normal", whatever that may mean. The ground was frozen in the garden just a week after we got the new fence up. Unfortunately the snow was late so I'm sure the frost is much deeper than I would have liked. Perhaps we will have a warm "spring" and the earth will warm quickly. I am anxious to get to work in the soil and plant seeds of the new harvest.

Even with the snow and the cold essential tasks for the garden are taking place. I will be ordering a planter this week so we won't have to crawl on the ground to put in the seeds. I have also been researching new varieties of veggies to harvest in the fall. The usual things will be done but there will also be beans, possibly peas. I will try a different type of "winter" squash this year, possibly spaghetti squash. Fruit trees will be planted as well this year.

The fruit trees will probably be apples. The exact variety has yet to be determined. The trees are a long term effort. I will take at least 5 years before there will be a harvest. This will give incentive to keep things going when I am no longer able to plant or harvest. I do hope that will be many years in the future. The trees will remain as a sort of legacy even after I have departed this wonderful planet to be with the Lord.

We will have honey bees this coming summer. One hive is already in place and the last I heard the bees were still buzzing in the hive. They, like us, are awaiting the warm spring rays of the sun to begin their summer nectar harvest and the sweet result of their labors. Pollinators are always welcome in the garden.

I will try another type of peppers this year as well. There will always be experiments with species that are marginal for our area. Often a warm summer like 2016 will make marginal variety very successful. We can only hope. If you have ideas about what might work well in the garden let me know. You can leave a comment on this blog or call the church office to leave me a message. All suggestions will be considered.

March will bring warmer weather and we will all be itchy to get out in the sun and make things happen. April will bring the beginnings of visible work in the garden. Be sure to come by church and check things out even during the winter.

Be safe. Enjoy the snow. Above all, thank the Lord for the bounty he has provided us through the years. I thank Him for His love and for all the gifts He showers on each of us every day.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Final Harvest of 2016

Once again I am amazed at the Grace of God. Our harvest for the year has been 2348 pounds of produce. The potatoes were the last thing brought in and the weight was in the area of 300 pounds. The squash was definitely the bulk of the harvest for this year. There were more squash plants than any other single item that was a continuous harvest plant.

In 2017 I will try to keep track of harvest for each variety. I will try to keep better records all the way around for the garden. It seems there was just too much to do. I will write a list for 2017 of the steps for each process so I can pass them on to subsequent gardeners and they will be available for volunteers that work in the garden the summer of 2017.

One of my New Year's Resolutions is to make more entries in this blog as well. That should help in the future with the process of making things work and hopefully running smoothly. Even though now it is deep into winter there are things going on to make the garden better in the future. Thanks for reading and hopefully there will be more to read in the near future.

Time to start researching seeds and cultivars to plant for the coming year. God bless all.