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.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Winter in the Garden 2018

The winter weather this year has been variable. We had the warmest December (2017) on record. At nearly the end of February we are 20 inches below average on snowfall. Of course that doesn't mean we won't hit our average for the year. So far February is about 15 inches above normal with much of it falling in the last few days. We are above average on precipitation for the year so far. Much of that has been in the form of rain rather than snow. The snowfall is from the beginning of the season (October 2017). The precipitation is from the beginning of 2018.

There is about a 20 inch blanket on the garden as I write this entry. I actually wish there had been that much since the beginning of the season. The snow is beneficial. It keeps the frost from going too deeply in the ground. Since the frost doesn't get as deep the garden soil generally stays warmer. The bacteria and fungi that breaks down the organic matter into nutrients may keep working. This may require fewer soil amendments in the spring before planting. The most obvious effect of the blanket of white is the soil will thaw faster in the spring. After thawing the soil needs to warm so the seeds will germinate more quickly. The garden will also absorb more water the sooner the ground thaws. And most important, with a nice blanket of snow we should be able to plant sooner in the spring which could mean a more plentiful harvest.

By the end of February we will have more than 10 hours and 20 minutes from sunrise to sunset. We are gaining more than 5.5 minutes each day. Spring must indeed be right around the corner. Which corner is the big question every year.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

More on pH

I would recommend that you get a professional soil test done at least once for you garden. You will get readings for pH and buffer pH. If your buffer pH is higher than 6.7 you will not be able to change your soil pH. No amount of lime will be able to raise it. You can add lime and you will get a
temporary rise in pH but the number will quickly sink back to the original. I'm not sure why but according to the Cooperative Extension Horticulturalist in Palmer, AK it's a fact. Buffer pH is something your neighborhood chemistry teacher or you test kit cannot tell you.

The buffer pH in the Harvest of Hope Memorial Garden to from 6.7 to 6.9. Since I can't raise the pH, I am very glad the water pH is 5.1 to 5.3. This will still grow everything I need to grow and I don't have to do anything to lower the pH for the potatoes. They love it. The apple trees think it's pretty cool as well.

Be sure to use a lab that is set up to test Alaska soils. There are only a few. You can check the Cooperative Extension Service website for a list. I use Brookside Laboratories in Ohio. They are the cheapest and they do the proper tests for Alaska. You should request test S001AN. The cost is $20 per sample. This will give you everything you need to get things going well.

If you have questions about this you can email me or contact the Cooperative Extension Service.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Tool Evaluation - Triple Tester

Triple Tester

I bought a tool from Amazon that was supposed to test wetness, pH, and light intensity. The tool is the XIYIXIFI 3 in 1 Soil Test Kit. It failed the wetness test. After watering with water running out the bottom of the pot, I used the tester. Now the meter goes from dry to wet with moist in the middle. One would think the tester would show wet when you test just after watering. I did make sure it was set to the right meter. It tested just barely moist. That was kind of disappointing. Well not to be deterred I tested the moisture many more times over the next couple of weeks with similar results. Boo!

So, what about the light meter? Well setting to measure light intensity I put it in direct sunlight. It measured just a tick above dark. I tested it on the lamps I use for growing seedlings. The result was the same. Double boo!

I did not test the pH meter. I didn't have a "control" to use for that test. But based on the results from the other two tests I would venture the results from the pH test would be a failure as well.

Don't buy this meter. It would be a waste of money. I haven't tested any others yet so can't make a recommendation except not to purchase this one. Hopefully my next tool test will get better results.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Changing the pH

You may need to adjust the pH of the soil in your garden. Soils in a Alaska tend to be poor in nutrients and generally acid. Acid soil has a pH lower than 7.0. It is sometimes called "sour" soil. 7.0 is neutral, it's neither high nor low. It's not acid (low) or alkali (high).  Alkali soil is also called sweet soil. Most gardeners try to keep the pH between 6.5 and 7, so just slightly acid. It's impossible to tell the pH of your soil without testing it yourself or having someone else test it. Most green houses and garden centers will test the pH of your soil for you. You might talk with your local high school chemistry teacher to see if they would check your pH for you. You will have to get a sample or multiple samples. If you take multiple samples be sure you label them so you can keep track of the pH in specific locations.
pH, Light, Moisture Tester

You can purchase your own test kit. You will pay from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars. But if you spend more than $20 you are probably spending too much. You should be aware that many test kits have ranges on the pH scale they can accurately test. Testing ranges should be from about 4 to 8.  The tester pictured at the right has a pH test range of 3.5 - 8. I have no idea how accurate it is. At $10 even if it isn't very accurate you won't be on the hook for much money. I have ordered one of these and will let you know the accuracy and ease of use sometime after it arrives. See the tool test for triple tester. It wasn't good.

To keep things in perspective, a pH of 5.0 will still grow great vegetables and the potatoes, blue berries, and raspberries will love it. pH as high as 8 will do the same but you potatoes may look bad.  They will taste just fine but the potato scab makes them ugly. Making soils more acid is generally more difficult than making them more alkali. Instead of rewriting what other people have said about this I will provide this link for more acid and this one for more alkali. There are many other websites that will point you in the right direction just key in changing the pH of my soil on any search engine and you will get more articles that you could read in a year. If you are going to err make it on the side of acid soil.

There are certain plants that like quite acid soil (potatoes) and some that like quite alkali soil (honeysuckle). Check the seed packets, ask the representative in the garden center or greenhouse, or look it up online.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Northwest Flower and Garden Festival

I decided on Friday, February 2 to attend the Northwest Flower and Garden Festival in Seattle. I booked my tickets on Alaska Airlines using miles. I booked a hotel using the festival website. The flight down on Tuesday was uneventful, I like them like that. I walked about 20 minutes to the hotel from the Link light trail station in downtown Seattle. I highly recommend the Link from SEA to downtown Seattle. It takes about 35 minutes from the airport and if you are older than 65 the cost is $1. Even if you take a taxi from Westlake Station to your hotel it's a lot cheaper than taking a taxi from the airport and faster than the bus.


Slept well and had breakfast at the hotel. Breakfast was included in the price and was quite good. I walked to the convention center. It took about 20 minutes. The weather was very pleasant. High was in the low fifties. I was actually quite warm when I got to the convention center.

The first thing that struck me was the size of the vendor areas. There are literally thousands of vendors. Vendors were selling or promoting most anything you can imagine. There were two gentlemen from Edward Jones talking with people about securities. People selling jerky, caramels, honey, and jams. Others are selling windows, gutters, bricks and paving stones. Let's not forget the ones that were selling clothing and jewelry. Where ever there are women there will be those selling clothing and jewelry.  And finally there were people selling garden related things. The garden related things ranged from seeds to tools to clothing. In a few hours of walking around I don't think I saw everything that was there. Tomorrow I will do more scouting around. I could certainly spend a lot of money here if I don't show restraint.

At 11:30 I watched container wars. Two ladies competed to build containers with flowers that would look great. They both did a wonderful job. Brenda Adams was one of the contestants. She is the author of There Is a Moose in My Garden, and Cool Plants for Cold Climates. She is also from Homer, AK. Unfortunately the other lady had more support and won the competition. It was fun watching and I won a tool during the process,

Next I went to No Watering Required: Water-wise Garden Design. This was presented by Kirk R. Brown. The presentation was very interesting and informative. He is a wonderful speaker and has excellent credentials.  I am going to another of his presentations on Thursday and am really looking forward to it. I'm thinking about recommending him for a speaker for the 2019 Alaska Master Gardener Conference. I then went to a presentation on pruning flowering shrubs. It was less interesting but I certainly did learn a few things about pruning. Lastly I went to a presentation by Kerry Ann Mendez on Gardening simplified. Don't know that she really simplified anything but she is an excellent speaker and was entertaining.

Don & Kirk Brown
It was then back to the hotel for an evening of phone calls and writing. Looking forward to tomorrow and new information.


I went to two presentations today by Kirk Brown. Both were excellent. The first was a container wars demonstration and he did a great job and won the competition. I didn't think it was really any contest. The other presentation was "A Visit from Frederick Law Olmsted". Olmsted is considered the father of American landscape architecture. The presentation was interesting and entertaining. I had no idea who Olmsted was until this presentation. I really like Kirk Brown.

I attended pieces of other talks. All of them were on flower or specialty gardens. Maybe I will be able to use the information in the future. They were of little use to my 2018 gardening plans. I also attended Cool Plants for Cold Climates by Brenda Adams. Her talk was very informative but again for my immediate future in gardening I don't think it was useful. I did enjoy it and will purchase her book by the same name as the presentation.

Tomorrow is another day. There is a spectacular Amazon building just down the street. I will probably take that in tomorrow morning.


I went to two demonstrations today. Both were on bees, pollinators. One was by Paige Embry the author of Our Native Pollinators. The other was by James Ullrich owner of Knox Cellars Mason Bees. I did purchase Embry's book and will enjoy reading it. I am considering purchasing some mason bees to put in the garden. They will not really compete with the honey bees already there. They work the plants differently and are not nearly as prolific. They should also survive the winter. I have ordered a book to read and then will make the decision. There were no other presentations I was really interested in so I left the festival at about 3:30 today.

I did go to the Amazon Understory this morning. The public can only go into the lobby. I was pretty disappointed. The habitat is only open to employees. It was designed for the employees so it seems fitting they would have access and not the public.

Amazon Understory
This pretty much wraps up the trip. I had a lot of fun. I learned a lot. I don't know if I will come back to the Northwest Flower and Garden Festival just to attend it again. If I can make it part of another trip that would be more likely.  I did come up with a couple of potential speakers for the 2019 Alaska Master Gardener Conference in Anchorage. I am looking forward to sharing some of my ideas with the committee.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

"Building" a Garden part 2

Now that you have the soil amended and the pH adjusted you will have to decide what to plant. Plant what you like to eat. If you don't like peas, don't plant them. If you are not sure about something, plant a little. See if you like it. You can plant more even in the middle of a season if it's something like kale, cabbage, lettuce, radishes.

Carrots, Kale, Collards, Parsnips
You will need to figure out how much of something you will eat. If you put in two zucchini plants that will be more than enough to keep a family of 4 in zucchini for the whole summer. You will probably even have some to share with the neighbors.

Once you have decided what to plant you will have to figure out where to plant it. Zucchini takes a lot of room. Radishes take a small amount of space and can be planted probably three times over the summer. You can also plant things like radishes and leaf lettuce in staggered plantings. Plant some right away then plant more in a week, the two weeks, etc. When you harvest the first ones you planted plant more in the same space and keep going all summer. You will then be able to harvest a few radishes all summer long instead of a whole bunch all at once.

Rows should probably run south to north, if you use rows. You might want to check the book, The Square Foot Gardener by Mel Bartholomew, for tips on other ways to plant instead of rows. You can get a copy at your favorite book store or online book retailer.

Potato Patch
There is software out there to help you plan your garden. They often include space layout to scale, and icons for different types of veggies. They also include planting info, harvest info, and will send you a reminder when it's time to plant specific cultivars you have selected. The cheapest one I found that's comprehensive is about $29 a year. There are free ones but they all leave something out. Pencil and paper work just as well you can ever put planting reminders in your phone. If you do, your phone will tell you when you should plant. If you don't have a smart phone put it in your email calendar and tell it to remind you when it's time to do something in the garden.

For the first timer, plant things that will surely reach harvest. Plan for success. Peas and radishes will generally grow even when neglected. Remember big plants, cabbage, broccoli, squash and the like take a lot of space. Carrots, radishes, and peas not so much space. Even a small garden can produce a lot of wonderful things to eat if you plan. The most important thing to remember is full sun for as long as possible, plant what you like to eat, and an inch of water a week.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Pepper update 2/2

Ready to Transplant
Potting Soil
The peppers are still growing. They haven't really made much height change over the past few weeks but they have gotten quite a few more leaves. Some of them are losing their cotyledons. The roots in the 2.5 in squares were getting pretty dense but would not at all say they were getting root bound. I thought giving them a little more room might make them grow better. I think the room needs to be warmer and that would do the trick. The temperature this morning in the room was 65° F. Probably it's still a little cool for peppers. As we start to get more sun through the south facing window that might warm things up a little. Will have to close the door during the day and make sure it is open at night. The plants are not getting spindly so I at least know they are getting enough light.The stalks look quite stout for the size of the plants. I am pretty sure I won't have any peppers in March unless things change drastically during the next month.

All Done
I used a potting soil mix I had left over from last year. I purchased the soil at Dimond Greenhouses and it seemed to work well last spring. Any potting soil should work just fine for the transplant. I was quite surprised by the small amount of soil needed to repot the peppers. Of course going from 2.5 inch to 4 inch isn't such a great leap.

"Root Ball"
If  you happened to have dug some soil from your garden last fall to use for transplanting, I wouldn't use it. You have the opportunity to introduce creatures from the garden into your house. I 'm sure most wouldn't be a problem. However, I don't think you want to introduce aphids or slugs into your household. And I'm quite sure there are other things you house plants would tolerate very well but don't cause a problem in the garden. But again it's just a suggestion. You certainly can use whatever soil you would like. Be cautious is all that I'm saying.