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.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Pepper Update 3/26

The pepper plants are still growing nicely. There are actually peppers on the plants now. The yellow wax is about and inch and a half long this morning and the pablano is about a half inch. There a blossoms on the jalapenos but no peppers yet. There are loads of blossoms on all of the plants.

 I am really excited about the progress. I will use them as a visual aid in a couple of gardening presentations I will be doing this month. This week I will be putting them in bigger pots. They are outgrowing the ones they are in and I don't want to stunt the growth. Hopefully in a couple of weeks I will be able to harvest the first pepper. That will mke my morning eggs very tasty.

Yellow Wax
Soon I will be able to dig in the dirt again. Getting the garden ready for planting is almost as much fun as harvesting. Three weeks and I should be able to see the surface of the garden again. Wish the temperatures were warmer at night that would make the snow go away much faster.

On Saturday the 31st of March we will have a planting party at the Lutheran Church of Hope. The time is 1 PM. We will be planting a variety of seeds to give them a head start on the growing season. Be sure to come join us. It might be your first opportunity to get dirt under your fingernails this gardening season. Look forward to seeing you.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Starting the Seeds

I usually start seeds at the beginning of April. Maybe a little earlier. I probably should start the peppers earlier this year as they didn't set much fruit in 2017. Early April is good for the brassicas. That's the cabbage, broccoli, and sprouts. Of course that means you needed to buy seeds before this time. The local nurseries and the home centers usually have seeds for sale in March. I order most of mine through the mail. If you aren't sure where to buy just key in "seeds" or "vegetable seeds" to your favorite search engine and you will get millions of hits. You might have to use more than one seed company depending on what varieties you want to plant.

6 Pack
Once you have the seeds you will have to get some seed starting soil. It's not really potting soil. The stuff is usually sterilized so you don't introduce pathogens into the seedlings right away. There are many choices of starting mix. They sell them locally. The seed companies sell them. I buy mine from Amazon. If you are a prime member you can get lots of stuff for the garden from Amazon and the shipping is free. The mix I use is Espoma SS16 16-Quart Organic Seed Starter. If you click on it here it will take you to Amazon so you can buy it there. If I run out I will usually buy more locally but no one carries this type. Of ones I have used I like the Espoma the best.

Washing "Pots" from Last Year
You will need some 1020 trays and 4 packs or 6 packs. The 1020 trays should not have holes. They come with and without. I don't use peat pots. They tend to dry out too quickly and they do not decompose well in Alaska's cold soils. You can often use the plastic ones more than one year if you are careful when you take them out to transplant. I planted about 20 trays in 2017. That's twice as many as I planted the year before but now I had twice as much space. I usually get my trays and 4 or 6 packs from Amazon as well. 
1020 Tray

If you reuse your 1020 trays from last year and your 4 or 6 packs, be sure to wash them in soapy water. Add about a quarter cup of bleach. Be careful what soap and bleach you use together. A soap containing ammonia should not be used with bleach. That would put off a poisonous gas that is not good for you.  Washing will help get rid of any critters that might have taken up residence. The critters include the ones you can't see. There are bacteria and fungi that you don't want in the soil while starting your seeds. Wash last years supplies and they should be fine.

4 Pack
Fill the trays with 4 or 6 packs and fill them with soil. Select the seeds you want to plant and put one seed in each cell. You plant them to the depth you find on the back of the seed packet. Cover the seeds with soil. Water them thoroughly. I also take a plastic label stick and write the variety on it and put it in one of the cells. I then cover the cells with plastic wrap. This prevents evaporation of the water. You don't want the seeds to dry out.  I leave it on until the seeds sprout.

When the sprouts appear discard the plastic wrap. You should check to see if they need water every day. Don't let them dry out. The plants are pretty fragile right now. You will also need a more intense source of light. I use fluorescent lights because I have them. You could use LED as well. More on lighting a little later.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

How Much Will the Seed Cost?

The seed catalogs will tell you how many seeds you need to purchase to plant say a 10 foot row of carrots. Knowing how many seeds are in a packet is helpful as well. Most catalogs will have that information as well. Take carrots for example, there are about 750 seeds in a packet. That's about enough to sow a 25 foot row. If you are planting three, 100 ft rows of carrots that would take 12 packets. 12 packets are say $4.25 each. That's $51 for carrot seeds. You could also purchase them by weight or quantities in 1000s. If you remember the last entry said it would take 3000 carrot seeds to plant a 100 ft. row. Accordingly, 300 ft of carrot row should take about 9000 seeds. 10,000 seeds would cost $1.29/1000 or just $12.90. That's a pretty substantial savings. So knowing how much seed you need and where to buy it can save you a bundle in a big garden.

Why is there so much difference in price? I would have to assume it's the cost of putting the seed into small packages with instructions printed on each one. Take those 10,000 carrot seeds and divide them into 13 packets. You will have to weigh the seed 13 times, have 13 packets to put them in, seal each packet, label each packet. I will then have to find a suitable way to ship the 13 packets instead of one box or bag. Does it cost $38 to do all that? Guess it does or the seed companies wouldn't charge that much for a packet.

Obviously, careful planning on your part can save you a lot of money.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Seed Catalogs

Between church and the house I get about a four or five inch stack of  "seed" catalogs every year. I put seed in quotes because these catalogs are so much more than just about seeds. They will tell you how much seed to buy. When to plant. How long 'til harvest. What you should start indoors. What you can direct seed. What type of soil you need for a specific seed. What pH you need. They will tell you many, many, many more marvelous things about gardening.

They also provide climate information. Remember climate is long term. They do not provide weather information you will have to get the from the computer, newspaper, radio, or television. You can find out your climate zone, most of Anchorage is zone 4a. Though 40 years or so ago Anchorage was zone 3. There are micro-climates in the city that are lower and higher, the lower the zone number the colder the climate. The catalogs make suggestions on what to plant. What varieties or cultivars would be best for your location or zone. However, they often do not consider our cold soils. That does make a difference in germination. It also effects how quickly things grow after germination. Many plants like to have "hot feet", warm roots. Unless you make something to warm the soil dramatically these plants won't do well.

One thing I have found even in my short time gardening, our long periods of sun and general daylight in the summer allow gardeners in Anchorage to grow things that some would not consider for our climate. Talk with other gardeners to see what they grow. Always remember, in general, spring flowers bloom in the summer here and summer flowers bloom in the fall. Fall flowers most often don't make it to blooming though occasionally we have a very warm summer and they might.

The seed catalogs contain a wealth of information. Often you will find reading some of the "articles" more informative than reading gardening books and they are less expensive. I will provide a short list of catalogs here from "the big boys" but you can get many more by keying "seed catalog" into your favorite search engine.

Best Cool Seeds this place only has an online presence, no catalog
Johnny's Select Seeds
Gurneys - Call Gurneys their online request doesn't have AK as a state.
Harris Seeds
Park Seed
Territorial Seed Company 

Again this is just a short list. These are big companies. There are thousands of companies both large and small listed online. Some are specialty organizations that just deal in veggies, some fruits, some organic, some just tools. Often it is a good idea to call in your order instead of ordering online. The shipping will often be outrages on their website but reasonable if you call and talk with a representative about your order. Some places still think it costs more to mail stuff to Alaska than the rest of the U.S. Once you request these catalogs you will get them forever or maybe longer. They do come addressed to you or current resident, just sayin'.

One more thing, you might want to set up a separate email account and use it when you request these catalogs. My experience is these companies will fill you inbox with lots of stuff you don't want. I have been getting two emails a day from Gurneys. Unless you want to look at things from them every day make a separate account or unsubscribe or just let the emails pile up after you get your catalog.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Pepper Update 3/3

The peppers are doing quite well. Even though the plants are only about 6 inches tall some already have blossom buds on them. They seem to have liked the transplant to the 4 inch pots. Probably won't be long 'til I will have to redo them again. I will give it a couple of more weeks.

I did put some Osmocote on them. I just used a few pellets on each plant. The leaves on some of them were starting to a little yellow. The Osmocote seems to have fixed the problem. Osmocote is a pelleted fertilizer. Supposed to work for 6 months with each use. The granules or pellets dissolve slowly over time to feed the plants. It looks from the percentages of nutrients that it is 5-3-4. Probably too much nitrogen but we will see what happens. Generally flowering and fruiting plants like more potassium and phosphorus than nitrogen.

The plants look great. I am surprised by the blossoms but that's great as well. I will probably take one for a door prize at the next Master Gardener's meeting in three weeks. I think it will be well received.