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.