Wasilla Alaska Garden Adventures

Wasilla Alaska Garden Adventures - learning about gardening up north.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Our Alaska gardening inspiration

Many Alaska gardeners are familiar with Les Brake and his Coyote Garden in Willow. His annual garden tour is well worth the drive into the Talkeetna Mountains about 2 hours north of Anchorage. There is a brief article about his techniques on the Home & Garden TV Web site. Les was featured in an episode of Gardening By The Yard with Paul James in 2005.

Monday, March 29, 2010

New Seed Starting Tray

We stopped in at Far North Garden Supply in Wasilla today to pick up some seedling flat inserts for potting the flower seedlings we have started. I found a seed starting tray that was similar to the Bio Dome system we have been using. This tray also uses a foam grow plug so I decided to give it a try and see how it compares.

 We decided to start broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage in the new tray system. The tray did not come with a clear germination dome and the clerk said they did not advise using one - but I had decided to use one to help keep the seeds moist. I will take it off when the seedlings are up.

The tomato plants are doing great in their 4" pots and it was necessary to raise the light fixtures today. They are looking very sturdy without any leggy growth. I believe it is from adding another light fixture to each shelf and buying all new bulbs.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Potted tomatoes today...

 Today Jim re-potted the tomatoes into 4" pots. It has been just 20 days since we started the tomatoes in Bio Dome flats and as you can see they have developed a very healthy root system.

 We are a strong believers in the Bio Dome system. It is easy and practically foolproof. I also think that bottom watering is the way to go. I think it is easier on the tiny seedlings and may reduce dampening off.

We use a 2 tray system to hold our seedling pots. The inner tray  has an open mesh bottom and the outer tray is solid without drain holes. It holds eighteen 4" square pots. Water is added to the trays and absorbed through the drain holes in each pot. We use Black Gold seedling mix that seems to wick moisture very well.. With this system I only add water when the trays are dry but before the pots dry out. This worked very well last year and we shall see if it works again.

Monday, March 22, 2010

19 days and doing fine...

Last Wednesday, March 17 we planted flower seeds.  Some of the flower seeds were very fine and the planting instructions said to sprinkle on top of soil and keep moist. We planted Lobelia in a traditional seedling flat filled with seed starting mix and covered with a clear plastic germination cover. We planted snapdragons in a Bio Dome flat with grow plugs. The Bio Dome instructions said fine seeds are just sprinkled on top of the grow plugs the same as you would do with planting mix. The larger hollyhock and stock seeds were put into the grow plugs as usual.

The other 2 Bio Dome flats with tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants were moved from the heat mats to another shelf in our plant rack to make room for the new germination flats.

The Tomatoes are all doing great and really could be re-potted today into 4" pots. The eggplants are almost ready to re-pot and the peppers will be ready in another week or so.

The lobelia really startled us. The normal germination time is usually 15-20 days. Our's only took 6 days. Hope this is a good thing. We followed seed packet directions and did not cover the seeds.

These (above from left to right) are snapdragons: Burpee's Tall Mix, Maya's Snaps, and Burpee Dwarf Mix. Maya's Snaps are germinated from seeds my granddaughter and I gleaned from a beautiful orange snapdragon my daughter planted last year at their home in Sacramento. I'm sure they were probably hybrid so I'm anxious to see what the gleaned seeds will produce.

Denali Seed Co. Dwarf Mixed Stock with a germination time of 7-10 days, 18 of 20 were up in 5 days. Burpee's Giants Mix Hollyhocks with a germination time of 12-21 days, 9 of 20 were up in 7 days.  The hollyhocks are on trial for us. We don't know how well they will do but are keeping consistent notes for next year.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Seedling Progress

Sunday 3/14/2010 - 11 days after planting and 99% of our plants are up. I took a few minutes to clip off all of the extra sprouts leaving one seedling per cell. Each cell contains a special foam grow plug that wicks water from the tray. This seems to produce very healthy root systems.

I removed the plastic domes and lowered the light fixtures as some of the tomatoes were looking a little leggy. Most of the tomatoes were showing their first true leaves. When all of the seedlings have their first true leaves I will add some organic water soluble fertilizer to the trays and after a few weeks I will transplant them into 4" pots. As soon as these veggies are potted up we will reuse the Bio Dome trays and start Broccoli and Cabbage. You must use new grow plugs for each planting.

We still have 2 empty 40 cell Bio Dome trays and later today we plan to start some hollyhock,  lobelia, and snapdragon flower seeds.We are attempting to plan appropriate seed starting dates for different plants according to growth rates and when we expect to set them out in the garden. Keeping seed planting records  along with local weather and frost dates will help us to improve our results each year. The goal is to match our methods to the local micro-climate in our garden. With a short season, deep frozen soil , and late spring frosts we have to take advantage of every warn sunny day that is available.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Starting Seeds

More snow today - another 4-6" so far and still coming down. About 18-20" on the ground now.

In Wasilla Alaska - Memorial Day weekend is the start for outdoor gardening. We are in in Hardiness Zone 3 to 4. Our last Frost date is about May 20. We have about 100 - 110 frost free days - but we have almost 20 hours of sun in June and that is the same as adding 2 extra weeks to our season. Those lucky enough to have a greenhouse can start earlier. Fighting the urge to plant garden seeds in the middle of another Alaska winter takes self control. Last year I planted seeds the first week of February and I had 24" tomato plants in gallon pots taking over the house by May! This year I held off until the first week in March.

I use a special seed starting system from Park Seeds called the Bio Dome that worked very well for me last year. There are 40 cells per tray and it is bottom watering so you only water the tray about once a week and I had nearly 100% germination. I also use electric heat mats under the flats.

I have a 7 ft high 4 shelf wire rack with 6 florescent lights per shelf. I bought all new 6500 degree daylight bulbs this year. I use a timer to control the lights set for 16 hours per day. I hang 2 inexpensive "Space Blankets" on the front and back as light reflectors.

March 3, 2010: Planted 80 vegetable seeds in 2 Bio Dome Flats. All early cold tolerant verities...

30 Tomatoes...
10 Beaverlodge Plum
5 Oregon Spring
5 Legend
5 Stupice
5 Early Girl

25 Peppers...
10 King of the North
5 North Star
5 Golden Star
5 California Wonder

25 Eggplant...
15 Millionaire
5 Twinkle
5 Fairytale

Saturday March 6 - some Tomato sprouts peeking through.

Sunday - about 10 Tomatoes were up and a few Eggplant.

Tuesday March 9 - 6 days after planting - 28 tomatoes are up and all 5 Twinkle and 3 Millionaire Eggplant. No Peppers yet.