Wasilla Alaska Garden Adventures

Wasilla Alaska Garden Adventures - learning about gardening up north.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Winter Salad Garden Update

Winter is here in Wasilla in a big way. I just got in from clearing my driveway again and they are forecasting more snow tonight. This has been a rather harsh November, compared to recent weather patterns. I don't think I had to clear my driveway more than one or two times all last winter. And we have been hit by a frigid cold snap that reminds me just what Alaska winters can be like.

We have had many nights with temperatures below zero and several in the -10 to -20 degree F range. It is interesting how short our memories can be and it was not unusual to get a severe cold spell early in the winter season. I have seen -35 F temperatures in Anchorage but not for a while. At least we got a thick snow cover before the frigid weather set in and that should protect most of the sensitive perennials.

 I have  used about half of my firewood so far and this is only November! I will be splitting more wood long before this winter is over and if we get more cold weather I may be looking to buy some firewood. I do have a furnace so I don't depend on wood to heat my house, but with all of my nice windows it can be a little chilly inside on a very cold night. My wood stove does a great job keeping the house warm and does save on fuel bills.

My indoor salad garden is looking good so far the lettuce id really doing well. The Swiss chard and kale are a little slower but I haven't given up.

I did notice an infestation of Aphids on some plants so everything got a dose of insecticidal soap and that has really helped. I did not wash or sanitize my pots and that is probably where they came from.

I will find out which growing containers work best using fabric grow bags or pots. I am still using my oxygen booster plant food and that should help the potted plants that don't have ventilation for the roots.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Indoor Garden Update

I transplanted my seedlings yesterday and adjusted my seedling growing rack to accommodate the larger plants. Everything looks good so far. I am using a modified bottom watering system and a wicking medium to draw the water up to the plants. I made it out of commonly available plastic storage containers that I bought at a local discount store and used fabric shopping bags to contain the growing medium.

I am growing several varieties of red lettuce along with curly kale and red Swiss chard. 

I will be using Safer® Brand Oxygen Plus Liquid Plant Food that also contains oxygen booster.

 The translucent watering tray will allow me to visually maintain the necessary water level.

I also planted some in square pots placed in a regular seedling flat as a watering tray. We shall see which plants do best. I may experiment with a gravity feed watering system at some point - but for now I will simply keep the watering trays filled every few days.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sustainable Agriculture in Rural Alaska

Gardening in Alaska can be a challenge even when the weather cooperates. Dealing with frozen soil, late frosts, short growing seasons, cool rainy summers, root maggots, aphids, fungal disease, and the ever lurking neighborhood moose can be frustrating at best. I still supplement the vast majority of my food supply at the near by supermarket or giant warehouse outlet. A new local Three Bears warehouse outlet just opened a few miles from my house in Wasilla. Not all Alaskans have this advantage and those that don't live on the road system are at a particular disadvantage. This includes all of the rural towns and villages where all of the food supply is dependent on summer barge and winter air shipment.

Depending on our food distribution system in Alaska can be expensive and troublesome especially during a natural disaster and the ever increasing cost for transportation has to be paid for by the consumer. Growing at least part of our personal food supply makes economical sense and eating fresh produce is a luxury most Alaskans have learned to live without. Even the produce for sale in local supermarkets that was picked days or weeks ago and shipped north is usually a bland and tasteless comparison to fresh picked backyard veggies.

I am particularly enthusiastic to learn about Tim and Lisa Meyers and their family farming operation in Bethel, Alaska. You can follow the link at the beginning of this post to read all about their farming operation. You can hear Tim speak to the Bioneers in Alaska conference on October 16, 2011 that was recorded by the Alaska Public Broadcasting Network for their Addressing Alaska lecture series at:  Sustainable Agriculture in Rural Alaska  and following the playback link at the bottom of their page. If Tim and Lisa can be as successful as they appear to be in Bethel with all of the challenges that they have to overcome - then anybody can at least learn to supplement their own food supply almost anywhere. There are no excuses. And beyond growing fresh food the Meyers developed their own low tech food storage system to store their produce over-winter by using the simple root cellar system that was at one time common to nearly every farmstead in America.