Wasilla Alaska Garden Adventures

Wasilla Alaska Garden Adventures - learning about gardening up north.

Monday, February 27, 2012

All New - Alaska Grow Buckets .com - Web Site

Check it out and leave a comment. Spread the word - anybody can grow their food at home. On a city rooftop, on an apartment balcony, on a patio or a porch, or in a greenhouse.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Time To Reflect...

On a cold winter February day, when I should be clearing the snow from my driveway, I started reading my blog and thinking about what inspired me to become a gardener.

Am I a cook that enjoys preparing meals with my fresh home grown produce or am I a gardener that enjoys sharing the fruits of my labors with friends and giving away gifts of what I preserve? I think I am both. I truly believe that anybody can supplement their diet with home grown food. There are many reasons I choose to grow some of my own foods. Number one is a little less dependence on the commercial food industry. Number two is to reduce my dependence on the huge transportation industry to bring, what are many times, luxury items like fresh strawberries and cherry tomatoes thousands of miles from the producer to the consumer - in January. Number three is the significant decrease in quality, considering how long it takes to get produce from the field to your kitchen. Number four is is the high cost for processing and preserving produce to increase it's shelf life or long term storage. Much of this fuel cost and it's impact on the environment along with all of the labor cost can be reduced or eliminated. 

I have several web sites that I follow and many new ones to me that seem to share my beliefs. One of my favorite quotes that I found is: 

"Maybe a person's time would be as well spent raising food as raising money to buy food. "
-- Frank A. Clark

The quote is on the best all around "grow your own food" garden web site that I have found called Subsistence Pattern by Mr. H - in North Idaho, United States... he writes:
"Weary of the world and its illogical ways my wife and I have chosen a path towards self-reliance in all aspects of our lives. Our main focus is on growing and gathering our own food. We hope to use this blog as an avenue to share with and learn from others with similar interests."
This site has more links and helpful information than one person can possibly absorb. I highly recommend that anybody serious about growing food put this in there favorite blog list.

Another inspiration to my philosophy is the prospect of helping others to learn about gardening and its benefit in increasing the quality of our diet. Many low income families and not only those at or below the poverty level seem to rely on low cost, highly processed, and many times poor nutritional products for the bulk of their diets.  Just adding a fresh salad or stir fry veggies and rice can be a vast improvement. But many people complain that "I can't grow food in my apartment or small back yard". I tell people to check out another favorite web site started by two young boys with a little help form their father called: Global Buckets - Two Buckets on a Mission to Reduce Malnutrition

by Grant and Max

Along with another wasted space gardening blog called Green Roof Growers created by a group of folks in Chicago, IL
"We're growing heirloom vegetables on our respective rooftops in the City of Chicago using homemade sub-irrigated planters (SIPs) and commercially available Earthboxes™."
The idea of using wasted rooftops for growing food leads me to think of apartment balconies and small backyards, and vacant lots. Even a spare bedroom with grow lights can be used to grow salad greens all year long.

I had tried to grow tomatoes outdoors in containers without much luck in our short cool Wasilla Alaska summers. So I began to think seriously about a greenhouse for growing tomatoes and other warm weather vegetables. My first attempt with a simple plastic covered hoop house was successful and I had my first ripe Alaska tomato on Memorial day in 2009. I read about Earthboxes™ and found plans on the web for DIY bottom watering containers. I was inspired to come up with a simpler design using low cost materials. You can download my free DIY instructions to make your own Alaska Grow Buckets here. There are many advantages to using containers besides growing food in wasted spaces including automated irrigation and water savings that can be very important in hot arid climates and short cool seasons. Here in Alaska it is necessary to start plants indoors and move them out to solar heated greenhouses when the weather is warm enough, getting a head start on our short season.

My next experiment will be to try different growing mediums like coconut husk fiber called coir and compare it with peat based growing mixes. I would enjoy, someday, to work together with a group of like-minded folks and teach simple, low cost, and easy techniques for anybody to grow some food at home.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Indoor Garden Disaster

I had a very close call last weekend when I returned home and walked inside to a very strong odor of smoke and burned plastic. I immediately thought of my hydroponic tomatoes with the 600 watt high pressure sodium bulb with ballast that does get warm when operating. My suspicion was confirmed and the ballast appeared to have overheated and caught fire while I was gone. Luckily it was sitting on a metal table and the fire burned itself out when the circuit breaker tripped and cut power.

The smoke smell is still present and will probably hang around for a while. I'm not quite sure what caused the device to overheat, but it did send a chill up my spine when thinking of what could have happened. I consider myself pretty lucky. 

I cleaned up the mess and relocated my plants to metal shelf rack and hung up one of my seed starting florescent lighting systems above the pots for now. I am afraid it may not be strong enough for the plants when they get larger and I may have to come up with a more powerful lighting system.

The plants seem to have weathered the mishap just fine despite the fact that they were without light for a while intil I got the replacement system set up and functioning. Commercial grow lights can be expensive and I will have to see just what I can afford.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My First Indoor Hydroponic Tomatoes

I received a wonderful gift recently from a friend. Two complete General Hydroponics brand drip hydroponic systems called the  WATERFARM®. Along with a 600 watt HPS grow light.

So I quickly started some tomato seedlings and I chose 2 dwarf - bush type tomatoes as they will be growing indoors with minimal support. I selected Patio F Hybrid a determinate variety designed for containers that grows 24" tall and Red Robin another determinate dwarf variety that only grows 8 - 12" tall  from Tomato Growers Supply Company in Fort Meyers, Florida.

I bought some organic nutrient and a pH test kit and mixed and tested my growing solution. I transplanted my seedlings today and have everything set up and working. The grow light was connected to my timer system and the light was hung above my grow containers. I set my systems inside a storage tote just for safety in case anything should leak. This system uses inexpensive aquarium air pumps to oxygenate the solution and move the solution up from the reservoir to the drip ring. The air pumps were placed on a foam pad to reduce their buzzing noise.

Hopefully I will have some fresh tomatoes to go along with my indoor lettuce crop in a month or two and I will keep you informed on the progress. So let it snow - I'm growing tomatoes indoors !!