Wasilla Alaska Garden Adventures

Wasilla Alaska Garden Adventures - learning about gardening up north.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Building Alaska Grow Buckets

Here is a short video that I made showing how I build my simple Alaska Grow Buckets in about 5 minutes. Several buckets can be combined into a complete self watering container garden system. It's easy, and I believe anybody can grow some of their own food at home.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

First Spring Flower

Spring in Alaska is really quite short or long depending how you think about it. From the time our daylight exceeds 12 hours on March 21 and the snow begins to melt until the weather warms enough to set out sensitive plants can seem like an eternity. After the snow is finally gone it may only take a few sunny weeks before the the trees begin to leaf out and that makes our springtime seem very short and we settle into our summer temperature patterns. Clear sunny days lead to clear frosty nights and our last frost can be in the last week of May. Memorial Day weekend is the traditional start to our gardening season with a few hardy planting exceptions. The summer temperatures here in Wasilla average in the mid 60's with a few sunny 75 degree days - but 80 degrees is rare and many rainy or cloudy days will never reach 60 degrees. With 20 hours of sun during June we make up for our short growing season by extremely rapid growth during our long days. It has been estimated that our long summer days are equivalent to 20 extra frost free growing days. This also means that timing is everything. Setting out plants a week or 10 days late and there may not be enough time to mature and produce a significant crop. Starting plants indoors is a way of life and helps relive our winter cabin-fever. The first perennials emerging in spring are always a welcome sight.

It was just a few days ago that I first noticed some ferns were emerging with their characteristic "fiddle-heads" and after looking around I also notice that the familiar Alaska state flower Myosotis alpestris or Alpine Forget-me-not was also beginning to bloom.

I have been doing some spring cleanup work around my property before the weeds and brush return and makes the task much more difficult. I have a wooded hillside behind my house that I have been clearing little by little each spring. The annual progress is slow and involved cutting out small trees and grubbing out our native wild rose Rosa acicularis and many surface roots from returning willows. It is a never ending process. 

I have been transplanting some native forest ferns and mosses that I find around my property and my goal is to have a dense woodland fern garden some day in place of an overgrown bushy hillside that was a severe fire hazard so close to my wooden sided house. The orange flags mark fern crowns that have not emerged yet. I prefer a natural looking landscape when possible and found a wonderful book with many examples.

The Scandinavian Garden By Karl-Dietrich Buhler is a wonderful book for Alaska gardeners that want a natural looking landscape. Much of the Scandinavian climate is almost identical to our climate here with many of the same plant species also.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Backyard Farming... Why Bother ?

I enjoy cooking Real Food that is as fresh as possible and preferably home grown. That is why I garden. I learn a lot from other people that I follow. In the past that was from reading books. The first person to really inspire me was Ruth Stout and her gardening bible called Ruth Stout's No Work Garden Book published by Rohdale Press in 1971.

It was a her revolutionary approach to gardening that copied the natural process of using deep mulch and the breakdown of organic material to feed the soil. Then came Square Foot Gardening by Mel Martholomew published in 1981 by Rhodale Press.

I was hooked on getting the highest yield from my garden space and growing the most I could with the least amount of work  - Ha! I was a little naive to say the least. Building raised beds, applying deep mulch, setting up drip irrigation, and composting kitchen and garden waste - all takes work. To me it is enjoyable and the rewards fare outweigh the effort. Eating healthy home grown foods makes me feel better and hopefully improves my health.

Staying healthy has become more important as we age and the high cost of healthcare in the U.S. has made a healthy lifestyle popular. Yet diet related disease has continued to increase in spite of the health claims of the huge Food Processing Industry. Most of our diet related disease is a result of the modern western diet. Changing the way we eat is the most important thing anybody can co to stay healthy. One of the people I follow today is a food columnist for the New York Times. Mark Bittman has been writing about food for over 30 years. I enjoy watching his short cooking videos available on iTunes called "The Minnimalist". He presented a very good essay on "What's Wrong With the Way We Eat" at a Ted Talks in 2007.

I believe Mark's words may be the most important concept we need to face in our ever growing world controlled by huge corporate interests. To read more about Mark Bittman's philosophy on health and diet, check out his book titled "Food Matters" published in 2008 by Simon and Schuster.

The new evil empires may just be giant Corporate Agriculture and their brother the huge Food Processing Industry with all of the processed food products they promote. The biggest statement anyone can make is to grow our own food at home. Even if we can't grow everything we need. Everybody can grow some food at home and we will all be healthier for the effort and a little less dependent on Corporate Agriculture and the Food Processing Industry.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Growing Food at Home in the City

People are growing fresh foods at home all over the world. On a balcony, apartment building roof, porch, or terrace, anyplace they can set up some containers. You don't need a lot of space to grow fresh, healthy food.

Anybody can grow some of their food at home.