Wasilla Alaska Garden Adventures

Wasilla Alaska Garden Adventures - learning about gardening up north.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Never Enough Time...

The Summer Solstice has past and the days are actually getting shorter again. Even though the long Alaska summer days will still be with us for another month or so, the psychological effect weighs on the mind of those that depend on our limited growing season. The greatly accelerated plant growth we experience, with our long days, can be easily seen in our yards and how soon the freshly cut grass grows back and requires another day behind the lawn mower. Keeping up with weeding, lawn mowing, brush clearing and any new outdoor projects, let alone planting and maintaining a vegetable and/or flower garden does not allow a lot of time to do much else. If you add in gathering and cutting firewood and maybe a few fishing trips - then you can get the idea.

My greenhouse Alaska Grow Buckets are doing great this year and my 20 Extreme Bush tomatoes are loaded with fruit.

I have lots of green tomatoes and as usual it seems to be taking forever to see any red ones. I gave everything a shot of Alaska Fish Emulsion and Kelp Extract in my bulk watering reservoir last week.


I have been using a different plant support system this year and so far I am very happy to recommend the Tomato Clips that most commercial growers are familiar with. I just hope that the jute twine that I used will be strong enough to support the weight of my fruit loaded plants.

Tomato Clips
I have also been clearing brush and cleaning up my property as time allows and working on the area just behind my house. This was a brush covered, overgrown hillside that you could not walk through when I moved here 10 years ago. Slowly each year I have been cutting willows and weeds and trying to establish a natural shade garden with wild ferns that I transplant from around my property and shade tolerant perennials.

I also transplanted 10 spruce seedlings from around my property to try and add some winter greenery and establish a screen along one edge of my property.

The best time to plant a tree is always 10 years ago, but the next best time is today. I will never get all of the things done that I would like to complete, in our short Alaska summer, but this year the weather has been as near perfect as I have experienced in my 23 years living in Alaska and I can't complain. I will complete some projects and actually look forward to another winter when life slows down and I can just sit inside by the wood stove and enjoy watching it snow outside, and plan next years summer projects.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

End Of May Update

Today is May 31 and we have had more than our fare share of fantastic sunny weather this past month. You could say we have had too much of a good thing. The warm and very dry weather helped spawn a terrible forest fire down on the Kenai Peninsula. As of today the area burned is estimated to be over 190,000 acres. The location of the fire was several hundred miles South of my house, but the thick smoke and the smokey smell covered the Matsu Valley where I live. I even noticed a fine layer of ash covering my truck hood.

The weather finally turned cool, a few days ago, and we got some much needed rain. This has helped put a damper on the fire. Containment is getting near if this weather pattern holds for a few more days.

I have been very busy with some needed garden projects this spring. An 8 ft high electrified Moose fence is out of my budget so I am building Moose Cages over my raised beds.

We shall see how well it works. I added hinges along one side so the hoop cages can be moved out of the way to reach my plants.

They are much more affordable then fencing my property. I have several completed and just two more to build.

I finally got my annual flower bed planted. I had 4 flats that totaled over 100 seedling starts. It took me all Thursday afternoon to get them into the ground and I was pretty sore after many hours crawling around on my knees, but it was worth the effort and I always enjoy playing in the dirt.

I am not a flower expert, so I just picked out some bright colors that I have had good luck with before.

 I hope to see a bed full of color soon. Some of my Marigold transplants are blooming today.

I am a little behind in getting my warm season eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes transplanted out into my hoop tunnels. They are doing just fine inside my greenhouse, although it is a little crowded. I decided to hold off until this colder weather pattern passed and we get some more sunny days, but I simply cannot put it off much longer. It is all about timing, here in Wasilla, in order to take full advantage to our long sunny days and short growing season.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

May Planting Update

The weather has been unbelievable this May 2014. It has been warm and sunny and the temperatures have been much warmer than usual with many daytime highs in the mid 70's and on Saturday, May 17th it made it up to 78 degrees.. It is very tempting to put many plants out into the garden - but I am not so sure just yet. My home weather station has been a great help in tracking overnight low temperatures and it was still dropping below freezing last week. It is finally staying in the mid to high 30's F at night. Luckily I have been able to move many plants out to my greenhouse and keep it warm enough at night with an electric space heater, but my greenhouse is getting over crowded and I could use more space.

I have 20 Grow Bucket tomatoes and many extras in gallon pots that I will move out to my hoop tunnel garden beds later this week. I could make more grow buckets if I had a more greenhouse space. A second unheated greenhouse is on my to-do list.

I will be transplanting my broccoli, kale, and lettuce today, and many of my flowers too. I also have flats with peppers and eggplant and some will go into Grow Buckets and most will go into raised beds with hoop tunnels in my garden.

Thank goodness for our long Alaska daylight as I am able to comfortably work in my garden past 10 PM with 17 hours of sun and increasing every day. Summer in Alaska is simply unbelievable and with just the right timing you can have a very successful garden season - even if the outdoor growing season seems short - serious gardeners are kept busy for many months getting ready for the mad dash to take advantage of our warm summer weather. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Too Much To Do ...and Not Enough Time ?

This is the main seedling shelf system I use when starting seeds inside my house, in the living room. I moved my tomatoes along with broccoli and kale flats out to the heated greenhouse over a week ago and they are doing fine.

I will be moving more plants out to the greenhouse today and might just plant my onion sets out in the raised beds tomorrow and maybe some beets and radish seeds too. I picked up some replacement strawberry plants on my way home Friday morning to add into my strawberry bed for the ones that did not survive over winter. I want to make some more Alaska Grow Buckets also to hold more tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers. I have a plan to put up another unheated Hoop Greenhouse as soon as I can to hold more Alaska Grow Buckets. I know this all sounds pretty ambitious - but you will just have to check back and see how much I can accomplish ...oh and there is that electric moose fence that I should work on too.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Still Too Early To Plant Outside

You can't let the warm sunny days in early May fool you into planting outside too early. Even though it is 70 degrees F outside as I am writing this.  The 24 hour Temperature Graph below tells the real story... The red line is the temperature outside and the blue line is inside my heated greenhouse. The minimum outdoor temperature was 27.7 degrees F at 5:48 AM on Friday morning May 9th - and tender plants would suffer frost damage if they were planted outside unprotected. My heated greenhouse never went below 44 Degrees F. Hardy plants like kale or broccoli would probably be okay outside, but unprotected tomatoes and peppers would be likely to show some damage from cold stress and probably some frost damaged leaves. It is still very possible to get another hard freeze for the next few weeks and it is simply not worth the risk. The micro climate in my yard happens to be 5 to 10 degrees colder than the official weather data from the local airport weather station just 3 miles away. My home weather station has really helped me to know what is going on in my garden.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Alaska Grow Buckets Web Interview with LIVING THE COUNTRY LIFE magazine

You can listen to my Web Interview about Alaska Grow Buckets with Jodi Henke from LIVING THE COUNTRY LIFE magazine on their Web site. Just scroll down their page until you see the mp3 play button or you can listen to the Audio Interview here.

You can read the entire article on the Living The Country Life web page.

Monday, April 14, 2014

April Tomato Seedlings

My 2014 tomato seedlings are up and looking good. I can almost taste the first fresh tomato of the season.

I will be planting some in my Alaska Grow Bucket system inside my greenhouse and some outside in raised beds under a hoop tunnel. Since I don't have unlimited height in my greenhouse, and even more so in my hoop tunnels, I have decided to grow dwarf or short bush type tomatoes and early season - cold tolerant varieties. As most traditional tomatoes don't do well in our cool Alaska summers. We rarely get much over 70 degrees and some cloudy days struggle to reach 60. Under ideal conditions many standard varieties can grow well over 6 feet tall and I just don't have the room. 

This year I am once again growing Extreme Bush tomatoes from Victory Seed Company. This tomato was originally developed in the 1950's as a commercial tomato with a tougher skin that could hold up to mechanical harvesting, but does show occasional cracking. My plants last year were loaded with 2"-3" fruit with good tomato flavor. I like the short stout plants that need minimal support and they seem very cold tolerant and hardy, even with minimal care. They did exceptionally well in my Alaska Grow Bucket system in my greenhouse. You can read a thorough description of Extreme Bush Tomato here.

My favorite source for tomato seeds with a complete tomato database full of varietal descriptions is Tatiana's Tomato Base. This site is amazing for all things tomato - and much more. I am growing two Russian varieties that I found there. They are cold tolerant, early season, and dwarf size plants. One is Alpatieva 905A and the other is Yaponskiy Karlik - just click on the links for a full description of these tomatoes.

I am also growing another variety called Sandpoint that was named after an Alaska village on one of the Aleutian Islands known for its cool blustery weather. We shall see if it lives up to it's namesake.

I am also a big fan of the Dwarf Tomato Project that was founded in 2004. This is a group of dedicated tomato enthusiasts devoted to the introduction and propagation of new dwarf tomato varieties. Growing tomatoes in Alaska is a challenge - but can be fun. Finding just the right varieties for my micro climate and growing conditions is something I enjoy. Follow along through out the season and see how these varieties do in my Wasilla garden.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

BOOK ALERT - Folklore Remedies - What Really Works ?

Do you use Epsom Salt on your tomatoes? Do you know why? Are you sure it really works? 

Many garden practices are based in folklore and some remedies simply don't work. I highly recommend that any serious gardener learn the science behind garden folk remedies. Some may work as indicated, some may not do anything, and some may actually cause harm. I suggest a very good book on this very subject : The Truth About Garden Remedies by Jeff Gillman. With graduate degrees in entomology and horticulture, Gillman brings scientific rigor to the topic of commercial, homemade and 'traditional' garden remedies.

"Gillman teaches gardeners to think about what they do, know why they're doing it, and observe the results, trusting their knowledge and experience over claims made by companies, 'experts' or garden folklorists." Publishers Weekly

"The results are fascinating and occasionally disappointing. . . . The Truth About Garden Remedies is a book many of us will want to consult frequently." The American Gardener

"Whenever I hear someone offer a solution to a garden problem, I immediately check [The Truth About Garden Remedies] to see if it will work."  Horticulture 

"While entertainingly relating his experiments and his research, Gillman also packs in a wealth of useful information." The Chicago Tribune 

"Although Gillman writes that gardening gurus are necessary to dole out knowledge of plants and the traditions that surround growing them, he also winces at all the superstition and half-truths flying around, hence, this terrific book." - Biology Digest 20060501