• Sitka Local Foods Network extends deadline for mini-grants for growing produce for the Sitka Farmers Market

The Sitka Local Foods Network is offering three $100 mini-grants to Sitka gardeners willing to grow extra produce (vegetables, berries, fruit, herbs) the network can sell at its Sitka Farmers Markets this summer.

The deadline for applications has been extended to Monday, April 4. Applications will be reviewed and mini-grants will be awarded during the Sitka Local Foods Network board meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 7, at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship building (408 Marine St.).

In order to apply for a mini-grant, please write a letter describing your gardening experience, produce varieties you grow, and information and ideas about your growing space and about how you would use the funds to expand. These mini-grants are for vegetables, berries, fruit, herbs and other produce that can be sold by the Sitka Local Foods Network to help raise funds for its programs. We will need a commitment that all mini-grant winners provide fresh produce for the Sitka Local Foods Network to sell at at least three of the five scheduled Sitka Farmers Markets this summer (July 16, 30, Aug. 13, 27, Sept. 10).

To learn more about the mini-grants, contact Kerry MacLane at 752-0654. You can mail your letter of application to Sitka Local Foods Network, 408-D Marine St., Sitka, AK, 99835, or you can email it to Lisa Sadleir-Hart at 3akharts@acsalaska.net. Please make sure all application letters are received by Monday, April 4.

• Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors to meet on Thursday, April 7

The Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors will hold its monthly meeting from 7-8:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 7, at the Sitka Local Foods Network’s new office in the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Building, 408 Marine St. This is a change from the board’s regular meeting schedule.

Key topics for the meeting include an update on the Sitka Community Greenhouse and Education Center project, a recap of the Let’s Grow Sitka event on March 20, an update on St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm and Blatchley Community Garden plans for the spring and summer, an update on the Sitka Farmers Markets that start in July, an update on the Alaska Food Policy Council, an update on the two new food projects from the Sitka Health Summit (planting 200 apple or other fruit trees in Sitka and getting more locally caught fish served at Sitka schools), and more.

Board meetings are free and open to the general public. We always welcome new volunteers interested in helping out with our various projects. For more information, contact Kerry MacLane at 752-0654.

• Let’s Grow Sitka garden education event is Sunday, March 20

Mark your calendars, because the 2011 “Let’s Grow Sitka” gardening education event opens at noon and runs until 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 20, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall on Katlian Street. Celebrate the first day of spring and get ready to garden.

This annual event brings together local garden supply stores, local gardeners, landscapers and anybody who is interested in learning how to grow food and/or flowers. This year’s theme is “Adding edibles to your landscape — focus on fruit trees and berry bushes.”

Master Gardener Ed Buyarski of Ed’s Edible Landscaping in Juneau will be on hand to provide expertise during the show. Buyarski will give a special presentation on “Growing Fruit in Southeast Alaska” at 11 a.m. on March 20 at ANB Hall (just before the show opens).

Buyarski also will lead some free hands-on tree pruning workshops on Saturday, March 19, with the first tree pruning workshop at 10:30 a.m. at the trees outside Patty Bickar’s house, 310 Cascade (at the top of the hill). The tree pruning workshops will continue Saturday afternoon at the trees outside the home of Tory O’Connell, 608 Etolin Way (off Baranof Street downtown). Buyarski will provide instruction on how to properly prune the trees and bushes to encourage fruit production and maintain healthy growth. Pruning needs to be done before the trees bud, so NOW is the time to get it done. The tree pruning workshops are hosted by the Sitka Fruit Tree Initiative.

The Sitka Local Foods Network encourages people to share their knowledge by hosting a booth or posting an educational display about a specific garden topic. We especially want people with experience growing fruit trees to share their knowledge about growing apple, cherry or crabapple trees in Sitka; growing strawberries; growing rhubarb; growing unusual berry varieties that do well in our climate such as aronia, sea buckthorn, honeysuckle (fruiting), gooseberry, currant and elderberry; and how to legally transplant and cultivate wild berry bushes to your property.

In addition, you can learn about home greenhouses, how to prepare your soil, how to raise chickens and what to do with all those slugs. Buy seeds and plant starts. Swap ideas and tips. Come learn, share, and get ready to grow your garden. Learn about plans for the Sitka Farmers Markets this summer. Let’s Grow Sitka is organized by the Sitka Local Foods Network and is part of the Arti Gras Sitka Music and Arts Festival, which takes place March 6-20.

There still are a few FREE tables available for vendors, education and demonstrations. For more information about Let’s Grow Sitka or to reserve table space, contact Linda Wilson at lawilson87@hotmail.com or call her at 747-3096 (in the evenings or on weekends only). She also has information about the tree pruning workshops.

Master gardeners are encouraged to sign up to share their personal experience on how to create a successful garden in Sitka. Also, anyone with a garden-related product or service to sell is invited to participate. Some of the expected booths are from:

  • True Value Garden Center (type Sitka or 99835 into the store locator search bar) — garden supplies
  • White’s, Inc/Harry Race Pharmacy — garden books, magazines, accessories
  • Garden Ventures — lots of lovely primroses for sale along with garden supplies
  • Lori Adams — Down-To-Earth U-Pick garden promotion
  • Andrew Thoms — raising chickens and chicks for sale (Andrew suggests anybody wanting to buy chicks contact him as soon as possible so he can start incubating the eggs. He can be reached at 747-3747 or andrew@sitkawild.org.)
  • Eve Grutter — jams for sale, garden and raising chickens expertise to share
  • Sitka Local Foods Network — garden information and volunteer sign up
  • Sitka Farmers Market — tomato plant starts for sale, Farmers Market information
  • St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm — seed starter kits
  • Sitka Fruit Tree Initiative — information on growing your own fruit trees and berry bushes in Sitka
  • Sitka Fruit Tree Initiative — community fruit tree mapping project
  • Sitka Seed Savers — information on how to save your own garden seed, and a sign up to participate in an educational workshop on how to save vegetable seed and start a seed savers group in Sitka
  • Display and information handouts on growing rhubarb and its nutritional benefits
  • UAF Cooperative Extension Service — lots of free garden handouts
  • Ed Buyarski of Ed’s Edible Landscaping in Juneau — edible landscaping

• Let’s Grow Sitka event flier for March 20, 2011, at ANB Hall (please print and post around town)

• Kayaaní Commission to meet on Thursday, March 24

The Kayaaní Commission is regrouping and it will hold an organizational meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 24, in the upstairs conference room at the Sitka Tribe of Alaska administration building, 456 Katlian St.

The Kayaaní Commission was created by an ordinance from the Sitka Tribe of Alaska as a way preserve and protect plants and the traditional ways they are used in Sitka. The group looks at medicinal, ceremonial and food uses of local plants.

To learn more, contact Leighanne McGough (747-7167 or leighanne.mcgough@sitkatribe-nsn.gov) or Kristin Rothblum (kristin.rothblum@sitkatribe-nsn.gov) at the Sitka Tribe of Alaska.

• UAF Cooperative Extension Service’s Bob Gorman to teach series of free classes on gardening in Sitka

Bob Gorman of the Sitka office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service shows some germinating seed starts during a free garden workshop on March 11, 2009.

Bob Gorman of the Sitka office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service shows some germinating seed starts during a free garden workshop on March 11, 2009.

Bob Gorman of the Sitka office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service will lead several free gardening classes starting this week and running through April.

Gorman will lead two classes this week — Wednesday night (March 2) on fruit trees and berry bushes and Thursday night (March 3) on basic food gardening. He also will lead four more classes about fruit trees and berry bushes on March 16, April 6, April 8 and April 27 (this last date may be rescheduled). All classes take place in Room 106 at the University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka Campus.

The “Tree Fruits and Berry Bushes for Sitka” class at 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 2, will cover recommended fruit trees and berries for Sitka, site selection and site preparation considerations. Basic tree fruit and berry bush cultivation will be discussed. An update on spruce needle aphid detection and control will be included.

The “Basic Food Gardening” class at 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 3, covers making soil from locally available products, container gardening, establishing and tilling a garden plot, variety and seed selection, starting transplants indoors, direct seeding, frost-free dates, extending the growing season and garden pest prevention. UAF Cooperative Extension Service publications will be available.

The topics for the final four classes are:

  • Wednesday, March 16 (6:30-8:30 p.m.) — Growing Berry Bushes in Sitka
  • Wednesday, April 6 (6:30-8:30 p.m.) — Managing Garden Soils
  • Friday, April 8 (6-8 p.m.) — Prune It Now
  • Wednesday, April 27 (6:30-8:30 p.m.) — Planting Trees, Shrubs and Transplants (class may be rescheduled).

Bob Gorman is the Sitka District Extension Agent for the UAF Cooperative Extension Service and teaches the Alaska Master Gardener certification course to garden volunteers in Sitka (the course features 40 hours of horticulture classes and 40 hours of volunteer work in local garden projects). Before moving to Alaska in 1991, Gorman worked three years in berry crop research and four years in commercial fruit tree production.

To learn more about these classes, call the UAF Cooperative Extension Service office in Sitka at 747-9440 or 747-9413, or just show up since the classes are free.