• Lori Adams plants some seeds in her Daily Sitka Sentinel garden column

(Lori Adams, who owns Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden and is a frequent vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, will be writing a regular garden column in the Daily Sitka Sentinel this summer. The Sentinel is allowing us to reprint the columns on this site after they first appear in the newspaper. This column appeared on Page 3 of the Wednesday, March 21, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)


By Lori Adams


Most vegetable seeds can be planted directly outdoors after May 10, but if you have a sunny window you can get a tremendous head start by planting seeds indoors and then transplanting them outside later.

In February, I start celery, tomatoes and leeks. In March, I start broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kohlrabi, kale, fennel, herbs, lettuce, spinach, chard, brussel’s sprouts. In April, I start squash and cucumbers. The only things I don’t start indoors are carrots, radishes, peas, beans, beets, turnips, potatoes which I plant in April and garlic which I plant in October. Anyone can have some luck starting seeds, but you can really improve your success rate by paying attention to details.

The killers for indoor seedlings are poor germination and “damping off”(a disease caused by fungi that results in wilting and death). To prevent these things from happening to you, buy high quality seeds packaged for 2012 and sterile potting soil. I have tried to use soil from my garden to save money and it has NEVER worked. You do not want to scrimp on these two things.

Fill the containers of your choice with dampened potting soil and then set them in a shallow tray that will hold water. Be sure the pots are all the same height and the soil is level with the tops of the containers. The soil should just be damp, not waterlogged. Place the trays in any warm spot (60-80 degrees F), cover them with plastic to reduce evaporation and check on them every day.

Once you see some seedlings emerging you can uncover the trays and place the trays in the sun. Reduce the temperature to 40-60 degrees F to prevent them from getting tall and scraggly. From this point on you should only water from the bottom by pouring water in the tray using a watering can rather than a hose with a spray nozzle.

Place an oscillating fan so that it blows gently over the level surface of the soil causing the seedlings to wiggle in the breeze.  Good airflow reduces disease problems and wiggling makes the stems stronger. If you don’t have a fan, brush your hand across the tops of the seedlings twice a day.

When the seedlings start to lean toward the sun you can flip the trays around once in awhile to encourage them to grow as straight as possible. You can plan on transplanting these seedlings outside mid April-mid May. Once outside they will need to be protected with a floating row cover to survive any late freezes.

If you think it might be June before your new beds are ready, just put everything off a month.  Better late than not at all.  Just be sure that your seedlings don’t get too old, they are best when young and fresh!

Next week’s column will focus on how to find good gardening advice.

Brought to you by Down to Earth U-pick Garden

Located at 2103 Sawmill Creed Road

Open June-August / Mon-Sat 11:00-6:00

747-6108 or 738-2241

• Easing concerns about possible radiation in gathered seaweed this year

One of the prime springtime activities around Sitka is for people to gather seaweed, either for subsistence/traditional food purposes or to use it to fertilize local gardens. Seaweed is loaded with lots of healthy vitamins and minerals so it’s eaten by many in Sitka, and it also makes great fertilizer for the garden.

But this spring members of the Sitka Local Foods Network board have been hearing concerns from local gardeners and farmers about the seaweed this year possibly being contaminated by radiation (or iodine 131) from the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident in Japan. Some of these concerns came after several local residents in recent weeks found Japanese fishing buoys and other debris on beaches around Sitka, and they were fueled by other stories about Japanese debris washing up on Alaska beaches.

Many people have had reservations about harvesting seaweed, either to eat or use in their gardens, and some people were skeptical about official reports that said there was no or limited radiation exposure to debris headed toward Alaska. For those people who want to test their seaweed or soil, the Plant Science Library in Anchorage is not equipped to test seaweed. But there are facilities in Washington State that are willing to test for a fee of between $50 to $200.

For those people who want to track the effects of the Fukushima Dai-ichi on U.S. marine environments, you can track the effects on Alaska coastlines at this congressional site. Other reliable websites for current information include  http://www.fda.gov/newsevents/publichealthfocus/ucm247403.htm  and http://www.srrb.noaa.gov/.

Greg Wilkinson, a public information officer with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, provided this link to a three-page handout about the effects of radiation on wild foods in Alaska. The State of Alaska has teamed up with the states of Hawai’i, California, Oregon and Washington, the province of British Columbia, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide the Japan Tsunami Marine Debris Joint Information Center.

“Hopefully, disseminating this information to you all will alleviate some concerns about seaweed harvesting this year,” Sitka Local Foods Network board member Johanna Willingham said.

• Lori Adams gets the scoop on dirt in her Daily Sitka Sentinel garden column

(Lori Adams, who owns Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden and is a frequent vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, will be writing a regular garden column in the Daily Sitka Sentinel this summer. The Sentinel is allowing us to reprint the columns on this site after they first appear in the newspaper. This column appeared on Page 5 of the Wednesday, March 14, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)


Issue No. 3

By Lori Adams


If you have any dirt in your yard at all it is most likely ash.  This dirt has very little nutritional value and must be amended. Our local experts recommend the following recipe for building new beds:

  • One-third (1/3) sand (purchased or gathered);
  • One-third (1/3) seaweed (from the high tide line); and
  • One-third (1/3) dirt that you already have.

They also add that if you have to do without one of these three things, you can give up the dirt!  Be very cautious about bringing in someone else’s dirt to supplement what you already have because it may contain invasive weed roots that could plague you for years to come.  I use this recipe faithfully with excellent results.

These items should be gathered and mixed together in your bed as soon as the ground thaws out. Do not pile layers on top of a frozen bed or it will act like insulation and keep the ground frozen longer.  This mixture provides a good basic start.  Different types of crops require specific additional amendments to do their best, but you can add those as the years go by.

One additional thing I’d like to address about dirt is the pH level. Because of the amount of rain we get here in Sitka our soil is acidic.  From what I have read, only a few crops can tolerate this condition — potatoes, carrots, radishes, parsley, and parsnips. It would be a good idea to plant some of these crops your first year.

Rhubarb, mint and most berries thrive in acidic soil but you need to take into consideration that they come back year after year requiring a permanent spot in the garden.  Also, mint must be grown in a container as it can be quite invasive. If you have your heart set on growing something other than these crops you will need to add some fast-acting lime and read up on pH levels. The Internet or any good gardening encyclopedia will cover the subject in depth so I will not go into the details here.

Here are my recommendations for your new bed in order of importance:

  1. potatoes
  2. radishes
  3. rhubarb

This is a realistic plan that will reward you with produce spring, summer and fall.

If you want a little more variety and have time to put in some additional work consider:

  1. Amending a section with extra nitrogen and lime for lettuce;
  2. Putting up a trellis and amending a section with lime and inoculant for peas; and
  3. Sifting a section and amending it with bonemeal for carrots.

Brought to you by Down to Earth U-pick Garden

Located at 2103 Sawmill Creed Road

Open June-August / Mon-Sat 11:00-6:00

747-6108 or 738-2241

• Maximizing Space in Small Gardens handout

• Food advocate Andrianna Natsoulas to discuss the food sovereignty movement on Sunday, March 18

Food advocate Andrianna Natsoulas will give a free presentation about the food sovereignty movement at 5 p.m. on Sunday, March 18, at the Kettleson Memorial Library in Sitka.

Andrianna is a longtime advocate for food and environmental issues. She operates the Food Voices website, which features people from around the world (including Sitka) discussing the importance of developing a sustainable and sovereign food system. She also is writing the book, “Food Voices: Stories of the Food Sovereignty Movement.”

The food sovereignty movement is based on community-based agriculture and fishing, rather than industrial food production. More people are becoming concerned about where their food comes from and how it was produced. They are starting to recognize how local food is fresher, tastes better, puts more money back into the local economy, uses less fuel for transportation, and has fewer chemicals and pesticides.

To learn more about the food sovereignty movement, go to Andrianna’s Food Voices website or e-mail her at andrianna@foodvoices.org.

• Lori Adams discusses building raised garden beds in her Daily Sitka Sentinel gardening column

(Lori Adams, who owns Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden and is a frequent vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, will be writing a regular garden column in the Daily Sitka Sentinel this summer. The Sentinel is allowing us to reprint the columns on this site after they first appear in the newspaper. This column appeared on Page 3 of the Wednesday, March 7, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

                                             GARDENING IN SITKA

By Lori Adams


The following is an overview of my method for building beds:

  1. Cut down any existing brush and use a pickax to break up the soil in the entire area to a depth of at least 6 inches. I prefer this method over simply laying down landscaping cloth and covering it up with soil. If you don’t remove the salmonberry and horsetail roots they will crawl around under the cloth trying to find light, and when they find it they will sprout up through the weak spot and become IMPOSSIBLE to eradicate.
  2. Remove any roots or large stones. Vegetable crops only require the removal of stones that are larger than an egg, unless you are going to grow carrots or parsnips. For these crops you should sift out the gravel because it can cause crooked, twisted or split roots.
  3. Mark out a space no wider than 4 feet for your bed and shovel the surrounding dirt into it. Raised beds are a MUST in rainy, cloudy Sitka. They will drain faster than they would if left the same level as the rest of your yard. Wet soil is cold soil!
  4. Bring in a “clean” material such as wood chips, sand or sea shells for the pathways. This will reduce the amount of mud that is tracked into the house and gives you a nicer surface to kneel on while working.

It is not necessary to build a traditional bottomless box to keep dirt in place. My best bed is just dirt that is mounded up about a foot high and it withstood the entire season of weeding and u-pick traffic. When we built it we simply leaned a long piece of plywood against its side and kneeled against it, then compacted the damp soil along the edge by pounding it with our fists. The plywood was removed and the dirt stayed in place.

Traditional boxes or rock edges provide ideal conditions for weeds, slugs and mold. This being said, I do need something to keep the soil in when I till and keep the ducks out when crops are growing, so I keep experimenting with different types of fencing. My latest prototype utilizes chicken wire, rebar and 2×4’s.

The next step is to amend the dirt which I will address in the next issue.

Brought to you by Down to Earth U-pick Garden

Located at 2103 Sawmill Creek Road

Open June-August / Mon-Sat 11:00-6:00

747-6108 or 738-2241



• Let’s Grow Sitka garden education event is Sunday, March 11, at ANB Hall

Mark your calendars, because the 2012 “Let’s Grow Sitka” gardening education event opens at noon and runs until 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 11, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall on Katlian Street. Don’t forget to set your clocks to spring forward so you can get ready to grow.

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. Sitka Local Foods Network Vice President Linda Wilson, who is coordinating the event with SLFN Board Member Cathy Lieser, was interviewed during the Morning Edition show Thursday on KCAW-Raven Radio and she provided more details about this event (click the link to listen to the interview), which helps Sitka residents get excited about the upcoming garden season.

There will be a wide variety of individuals and businesses with booths for the event, with some booths providing gardening information geared toward and others selling gardening supplies. Lunch will be available for purchase. Here is a tentative list of some of those planning to host booths:

  • Linda Wilson, Sitka Farmers Market, Grow a Row for the Market
  • Cathy Lieser, Let’s Grow Sitka, Sitka Local Foods Network
  • Doug Osborne. Sitka Local Foods Network?
  • Johanna Willingham, Pacific H.S./Sitka Farmers Market backup.
  • Jud Kirkness, Sicka Waste compost project, Fruit tree map
  • Tom Hart, compost, NZ composter ?
  • Kerry MacLane. Pest management
  • Lisa Sadleir-Hart. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm
  • Laura Schmidt, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm/Seed swap & share
  • Maybelle Filler, ???
  • Stanley Schoening, Chickens, fig trees, UAF Cooperative Extension Service
  • Judy Johnstone, High Tunnel program
  • David Lendrum, Guest speaker 3:15, info on new/unusual varieties for Southeast Alaska
  • Jeren Schmidt, Sitka Spruce Catering, lunch for purchase
  • Robert Gorman, UAF Cooperative Extension Service, history of Experimental Station
  • Andrianna Natsoulas, Food Sovereignty
  • Tracy Gagnon, Sitka 4H Club
  • Eve Grutter, Chickens, produce
  • Adam Chinalski, Model greenhouse
  • Penny Brown, Garden Ventures – products for sale
  • Amanda Grearson, True Value – products for sale
  • Lowell Frank, Spenard Building Supply Garden Center ??
  • Michelle Putz, Locally grown environmental benefits?
  • Rick Peterson, Gardening 101 – easiest to grow, need to amend soil, etc…
  • Lori Adams, Down-to-Earth U-Pick Garden – garden promotion and information
  • Mike Tackaberry/Robin Grewe, White’s Inc. – products for sale
  • Mandy Summers, Pacific High School
  • Kelly Smitherman, National Park Service – garden at Bishops House, etc…
  • Lisa Teas, Sitka Farmers Market art debut
  • Florence Welsh, Forget-Me-Not Gardens, local garden booklet, possible plant starts
  • Hope Merritt, Gimbal Botanicals herbal teas – info on wild herbs and herbs to grow

Right after the three-hour Let’s Grow Sitka event ends, guest speaker Dave Lendrum of Juneau will speak at 3:15 p.m. on “New Vegetable Varieties, Small Fruits, and Ornamentals for Southeast Alaska.” Lendrum is a landscape designer who just finished a two-year term as president of the Southeast Alaska Master Gardener Association and with his landscape architect wife, Margaret Tharp, owns Landscape Alaska.

Dave’s life has evolved in partnership with the natural world. He grew up in California on an organic u-pick vegetable farm, learning horticulture from his parents and the 4H club. He did nursery work and continued his post-college adventure in Ecuador by starting a fresh market produce business. After being a city horticulturist at the Eugene (Ore.) Parks Department, Dave started his first nursery, Western Oregon Perennials. A few years later, he found himself in a high-temperature photosynthesis lab at Stanford. In the Pacific Northwest, Dave restored old estate gardens. When he heard Alaska’s call, he moved north to Elfin Cove. Dave and his wife started Landscape Alaska in Juneau 28 years ago. They design and build landscapes on every scale and have won numerous awards both locally and nationally. In addition, Dave is the landscape superintendent for the University of Alaska Southeast and the Southeast representative on the statewide invasive species organization (SNIPM).

For more information about Let’s Grow Sitka, contact Linda Wilson at 747-3096 (evenings, weekends) or lawilson87@hotmail.com, or Cathy Lieser at 978-2572. The two event fliers for this event are posted below as Adobe Acrobat files (PDF files).

• Main flier for 2012 Let’s Grow Sitka event

• Flier for Dave Lendrum presentation after Let’s Grow Sitka event ends

• City and Borough of Sitka issues resolution in support of school meal bills

During its Feb. 14 meeting, the City and Borough of Sitka Assembly passed a resolution in support of SB 3/HB 132, which are bills in the Alaska Legislature that provide funding for school meal programs. The resolution was signed by Mayor Cheryl Westover.

The resolution recognizes that good nutrition is a major requirement of the education process, and many children can’t afford enough food or healthy food. When students don’t have enough food or eat the wrong foods, then they aren’t ready to learn. The resolution was part of a statewide effort by several groups to get movement on the bills. (Anchorage Daily News story)

Of the two bills mentioned in the resolution, SB 3 passed the Senate last year by a near unanimous vote (17 for, 0 against, 3 absent). Unfortunately, the bill has been buried in the House Finance Committee. Two men (Nick Moe in Anchorage and Kokayi Nosakhere in Juneau) started hunger strikes in support of the bill, but both have given up after significant weight loss because the committee chairman Rep. William Stoltze refuses to hold any hearings on the bill. (Anchorage Daily News story)

• Resolution 2012-03 supporting the passage of bills in the Alaska Legislature for funding of school meal programs