(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. Her first column appeared on Page 6 of the Friday, March 2, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)
GARDENING IN SITKA
By Lori Adams
In an effort to encourage more people in Sitka to start growing their own vegetables, I thought I would share some things that I have learned out at the u-pick garden. This column will address basics for people who are new to gardening.
1. THE SITE
The ideal site in your yard for a garden is the area that gets the most sun. If you own your property it helps a great deal to cut down any trees or brush that block sunlight. Even trees on the east and west sides of your property can block a surprising amount. Trees also rob nutrients and moisture that should be going to your vegetables.
The best orientation for rows is running north to south rather than east to west so that the sun heats up both sides of the bed during the course of the day. It is even better if those rows are on a south sloping hill which causes the sun to hit the soil at a more direct angle so more heat is absorbed.
I have rows that run in both directions. The north to south rows warm up faster and have evenly distributed sunlight allowing each plant grow to its full potential. The rows that run east to west tend to have a sunny side and a shady side and the plants in the front shade the plants in the back. If east to west is your only option then it is best to raise the dirt on the back side of the row and grow shorter plants in the front.
Walk around your yard and notice the paths of your sunlight and shade, but remember that in the summer the sun will be higher than it is now.
Good drainage is also very important. Most successful Sitka gardeners raise their beds higher than their existing yard and pathways by about 9 inches. If your yard is on muskeg or usually has puddles you might want to install some drainage tiles. Hillside gardens usually don’t have drainage problems. Many people think you must terrace a hillside to avoid erosion from rain but I have not had trouble with erosion on my hillside beds. The rain soaks through and seeps out the bottom. Walk around your yard and notice where puddles form.
Once you have selected your site don’t try to get the entire garden ready your first year. Building beds can be back-breaking work and you can quickly get discouraged. Set the realistic goal of completing one bed this spring. You will be rewarded with fresh vegetables this summer, and the knowledge that you gain will give you a better idea how to build the rest of the beds in the following years.
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