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Archive for April, 2012

(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 4 of the Wednesday, April 25, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

GARDENING IN SITKA

By Lori Adams

TRANSPLANTING TIME

Most vegetable transplant starts can not handle any frost, so it is important to know the average frost-free date in your area. In Sitka we can get frost right up to about May 15, but you can transplant out a full month earlier if you utilize a product called a “floating row cover.”

Our local stores carry several brands of row cover in varying sizes. It is basically a light-spun polyester type of fabric through which water and light can penetrate. A floating row cover protects plants from frost and raises the temperature of the bed approximately 10 degrees. It can lie directly on the plants or be held aloft with hoops, but it needs to be weighted down around the edges to keep it from blowing away.  Here at the Down To Earth U-Pick Garden, I use a seine net to hold it down. But you can use rocks or milk jugs full of water if you don’t have netting.

It would be best to leave this cover on your beds all season, but I take mine off about July 15 or when the vegetables are ready to pick, whichever comes first.

As a general rule I transplant the following vegetables outdoors in mid-April —  broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, Swiss chard, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, kohlrabi, kale and beets.  And I sow these seeds directly into the soil — radishes, potatoes, turnips, carrots and peas. In May, I transplant — celery, leeks, fennel, sunflowers, herbs, zucchini, cucumbers and tomatoes; and I sow beans directly into the soil.

The first step in the transplanting process is to “harden off” your starts.  This is a very tedious task which I hate, but it really is a must. Hardening off is a term used to describe the process of gradually getting the transplants used to the outside environment. During this process you carry your flats of transplants outdoors into a sunny sheltered area for several hours and then bring them back inside. Each day you extend the time they spend outdoors until they are ready to go out permanently. This reduces the shock to the baby vegetables.

When transplanting make a shallow dish-shaped depression in the bed and then dig a hole for the start right in the center. Carefully remove the start from its pot without handling the fragile stem (the plant can grow another leaf but it can’t grow another stem). Put it in the hole and lightly firm the soil around it. The shallow depression should remain to help catch water. You can bury most plants up to their first true leaves, but be sure not to cover the growing center of the plant with soil. Water lightly about three times that first day and at least once a day for the next two days if it doesn’t rain. Watering with a vitamin B solution is said to help starts deal with this stressful process. In a week or so your transplants should recover from the move and start showing signs of growth.

Next week’s column — Everything I know about carrots.

Brought to you by Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden

2103 Sawmill Creek Road

Open June-August / Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

747-6108 or 738-2241

http://downtoearthupick.blogspot.com/

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(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 4 of the Wednesday, April 18, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

GARDENING IN SITKA

By Lori Adams

UNDERSTANDING CROP ROTATION

It’s time to start transplanting and direct sowing seeds for most crops, but before you put them in your beds you should be aware of the benefits of crop rotation. Each separate crop depletes the soil of specific nutrients and attracts specific pests. If you plant that same crop in the same place year after year that crop will decline in quality. It is good to determine to not place the same crop in the same spot for at least three years.

Different crops can be grouped together based on similar qualities and be considered “family groups”. To begin planning your crop rotation plan, familiarize yourself with the different plant family groups. There are many books and articles written on the subject. Many books I have read confused me because they separated the plants into too many groups and included too many things that don’t grow well here, like corn and eggplant. But I have used their information to separate my crops into these basic family groups:

  • First year (new dirt) — potatoes, radishes
  • Second year (amend with organic material and plant legumes that bring nitrogen into the soil) — peas green beans, fava beans
  • Third year (amend with nitrogen rich material and plant heaviest feeders) — lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, celery, zucchini, fennel
  • Fourth year (amend again but not as heavily as previous year and plant heavy feeders that attract root maggot flies) — broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cabbage, kohlrabi, kale, Chinese cabbage
  • Fifth year (amend with phosphorus and plant light feeding root crops) — beets, turnips, carrots, parsnips, garlic, onions, leeks

This plan is not perfectly by the book, and I apologize if I forgot anything, but it works for my garden. Rhubarb, berries and asparagus stay in the same spot every year and I am planning to keep my herbs in the same spot also because many of them over-winter well and I don’t like disturbing them in the spring to move them to a new bed.

If you feel that you need less than five groups for your garden just minimize your plan to this type of rotation: new dirt (potatoes), heavily amended soil (heavy feeders), used soil (light feeding root crops). If you don’t have the same amount of beds as you have family groups simply divide your beds into sections. Once you have your crop rotation plan in place it is a good idea to draw a diagram of your garden on paper each year and note which crops were grown in each area. Time has a way of helping you forget what you did the years before!

Many gardeners swear that growing specific crops together is beneficial — that the crops help each other in some way.  There is a good book written on the subject named, Carrots Love Tomatoes written by Louise Riotte, that you should read if you are interested in learning more about the technique.

Next week’s column — Transplanting time.

Brought to you by Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden

2103 Sawmill Creek Road

Open June-August / Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

747-6108 or 738-2241

http://downtoearthupick.blogspot.com/

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Come help Sitkans support the award-winning Fish to Schools program by attending a benefit dinner from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 25, at Sweetland Hall on the Sheldon Jackson Campus.

This benefit dinner will include a presentation of the grand prize of the Alaska Farm to Schools Challenge for the 2011-12 school year, which will be presented by Johanna Herron of the Alaska Department of Resources. The benefit features a local seafood dinner of crispy oven-baked rockfish prepared by chef Colette Nelson of Ludvig’s Bistro and students from Pacific High School’s food services program.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and students, and $5 for youth age 18 and younger, and they can be purchased at Old Harbor Books. All proceeds benefit the Sitka Fish to Schools program that brings regular fish meal choices to students at Blatchley Middle School, Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School and Pacific High School.

The Fish to Schools program (link goes to April 15 Juneau Empire article) was a community health project from the 2010 Sitka Health Summit, and the Sitka Conservation Society has been managing the 2-year-old program in partnership with the Sitka School District, local fishermen and other community partners. For more information about the Fish to Schools program, contact Tracy Gagnon of the Sitka Conservation Society at 747-7509 or tracy@sitkawild.org.

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Sitka-based Alaskans Own seafood recently announced its subscription prices for its 2012 Community Supported Fisheries (CSF) program in Sitka and Juneau. Alaskans Own was the first CSF program in the state, modeling its program after the successful Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs that let customers deal directly with harvesters so they can buy subscription shares to the year’s crop/catch.

This is the third year of the Alaskans Own CSF program, and this year there are four-month and six-month subscriptions. The six-month subscriptions are new this year, and they will allow people to keep receiving freshly caught seafood through October instead of August. Half-subscriptions also are available. Subscriptions include a mix of locally caught black cod (sablefish), halibut, king salmon, coho salmon, lingcod and miscellaneous rockfish, depending on the commercial fishing season.

In Sitka, pick-ups take place on the fourth Wednesday of the month (May through August for four-month subscriptions, May through October for six-month subscriptions) at the Mill Building at the Sitka Sound Science Center. A pick-up location for Juneau will be announced at a later date. Registration for 2012 subscriptions opened on April 13, and the first pick-up is scheduled for Wednesday, May 23. Subscriptions are limited, so sign up early. For those who miss out on subscriptions, Alaskans Own frequently has a booth at the Sitka Farmers Markets.

The four-month summer subscription price (May through August) is $430 plus tax for 40 pounds of seafood total, while the half-subscription price is $230 plus tax for 20 pounds. The four-month share will have two pounds of blackcod and 10 pounds of miscellaneous rockfish in May, eight pounds of lingcod and four pounds of halibut in June, six pounds of king salmon in July and 10 pounds of coho salmon in August. The half-subscription has half shares of each fish species.

The six-month summer subscription price (May through October) is $635 plus tax for 60 pounds of seafood, while the half-subscription price is $335 plus tax for 30 pounds of seafood. The six-month share will be the same as the four-month share for May through August, with September adding one pound of blackcod, five pounds of miscellaneous rockfish and four pounds of lingcod, and October including two pounds of halibut, three pounds of king salmon and five pounds of coho salmon. The half-subscription matches the four-month half-subscription through August, then adds one pound of black cod, three pounds of miscellaneous rockfish and two pounds of lingcod in September, and one pound of halibut, one pound of king salmon and two pounds of coho salmon in October.

The mix outlined is subject to change, as Alaskans Own bases its costs on estimated dock prices that can fluctuate throughout the season. For example, if July king salmon prices are higher than expected, you’ll receive a little bit less of that species and get additional pounds of coho salmon. The bottom line is you get the best mix of seafood possible for the subscription price.

For more information, go to the CSF page on the Alaskans Own website, or call 738-3360 in Sitka. You can contact Alaskans Own by e-mail in Sitka at info@alaskansown.com or in Juneau at alaskansown@gmail.com.

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(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 4 of the Monday, April 16, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

GARDENING IN SITKA

By Lori Adams

FEEDING YOUR PLANTS

New seedlings do not need anything in the way of fertilizer until they have their first set of true leaves. Then I recommend a diluted liquid food administered every watering rather than periodic full-strength doses. It is less harsh and promotes steady, healthy growth. Once the starts are planted outdoors the proper food should already be in the garden soil, ready for them. So what is the proper food for vegetable plants?

First of all, I like to think of it as “feeding the soil” rather than “feeding the plants.” Garden soil is alive, and each square inch of good garden soil contains billions of microorganisms which convert organic material into energy for plants. Plants need many nutrients to do their best, but the three essential nutrients reduced to their simplest terms are:

  • Nitrogen (N) — The most important. Promotes green growth. — Natural sources are composted grass clippings, animal manure, herring eggs on seaweed or fish carcasses.
  • Phosphorus (P) — Promotes root growth. — Natural sources are starfish, pulverized deer bones or fish skeletons.
  • Potassium (K) — Promotes fruit and flower growth. — Natural sources are seaweed, greensand, granite dust or wood ashes.

Our local stores have shelves that are loaded with great fertilizer products. You just need to know how to read the labels. The amounts of NPK will always appear in the same order on the front of the product written as numbers, like this; 8-5-1. These numbers represent the percentage of NPK in the product.  In this case there is 8 percent Nitrogen, 5 percent Phosphorus and 1 percent Potassium, with the remaining 86 percent consisting of inert or inactive materials. The inactive materials help to dilute and mix the fertilizers more thoroughly.

You can research the best NPK amounts for each vegetable you are going to grow, but a good all-around ratio for the general garden would be roughly 3-1-2.  It is a good idea to fertilize (with either purchased or gathered ammendments) at the beginning of the year and again mid summer, but be sure to read any instructions for purchased fertilizers thoroughly.

Compost is a fantastic way to add nutrients, but if you want to use it exclusively it’s best to think of it as a really healthy, nutritious snack that needs to be added liberally and frequently to be effective.  Just remember that the only thing you will get out of your compost pile is what you have put into it. Compost is another subject that will be addressed in a later column.

Finally, don’t forget to address the ph level of your soil.  Even if you have applied the proper amount of fertilizer the plants can not fully utilize it if the ph level is not correct. Ph levels can be adjusted with either purchased lime or gathered seashell sand.

Next week’s column — Understanding crop rotation.

Brought to you by Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden

2103 Sawmill Creek Road

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

747-6108 or 738-2241

http://downtoearthupick.blogspot.com/

Read Full Post »

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The Sitka Local Foods Network will host its second work party of the season from 2-4 p.m on Saturday, April 21, at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (located behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church on Lincoln Street, above Crescent Harbor).

Produce grown at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm is sold during the Sitka Farmers Markets to help fund Sitka Local Foods Network projects throughout the year.

Our first work party on April 14 was an absolute success (see photo slideshow above), and we’d like to continue to build on this momentum. We’ll continue with bed building, adding amendments to the soil, laying down wood chips to prevent future weeds and lots more.  Tools and teaching will be provided.  Dress for the weather.

For more information, contact St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm lead gardener Laura Schmidt at 623-7003 or 738-7009. We will need a lot of bodies for this work party. We will start planting the gardens in May, once we’re past the final freeze.

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The butter clam has one set of rings that go one direction only, around the same center point (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

The butter clam has one set of rings that go one direction only, around the same center point (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

This past week, there were four suspected cases of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) reported in Juneau. These four cases, combined with a couple of PSP cases in the Ketchikan/Metlakatla areas this winter and record-high levels of the PSP toxin found in shellfish last summer should serve as reminders that the state discourages eating recreationally and subsistence-harvested shellfish on most beaches in Alaska.

The first three PSP cases reported to the Alaska Section on Epidemiology last week involved clams harvested over the Easter weekend near Juneau — the first case reported April 10 involved razor clams from Admiralty Island and the next two cases reported April 12 involved butter clams from either Lincoln Island or Ralston Island. On April 13, another case was reported where a person ate pink neck clams (also known as surf clams) harvested from Shelter Island.

The littleneck clam has two sets of rings that cross each other at 90 degree angles (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

The littleneck clam has two sets of rings that cross each other at 90 degree angles (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

In each case, the people who ate the clams experienced classic PSP toxin symptoms — tingling and numbness of the mouth and tongue that eventually can extend into the extremities and then the rest of the body. Once the toxin moves into the body, it can paralyze the heart and lungs, causing them to stop and leading to intensive care treatment and possibly death (PSP deaths were reported in Juneau and Haines in 2010). If people experience these symptoms, they should get to the hospital immediately because sometimes a hospital respirator can save a life.

PSP can cause severe health problems and even death, and there is no antidote. The toxin is not visible, and requires special testing to be detected. It can occur during any month of the year, and the toxin can remain in affected shellfish for as long as two years. There is no antidote to the toxin. PSP generally affects bivalves that filter food when they eat, such as clams, cockles, mussels, oysters or scallops. Crab meat does not carry the PSP toxin, but crab guts can have the toxin since crab eat bivalves.

A cockle has deep ridges similar to a Ruffles potato chip (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

A cockle has deep ridges similar to a Ruffles potato chip (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

Southeast Alaska beaches, like most beaches in the state frequented by recreational and subsistence harvesters, are not tested by the state for the PSP toxin. The state does check commercially harvested shellfish for the toxin, but in recent months at least one commercial geoduck season was closed because of the toxin’s presence.

To learn more about PSP, here is an informational page created by the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) after last year’s extremely high levels of PSP toxin were discovered. This page features information about how PSP is formed, what types of shellfish can carry the PSP toxin, basic first aid for PSP symptoms and more.

• Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning Fact Sheet from the State of Alaska

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