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Archive for November, 2012

LoriAdamsDownToEarthUPickGarden(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, Nov. 28, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

GARDENING IN SITKA

By Lori Adams

A WORD ABOUT GROWING BEANS

In general, Sitka is just not bean-growing country, but there is one bean that actually does really well here — the fava bean (also called the broad bean).  Up until a few years ago I had never even heard of fava beans, but had read that they’re grown in England so I figured they would grow here too and gave them a try.  The results were excellent.

Fava beans are from the legume family. As a rule the members of this family grow pods with seeds in them; peas, beans, alfalfa, clover and peanuts are the most commonly known legumes.  Legumes can do something that other plants can do — by working in a cooperative partnership with the Rhizobia bacteria found in the soil they can pull nitrogen right out of the air.

Nodules form on the roots in this nitrogen-fixing process and the plants store nitrogen for pod formation. When you plant beans in a garden bed for the first time there is a good chance that the proper strain of this bacteria will not be present in the soil, so it is important to “inoculate” the seeds.  Inoculant bacteria can be purchased in powder form and sprinkled onto the seeds at planting time.

Before planting fava beans prep the soil with plenty of organic material that is not too rich with nitrogen (cured compost or beach mulch) and lime (seashell sand) and prepare some type of support to put in place to keep mature plants off of the ground.  I used wire tomato cages. Fava bean plants get about five feet tall and although they are fairly sturdy they can eventually get knocked down by the wind and rain.

You can start seeds indoors mid-March and transplant them outdoors mid-April or just sow them directly outdoors mid-April. Either way it’s best to dampen the seeds and sprinkle them with inoculant before planting.  The seeds are quite large and should be planted an inch deep. Final spacing in the garden should be at least 12 inches apart.  Floating row cover is not necessary but can speed up maturity.

Fava beans bloom just like peas do with beautiful blooms similar to lupine flowers.  These flowers are self pollinating. Pods soon appear and can be picked while very small and cooked and eaten whole like snap peas. Once the pods get a little size to them they are wooly and fibrous and unpleasant to eat whole, so let them get to be full sized before harvesting them for the beans. Full-sized pods contain anywhere from 1-5 beans in them.

Cooking fava beans is rather labor intensive but worth it.  Shuck the beans and discard the pods, blanch the beans and then “pop” each inner bean out of its waxy covering.  The inner bean will fall out in two halves and can be eaten cold or hot. As with other vegetables, it is good to harvest the mature pods regularly so the plant will continue to produce more pods. Besides, the longer pods are left on the vine the tougher the beans will be.

I think any attempt to leave beans on the vine in hopes of harvesting them as shelling beans is futile as they will probably just mold.  I have read that the tips of the plants themselves are also edible as a leafy green but I have never tried them. A word of warning: some people of Mediterranean descent are allergic to fava beans.

I used to grow Fava Beans in the u-pick garden but very few of my customers were familiar with them so I had trouble selling them.  Rather than taking up valuable garden space growing something my customers don’t want I decided to concentrate on growing vegetables that they do want.

It is possible to grow green beans here but very, very difficult.  The plants simply do not like to get wet and slugs just love, love, love them. If grown outside they MUST be protected from the rain, but if enclosed with a covering they are very likely to rot, so any cover needs to have the sides open for ventilation.  I have had very little success growing green beans, but they are so delicious fresh from the vine that I just keep beating my head against the wall trying.

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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LoriAdamsDownToEarthUPickGarden(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 9 of the Friday, Nov. 23, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

GARDENING IN SITKA

By Lori Adams

EVERYTHING I’VE LEARNED ABOUT GROWING STRAWBERRIES

Strawberries do well here in Sitka, but they come with some challenges.  I think one of the key secrets to success is location, location, location.

Strawberries are a perennial crop that come in two basic types:

  • JUNE BEARING/SHORT-DAY cultivars that produce a heavy crop over a short period in the summer, or
  • EVER BEARING/DAY NEUTRAL cultivars that produce a smaller crop that is stretched over a longer season.

Within these two types there are many different varieties.  Most strawberries that are grown here in Sitka have been passed down generation after generation and originated from early breeding work at the USDA Sitka Experimental Station during the 1920s.  The berries from these plants are small, pale in color and not very sweet, but they make up for it by being very hearty and producing large crops. In Sitka it is very difficult to grow large, beautiful red berries with the “true strawberry” flavor.  Besides the two basic types there are also alpine and specialty varieties.

Strawberries can be grown in containers, rows or patches.  Most Sitkans have patches because of the way the plants grow and multiply, but your production will go up if you have rows and take the effort to control plant growth.  Containers can be helpful in keeping the fruit off the ground where it will rot or be eaten by slugs.

The best strawberries I have tasted here in Sitka were grown in rock walls. I believe this is because of the heat retention of the stones, the lack of slugs and soil, and the excellent drainage a rock wall provides.  The worst place to grow strawberries is in the shade, next to brushy slug-infested areas or areas with poor drainage.

Strawberry plants can be grown from seeds or “runners.”  Runners look like a stem/root that grows from the mother plant.  This runner grows about a foot long and then produces a baby strawberry plant that will take root and start to grow on its own.  To harvest runners simply cut rooting baby plants free from the mother plant and plant on their own.

The life expectancy of any one plant is about six years with only the first third years being highly productive, so the best plan is to grow a row of plants and consistently remove every single runner for two years.  On the third year allow no more than five runners to grow on each plan,t then harvest the runners mid-summer and plant them in a different bed being sure to diligently remove any runners that they themselves might produce.  At the end of the season just tear out the old bed.  Repeat.

Strawberries like soil that is full of organic material that is low in nitrogen.  If the nitrogen level is too high then you will end up with fabulous greens that will make your neighbors jealous but very few berries, and the berries you do get will not be able to ripen because of the shade of the foliage.

Berries require lots of potassium (seaweed) and only a trace of lime (seashell sand) to thrive.  The best way to apply seaweed is to mulch monthly with a thin layer around plants being sure not to cover up the growing center, or the “crown” of the plant.  To prepare a new bed just load it up with seaweed in the Spring, let it break down and then till it into the soil before planting time.

A strawberry plant has tough gnarly roots that grow from the crown.  When planting, it is critical that the crown is right at ground level — if it is buried it will definitely rot and die and if it is planted too high it will dry out and die.  Dig a shallow hole with a cone of soil in the middle, set the crown on top of the cone, spread the roots out like a spider in the hole and then cover with dirt.  Firm the soil around the plant being sure to position the crown properly.

Floating row cover can be helpful but it is critical that you remove it when the plants start to flower.  In order for pollination to occur the blooms must be accessible to bees and other natural pollinators.

Once strawberries start to ripen it is important to pick them almost every day because they are very perishable and easily susceptible to rot and slugs.  Try to leave their “caps” on, lay them in a shallow container rather than stacking them in a deep bowl, and do not wash them until right before it’s time to eat them.

In the fall you can mulch the bed heavily with seaweed being sure not to bury the plants themselves and then spread straw over the entire bed, plants and all, to protect them from frost heaves.

On a final note, there doesn’t seem to be anyone growing a large enough volume of strawberries to sell them.  If you have some extra garden space or an empty greenhouse, please consider growing strawberries and selling them at the Sitka Farmers Market. We’d all love you for it.

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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The Sitka Conservation Society will host its annual wild foods potluck from 5-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 29, at Harrigan Centennial Hall. Doors open at 5 p.m. so people can bring in their dishes, and food will be served at 5:30 p.m.

This free, family friendly, alcohol-free event allows Sitka residents to share their favorite locally foraged or harvested dishes with their neighbors. Residents bring in dishes featuring fish, wild game, seaweed, berries and other tasty treats highlighting wild food from around Sitka. Everybody is encouraed to bring in your favorite dishes featuring wild food, and if you can’t bring in a dish with wild food you can use wild plants to garnish dishes made from store-bought food.

The theme of this year’s wild foods potluck is “Restoration in the Sitka Community Use Area.” There will be live music, prizes awarded to the best wild food dishes (with categories such as “most wild”), and all kinds of other fun, stories and community.

For more information, go to http://www.sitkawild.org/events/ for a full schedule and list of contest categories. You also can call Ray Friedlander with the Sitka Conservation Society at 747-7509.

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LoriAdamsDownToEarthUPickGarden(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, Nov. 14, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

GARDENING IN SITKA

By Lori Adams

PUTTING YOUR GARDEN TO BED FOR THE WINTER

The gardening season is basically over for most of us and if you haven’t already, then now is the time to put your garden to bed for the winter.

It would be nice if any vegetables you are planning to over-winter were grouped together in the same bed, that way you could tidy up everything else and just maintain 1 bed.  This is something to keep in mind next year when it comes planting time.  For now, if it’s an annual and you are not eating it then it should be pulled up and thrown in the compost pile.

Old raspberry canes should have been pruned away by now (be sure you don’t damage the new canes or you won’t have any raspberries next year) and mulched with seaweed.  This time of the year the leaves have all fallen off the raspberry canes and it’s very difficult to tell which ones are old and which ones are new, so if you haven’t pruned yet, wait until they start to bud out next year so it will be easier to tell.  Strawberries and rhubarb should have a thick layer of mulch around them too.

When it comes to your perennial beds there are pros and cons to clearing away all the dead foliage. As for the pros; clean beds provide less hiding spaces for slugs, mold and disease, and a present a tidier appearance. (Primrose foliage turns to mush when it freezes and then thaws again and can cause the roots to rot, so no matter what you do with your other perennials it’s good to cut all the primrose leaves down to within two inches of the ground.)

As for the cons; dead foliage provided nice insulation from freezing weather and breaks down to return to the soil as compost.  I like to remove all the dead foliage from my perennials except the ones that have hollow stems.  A hollow stem that has been cut open will fill up with water and rot out the plant.  Once the dead foliage has been removed I mulch the beds with about 10 inches of seaweed.  I try to put most of the seaweed “around” the plants rather than on top of them as this can lead to rot too, but a little is not bad.

What ever method you choose it is important to give your all of your garden soil some nutrition to get through the winter. Remember that soil is alive and must have something to eat to remain healthy and vigorous until it gets fed again next spring.  Seaweed is free, abundant, and close to town so there is no reason not to utilize this amazing resource.

If you are trying to over-winter vegetables there are things you can do to protect them.  Potatoes must be brought inside, but other root crops like carrots and garlic can be buried with a deep layer of seaweed or straw to keep them from freezing. Some Sitka gardeners lay a plastic tarp over the bed first and then apply the seaweed, but I have used just seaweed and have had great results.

Crops that grow above the ground can be mulched with seaweed or straw and then covered with floating row cover.  It’s amazing how long you can extend your season with row cover, but eventually even row cover won’t protect plants from being frozen.  Keep an eye on your crops and if it looks like they are growing weary and there is freezing weather in the forecast, then you can pull them up, roots and all, and store them in buckets in a cool space indoors- harvesting at your leisure throughout the rest of the winter.

Many gardeners cover all of their empty vegetable beds with plastic to keep the nutrients from leeching away during the long winter.  I am conflicted about this.  So far I have only used plastic over one bed — next year’s spinach and lettuce row — because I want maximum nutrition in that bed next spring.  I think it is probably a good idea, but it could be providing an excellent hiding spot for slugs, mold and disease.  Also, it can be difficult to keep the wind from ripping it off and you have to find someplace to store it the rest of the year.

Sometimes simple can be best and if you apply enough food throughout the season then plastic is not necessary.

Once everything has been put away you can relax indoors with the comforting knowledge that you did everything that you could to the best of your ability.  Soon those wonderful seed catalogs will start arriving in the mail and you can plan next year’s garden.

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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The Sitka Community Food Assessment project is looking to hire a quarter-time project coordinator to oversee the collection of and analysis of data about Sitka’s food supply and demand.

The Sitka Community Food Assessment project is one of this year’s three Sitka Health Summit community wellness projects, which were decided by local residents back in October. The project already has applied for and received a sub-award grant from the SEARHC Community Transformation Grant program to help facilitate the gathering of data about where Sitkans get their food and how much they need.

The project coordinator will work about 10 hours a week at $23 an hour for one year. Depending on other funding and job requirements, there is a possibility the job may expand from quarter-time to half-time.

This new and exciting position will create and support the Community Food Assessment for a Food Resilient Sitka. In order to understand Sitka’s food security, we need to first conduct an assessment. The assessment will be used to develop a Strategic Action Plan to ensure the resiliency of Sitka’s food future. The successful candidate will report to the Sitka Community Food Assessment committee co-chairs.

A copy of the job description is linked below. To apply, please submit a resumé and cover letter. Applications are due by Friday, Nov. 30, and the job starts on Jan. 7. To learn more or to submit your application, please contact Kerry MacLane at maclanekerry@yahoo.com or Andrianna Natsoulas at anatsoulas@thealaskatrust.org.

• Sitka Community Food Assessment project coodinator job description

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The 2011-12 Sitka Local Foods Network Board of Directors at its winter board retreat on Dec. 3, 2011. From left are Lisa Sadleir-Hart, Doug Osborne, Maybelle Filler, Cathy Lieser, Robin Grewe, Linda Wilson and Kerry MacLane. Not pictured is Tom Crane.

The 2011-12 Sitka Local Foods Network Board of Directors at its winter board retreat on Dec. 3, 2011. From left are Lisa Sadleir-Hart, Doug Osborne, Maybelle Filler, Cathy Lieser, Robin Grewe, Linda Wilson and Kerry MacLane. Not pictured is Tom Crane.

Are you concerned about increasing access to local food for all Sitka residents? Are you concerned about rising food prices in Sitka, or do you want to advocate for more community gardens in Sitka?

Then consider joining the board of directors for the Sitka Local Foods Network for the 2012-13 fiscal year. Board members help direct the Sitka Local Foods Network, a non-profit that promotes the harvest and use of local food in Sitka. In addition to setting the focus of the group, board members also help on a wide variety of projects such as the Sitka Farmers Market, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, Blatchley Community Garden, Let’s Grow Sitka, the Sick-A-Waste compost project, the Sitka Community Food Assessment project, Sitka Fish-To-Schools, other school education projects and more.

To apply for a spot on the board, please fill out the attached application and submit it to sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.org. We also are looking to increase our pool of volunteers who will help out during the various projects hosted by the network each year (no formal application needed, just send us your name/contact info and what types of projects you enjoy).

The next Sitka Local Foods Network board meeting is at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 4, at the Sitka Unitarian Universalists Fellowship Hall (408 Marine St.). The board meets from 6:30-8 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month, except during the summer when board members are busy working with the Sitka Farmers Market and St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden. For more information, contact Lisa Sadleir-Hart at 747-5985.

• Sitka Local Foods Network board of directors application

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LoriAdamsDownToEarthUPickGarden(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, Nov. 7, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

GARDENING IN SITKA

By Lori Adams

EVERYTHING I’VE LEARNED ABOUT GROWING KALE

Kale grows so well here in Sitka that it should be indigenous, but many gardeners don’t grow it because they have no experience eating it and don’t know how delicious and nutritious it is.

Kale is from the brassica family so it is a heavy feeder.  Prepare your bed for kale this Fall by amending with fertilizer rich in nitrogen (fish carcasses, spent grain, seaweed) and lime (sea shell sand), or amend your bed next spring using seaweed with herring eggs.

There are many different varieties of kale to choose from that have leaves of different shapes and colors.  You can sow seeds directly outdoors mid-April, but it’s best to start seeds indoors mid-March and then transplant the seedlings outdoors mid-April.  When transplanting make a dish-shaped depression in the soil and then dig a hole in the bottom of the depression for the seedling, being sure to bury it up to its first set of true leaves. Use 12-18 inch spacing because kale plants grow quite large and if they are planted too closely together they will just get tall and spindly and go to seed prematurely.

Cover the entire bed with row cover until July 15 or later and for best results use hoops to hold the cover up off the plants.

Kale leaves can be harvested at any time, but it is best for the plant if you wait until the plant matures a little bit before you start ripping leaves off of it.  When you do start to harvest leaves be sure to take only the biggest, oldest ones and leave the growing center of the plant alone so it can continue to produce new leaves. Never harvest more than one-third of the leaves at any one time off a plant or the plant will become stressed and take longer to recover.  To harvest just cut the leaves from the plant with a knife or snap them off with your fingers.

Kale can be eaten raw or cooked.  Many people use small tender leaves raw in salads and utilize the larger older leaves for cooking.  Just remove the “rib” with a knife (unless you like a little crunch), chop up the leaves, and then throw them into soups or stirfries, but don’t cook them too long- they wilt quickly.  I recently heard about a salad that’s made by “massaging” or “kneading” chopped kale in dressing that sounds really interesting.

Kale often acts like a biennial. A biennial grows during the first year and if it survives the winter it produces seed during the second year.  Sometimes my plants go to seed during the first year.  If they do I just pinch out the growing center flower bud which allows the plant to branch out with more leaves.

It’s a good idea to let some of your kale flower and leave it in the garden all winter and hope for some seedlings to sprout up the next spring that you can transplant into a new bed.  Kale is very, very hearty and will practically grow year round.  I have gone out the garden in the middle of the winter and broken ice off of my kale plants to harvest leaves and they were perfectly fine!  I am sure if you utilize row cover in the winter you can significantly extend your growing season.

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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