The 2015 gardening season is coming to a close, and the Sitka Local Foods Network garden mentor program is scheduling its final classes of the season to teach novice gardeners how to harvest their produce and winterize their gardens so they are ready for next spring.
So far classes have been set for four of our six garden mentor program students, with the other two TBA. Our four first-year students (A.J. Bastian, Rebecca Kubacki, Breezy and Josephine Dasalla) have been growing lettuce, kale, potatoes and rhubarb, four crops that grow well here in Sitka without a lot of fuss. Our two second-year students (Tammy O’Neill and Anna Bradley) have grown carrots, chard, green onions and peas, four crops that can grow well in Sitka but need a bit more loving care.
In addition to having experienced gardeners mentor them, all six students agreed to allow the classes taught at their garden plots be open to the public. The classes scheduled so far are:
- A.J. Bastian, 207 Brady St. — noon, Wednesday, Sept. 23.
- Rebecca Kubacki, 1202 Halibut Point Rd. — noon, Tuesday, Sept. 29.
- Anna Bradley, 4764 Halibut Point Road, 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 29.
- Tammy O’Neill, 2309 Merganser Drive, 1 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 8.
Our two second-year students had never gardened for food before they started the program. They said they learned a lot and recommend the program to other new gardeners.
“I have so much more confidence and appreciate all the hands-on (help) I received,” O’Neill said, adding that her garden helped her save a lot of money on vegetables. “I don’t think I would have done it without the help and encouragement I had. I now have a network of people I can call to help with any questions or concerns I may have. I love eating local, fresh organic produce.”
After having a successful growing season last year, our returning students and a couple of the new ones had some soil problems this year. The gardens grew well in May and June, but in mid-July the plants seemed to stop growing even though the plants were well-formed. After some soil tests, it was discovered that some of the purchased compost was lower in nutrients than listed and the soil was more alkaline than normal (most soil in Sitka tends to be acidic).
“I learned that mostly the grade of the soil is important,” Bradley said. “We did a lot of work gathering the soil and beach herring, only to have maybe not enough fertilizer. The only thing we did different this year is not put in store bought soil. I look forward to gathering my potatoes and plan to read up more on gardening. Hopefully next year we will be more successful.”
Michelle Putz has been contracted to coordinate the program and design lesson plans, after the Sitka Local Foods Network received a community development grant from First Bank. We also have about a half-dozen experienced Sitka gardeners who serve as mentors for the program. Also, we have started to recruit for 2-3 participants to join next year’s first-year program.
For more information about the garden mentor program, please contact Michelle Putz at 747-2708.