UAF Cooperative Extension Service updates Alaska’s Sustainable Gardening Handbook

Sustainable Gardening 2015 cover

Alaska’s Sustainable Gardening Handbook” has been updated.

This publication was first produced in 2010 as an adaptation of “Sustainable Gardening: The Oregon-Washington Master Gardener Handbook” and this is the first revision. It is used as one component in Master Gardener training programs for University of Alaska Cooperative Extension Service volunteers in Alaska, but is also a must-have for all Alaska gardeners.

UAF Cooperative Extension Service agriculture and horticulture agents have contributed their expertise to provide information on topics such as basic botany, lawns, vegetable gardening, orchards, entomology, pest management and more.

Call 877-520-5211 (toll-free in Alaska) to order the handbook, or check with Jasmine Shaw of the Sitka District Office at 747-9440 to see if she has any copies available locally. The 490-page book costs $50.

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• In the 19th and early 20th Centuries, Sitka was Alaska’s original garden city

The 1900 potato harvest in the Sitka garden of Gov. John G. Brady. (Photo courtesy of Alaska State Library Historical Collections)

The 1900 harvest of potatoes and other vegetables from the Sitka garden of Gov. John G. Brady. (Photo courtesy of Alaska State Library Historical Collections)

Sitka cattle on the beach in 1887 (Photo courtesy of Alaska State Library Historical Collections)

Sitka cattle on the beach in 1887 (Photo courtesy of Alaska State Library Historical Collections)

Even though Sitka doesn’t have much in the way of commercial agriculture and gardening these days, at one point in the 19th Century and early 20th Century Sitka was Alaska’s original garden city.

Sitka has a unique history that includes the Tlingít, Russian and American cultures. Even before the first Russians arrived in the 1700s and made Sitka (or New Archangel, as the Russians called it) the capital of Russian America in 1803, the Tlingíts had simple gardens for potatoes and other crops they’d received from Spanish and other explorers. The Tlingíts would plant potatoes and other root vegetables before they headed out to their fish camps, then they’d harvest the gardens as they made their way to their hunting and winter camps. In addition, the Tlingíts in Shee Atiká (Sitka) were constantly gathering roots, berries, and other food and medicinal plants that grew in the area. The Tlingíts also created an early form of mariculture, creating clam gardens by creating rock-walled beach terraces at low tide to keep clams and other shellfish in certain areas for easy growth and harvest.

produceWhen the Russians arrived in Sitka, they were fur trappers and not colonists. However, the Russian czar required all land patents to have gardens, and that established the first formal vegetable and fruit production in Sitka. The Russians (along with the Finns and Swedes who served as indentured servants to the Russians) maintained several large gardens until 1867, when Russian America was sold to the United States.

Among the first Americans to arrive in Alaska were missionaries, including Dr. Sheldon Jackson who established a school for Native Americans in Sitka that eventually became Sheldon Jackson College and also served as Alaska’s Superintendent for Indian Education with the U.S. Department of Interior. In 1891, Dr. Jackson lobbied Congress to create a U.S. Department of Agriculture experimental farm in Sitka to see if agriculture had any potential in Alaska. It wasn’t until 1897, when Congress acted, passing a bill that in 1898 created USDA experimental farms in Sitka and Kodiak. Over the next few years, more USDA experimental farms would be established in Kenai, Rampart, Fairbanks, Copper Center, and Matanuska (Palmer).

ccg2Many details about the USDA experimental farm in Sitka can be found in an article in the Spring 1998 issue of Agroborealis (Pages 7-11), celebrating 100 years of agriculture research in Alaska. The article includes information about some of the experiments run by lead horticulturist Charles Christian Georgeson, who later moved to the Fairbanks experimental station and now has a botanical garden named for him at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. One of Georgeson’s first experiments involved growing potatoes, and he noted how well the local seaweed worked as a fertilizer. He also developed the Sitka hybrid strawberry in 1905, combining a wild beach strawberry from Yakutat with a commercial variety of unknown origin (see Pages 30-32).

Ph 2824Unfortunately, many of the experimental farms were closed, except the two in Fairbanks and Palmer. The Sitka experimental station closed in 1931, and much of the land was converted to other uses. Until he retired in 2014, Bob Gorman, a longtime University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service employee, maintained a few small garden plots on the former Sitka experimental farm site where he conducted a few experiments (including growing corn in a high tunnel). Some of the fruit trees planted by Georgeson more than 100 years ago still produce fruit.

A photo gallery of historic Sitka gardening photos is below, followed by a photo gallery of more recent photos of the former Sitka experimental farm taken during a September 2013 tour for the International Master Gardeners Conference Cruise when it visited town. The historical photos were provided to the Sitka Local Foods network in 2008 by then-Sitka Historical Society and Museum curator Ashley Kircher (now Ashley Oliphant) and intern Amy Thompson.

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• Bob Gorman to lead garden tour on July 31 as part of Sitka Seafood Festival

Bob Gorman, Extension Agent of the Sitka office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, shows some germinating seed starts during a free garden workshop on March 11, 2009.

Bob Gorman, Extension Agent of the Sitka office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, shows some germinating seed starts during a free garden workshop on March 11, 2009.

University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service Professor Emeritus Bob Gorman will lead a walking garden tour at 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 31, as part of the Sitka Seafood Festival.

The tour should last about 90 minutes, and participants should dress for the weather and be prepared for a walking tour with several stops. The garden tour will feature visits to a mixture of ornamental landscapes and food gardens in the downtown area.

Many of these gardens on this tour are private, home gardens, so no public map will be released for privacy reasons. However, last September when a cruise was in town with participants in the 2013 International Master Gardeners Conference, there was a similar tour of public gardens in town and there was a map (PDF document) provided to participants (note, the USDA Experimental Farm site in Sitka usually is closed to the public).

The event is free, but pre-registration is required and can be done by calling UAF Cooperative Extension Service Sitka District office at 747-9440 or emailing Jasmine Shaw at jdshaw2@alaska.edu by noon on July 31.

• UAF Cooperative Extension Service to host two-part workshop on Sitka gardening

Bob Gorman, Extension Agent of the Sitka office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, shows some germinating seed starts during a free garden workshop on March 11, 2009.

Bob Gorman, Extension Agent of the Sitka office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, shows some germinating seed starts during a free garden workshop on March 11, 2009.

Bob Gorman with the Sitka District office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service will host a two-part informative class on Mondays, April 21 and 28, about the unique challenges of gardening in Southeast Alaska. He also will host a workshop on Tuesday, April 22, about sustainable wood heat options for rural Alaska. All classes will take place at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus.

The two-part class about Southeast gardening will include topics such as selecting and starting seeds, transplants, grow lights, greenhouses, growing media, and managing garden soils. These are the last three workshops Bob will teach before he retires after a long career with the UAF Cooperative Extension Service in Sitka.

  • Monday, April 21, 7-8:30 p.m., UAS Sitka Campus Room 229, “Extending the Growing Season.”
  • Tuesday, April 22, 7-8:30 p.m., UAS Sitka Campus Room 106, “Sustainable Wood Heat.”
  • Monday, April 28, 7-8:30 p.m., UAS Sitka Campus Room 106, “Garden Soils.”

For more information, call the Sitka District office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service at 747-9440.

• Earth Week activities include gardening classes, a youth eco-challenge, and the Parade of the Species

ParadeOfTheSpecies

2014+Earth+Week+posterEarth Day is on Tuesday, April 22, and Earth Week is April 20-26. Sitka will host a variety of activities for Earth Week, including some gardening classes, a youth eco-challenge, free bus rides all month, spring clean-up events, and the 13th annual Parade of the Species. Click the event names at this link for more activity details.

Giving Earth Week an early start is a presentation at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 12, in Room 106 at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus, when Gordon Wrobel will discuss his three-year USDA project to build local food systems in Elfin Cove. Contact the Sitka Local Foods Network at sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com for more information.

Lauren Oakes will discuss yellow cedar ecology and long-term vegetation changes in temperate forests impacted by climate change at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 17, at the UAS Sitka Campus as part of the ongoing Natural History Seminar Series.

yellow_cedarb_nathistorytalkBob Gorman of the Sitka District office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service will give two presentations at 7 p.m. at the UAS Sitka Campus — on Monday, April 21, about extending the growing season and greenhouses, and on Tuesday, April 22, about sustainable wood heat.

There will be clean-up events from 9-11
a.m. on Saturday, April 19, for 4-H club members and other youth, and from noon to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, April 22, for Sitka Conservation Society members and other community members, both at locations TBA. There also is a community-wide spring clean-up event from April 26
through May 11, when people can bring in a variety of large items and hazardous materials to the Sawmill Cove Scrap Yard, hosted by the City and Borough of Sitka Public Works Department.

The Sitka Community Ride bus service will provide free bus rides during the entire month of April in its annual recognition of Earth Day.

The youth eco-challenge is from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, April 26, at Sitka National Historical Park. School-aged youth teams will test their skills of compass navigation, bear safety, and fire building while they make their way through the Sitka National Historical Park. Sign up in teams of four, or as individuals and be put on a team. Teams of multiple ages are recommended. It’s a race. Contact Mary Wood to register, 747-7509.

Finally, the 13th annual Parade of Species, hosted by the Sitka Conservation Society, is on Friday, April 25. Parade participants are invited to dress as their favorite animal or plant and gallop, slither, swim, or fly with us. We will meet in Totem Square at 2:30 p.m. and parade down Lincoln Street to Harrigan Centennial Hall at 3 p.m. There will be a number of community organizations with hands-on Earth Day inspired activities for the whole family from 3-4:30 p.m. Prizes will be awarded for Best Use of Recycled Material, Most Realistic, and Best Local Plant/Animal. For more information contact mary@sitkawild.org or call 747.7509. Click here for photos of 2013 Parade of Species costumes.

• Sitka Spring Clean-Up Events 2014

• Sitka Earth Week Events Schedule for 2014

• Invasive and damaging insect, the green alder sawfly, found in Sitka

GreenAlderSawflyAdult

GreenAlderSawflyLarvaFor the first time, an invasive insect called the green alder sawfly (Monsoma pulveratum) has been found in Sitka. This insect is considered a danger to alder trees in Sitka and other Southeast wetlands.

“Several days ago a positive identification has been made on the green alder sawfly in Sitka,” Bob Gorman, resource development faculty with the Sitka office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, wrote in an e-mail sent to Sitka and Southeast gardeners, “This invasive, exotic insect has defoliated alder trees in Anchorage and surrounding areas. It is a potentially serious threat to alder in southeast Alaska. The attached fact sheet (linked at the bottom of this post) provides details on the green alder sawfly. Distribute this information as you see fit. Thanks.”

The green alder sawfly is native to Europe and North Africa, and its preferred diet is European gray alder. It was first reported in North America in 1995 in Newfoundland, Canada. In 2004 it was first collected in Alaska near Palmer. Since 2007, the green alder sawfly has been documented defoliating thin-leaf alder (Alnus glutinosa) in numerous locations in Southcentral Alaska, eliminating alder in some watersheds. The green alder sawfly has been found in red alder (Alnus rubra) trees along Sawmill Creek Road, Halibut Point Road and Jarvis Street.

On Friday, KCAW-Raven Radio aired a story about the green alder sawfly with more details from Gorman and USDA Forest Service entomologist Liz Graham, who flew to Sitka from Juneau after Gorman sent her photos of the insect’s caterpillars.

Please report any known or suspected infestations of green alder sawfly to the Sitka office of the UAF Cooperative Extension Service by calling 747-9440 or stopping by the office located in Room 122 at University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus. GPS (global positioning system) coordinates of known locations of the green alder sawfly will help in determining the extent of this insect, which probably overwintered in Sitka.

• Green Alder Sawfly: A Threat to Sitka and Southeast Watersheds flier from the UAF Cooperative Extension Service

 

• Alaska Division of Forestry Community Forestry Program to host tree care and planting classes in Sitka

A cluster of Parkland apples (photo from the Alaska Pioneer Fruit Growers Association gallery, http://www.apfga.org/)

A cluster of Parkland apples (photo from the Alaska Pioneer Fruit Growers Association gallery, http://www.apfga.org/)

The Alaska Division of Forestry Community Forestry Program, in partnership with Sitka Tree and Landscape Committee, is coordinating three classes on tree health care and planting in Sitka. The classes are open to the public at no charge. Sign-up beforehand is not required. The schedule is as follows:

  • Diagnosing Tree Health Problems
    Monday, June 3, 6:00 – 8:30 pm
    Bob Gorman, UAF Cooperative Extension Service Sitka Office
    Natural Resources & Community Development Faculty
    Learn to observe signs and symptoms and to gather information about the biological, environmental, and cultural factors that affect a tree’s health.
  • Tree Selection, Planting, & Care
    Tuesday, June 4, 6:00 – 8:30 pm
    Patricia Joyner, Alaska Division of Forestry
    Community Forestry Program Manager and certified arborist
    Learn to select the right site, choose a high quality tree, and plant and maintain it.
  • Plant a Tree
    Wednesday, June 5, 6:00 – 8:00 pm
    Patricia Joyner
    Help plant trees in a city park. Apply what you learned in Wednesday’s class in the real world.

The classes will be held at Harrigan Centennial Hall on Monday and Tuesday and will meet at Centennial Hall on Wednesday before going to Sealing Cove for a tree planting. For information, contact the Division of Forestry at patricia.joyner@alaska.gov, 907-269-8465, or Lynne Brandon, Sitka Parks and Recreation, at 747-1852.