• It’s time to … learn about gardening in a high tunnel

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Have you ever wanted to learn more about growing vegetables in a high tunnel or hoop house? Your Sitka Local Foods Network is teaming up with local landscape architect and 20-year Sitka gardener Barth Hamberg, who will host a free discussion about high-tunnel gardening at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 25, at Hamberg’s garden.

High tunnels, also known as hoop houses or temporary greenhouses, extend the growing season so more food is produced before and after the traditional dates for growing stuff outdoors. High tunnels are different than greenhouses in that they are passively heated by the sun, so they have lower energy costs than greenhouses. This link has frequently asked questions and answers about seasonal high tunnel systems for crops.

“Last summer I constructed a high tunnel with a grant from the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service),” Hamberg said. “This is my first season in production and I’m experimenting with may different plants and learning a lot about the advantages of the high tunnel. It’s working great.”

Some of the topics Hamberg will discuss include:

  • siting and constructing a high tunnel
  • selecting a high tunnel manufacturer and style of tunnel
  • planting for winter harvest
  • planting for early spring harvest
  • high tunnel maintenance requirements
  • irrigation systems
  • making the high tunnel an enjoyable place to work and to be
  • compost-based soil fertility in the high tunnel

“My interest is growing food in the most efficient and beautiful way possible,” Hamberg said.

People interested in attending this discussion should call Hamberg at 738-9145 to reserve a space and to receive the address and directions to his garden.

The Sitka Local Foods Network education committee has been hosting a series of “It’s time to …” workshops this spring and summer designed to help local residents learn about various aspects of vegetable gardening and fruit growing. Many of these classes will be informal get-togethers at various gardens around town. Please watch our website, Facebook pageFacebook group, and local news media for information about upcoming classes. If you have an “It’s time to …” workshop you’d like to teach, contact Michelle Putz at 747-2708.

The SLFN education committee is still looking to expand our network of local volunteers who can teach classes (formal and informal) this year about growing food, please email Charles Bingham at charleswbingham3@gmail.com with info about what topics you can teach, your gardening experience, and contact information so we can add you to our database of instructors.

• It’s time to … get out and plant your vegetable garden; it’s not too late for this summer

GreensInHoopHouseStPeters

Your Sitka Local Foods Network reminds Sitkans that it’s not too late to get out and plant a vegetable garden this summer. Local gardener and Sitka Local Foods Network board member Michelle Putz will host a free discussion and hands-on planting opportunity at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 19, at 131 Shelikof Way.

Tour the garden and learn about planting some of Sitka’s easiest-to-grow vegetables, including carrots, lettuce, and bok choy. All are invited to attend, especially those new to gardening and growing vegetables. Freshly harvested lettuce will be given away to interested participants. Anyone may attend, but parking space is limited, so those interested in participating are asked to please consider walking, bike riding or carpooling.

“If you start soon, there is still plenty of time to get a vegetable garden growing in Sitka for this year,” Michelle Putz said. “Many easy-to-grow plants can be started now whether in pots, planters, or garden beds. And if your garden is a little challenging like mine, now is a good time to replant or add more seeds in the thin areas.”

The Sitka Local Foods Network is hosting a series of “It’s time to …” workshops this spring and summer designed to help local residents learn about various aspects of vegetable gardening and fruit growing. Many of these classes will be informal get-togethers at various gardens around town. Please watch our website, Facebook pageFacebook group, and local news media for information about upcoming classes. If you have an “It’s time to …” workshop you’d like to teach, contact Michelle Putz at 747-2708.

We are still looking to expand our network of local volunteers who can teach classes (formal and informal) this year about growing food, please email Charles Bingham at charleswbingham3@gmail.com with info about what topics you can teach, your gardening experience, and contact information so we can add you to our database of instructors.

• It’s time to … get out into the garden and pick your rhubarb

Rhubarb

Your Sitka Local Foods Network reminds you it’s time to get out in the garden and, finally, plant your garden. Perry Edwards will host a short on-the-ground rhubarb workshop at 9 a.m. on Saturday, June 7, at 131 Shelikof Way.

Rhubarb is an easy-to-grow, productive, and healthy “fruit” that grows great in Sitka. At this workshop, you will learn the right way to pick your rhubarb so it stays productive all spring and summer long.  We’ll also discuss how to plant, fertilize, and eat your rhubarb. And through a drawing, two lucky participants will go home with enough rhubarb to make a simple, delicious rhubarb sauce. Anyone may attend, but parking space is limited, so those interested in participating are asked to please consider walking, bike riding or carpooling.

The Sitka Local Foods Network is hosting a series of “It’s time to …” workshops this spring and summer designed to help local residents learn about various aspects of vegetable gardening and fruit growing. Many of these classes will be informal get-togethers at various gardens around town. Please watch our website, Facebook page, Facebook group, and local news media for information about upcoming classes. If you have an “It’s time to …” workshop you’d like to teach, contact Michelle Putz at 747-2708.

We are still looking to expand our network of local volunteers who can teach classes (formal and informal) this year about growing food, so please attend if you’re interested. If you can’t attend, please email Charles Bingham at charleswbingham3@gmail.com with info about what topics you can teach, your gardening experience, and contact information so we can add you to our database of instructors.

It’s time to … get outside and finally plant your garden

Plots at various stages of planting at Blatchley Community Garden

Plots at various stages of planting at Blatchley Community Garden

Your Sitka Local Foods Network reminds you it’s time to get out in the garden and, finally, plant your garden. Michelle Putz, Perry Edwards, and master gardener Jackie Barmoy will host a free discussion and hands-on planting lesson at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 10, at 131 Shelikof Way.

Learn about planting some of Sitka’s easiest-to-grow vegetables, including carrots and cabbage, and lettuce and parsnips. Anyone may attend, but parking space is limited, so those interested in participating are asked to please consider walking, bike riding or carpooling.

The Sitka Local Foods Network is hosting a series of “It’s time to …” workshops this spring and summer designed to help local residents learn about various aspects of vegetable gardening and fruit growing. Many of these classes will be informal get-togethers at various gardens around town. Please watch our websiteFacebook pageFacebook group, and local news media for information about upcoming classes. If you have an “It’s time to …” workshop you’d like to teach, contact Michelle Putz at 747-2708.

We are still looking to expand our network of local volunteers who can teach classes (formal and informal) this year about growing food, so please attend if you’re interested. If you can’t attend, please email Charles Bingham at charleswbingham3@gmail.com with info about what topics you can teach, your gardening experience, and contact information so we can add you to our database of instructors.

• It’s time to … plant your broccoli, cauliflower and other brassicas class on May 7

Broccoli growing in the garden

Broccoli growing in the garden

The Sitka Local Foods Network reminds you that it’s time to plant your broccoli, cauliflower and other brassicas.

Linda Wilson will present a short workshop on planting brassicas at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, May 7, at 3509 Halibut Point Road. Broccoli, cauliflower and other brassicas are good for stir fries and other meals, and they’re fun to grow. Parking space is limited, so please consider walking, riding your bike, taking the bus or carpooling. More information is available by calling Linda at 747-3096 (nights, weekends) or by emailing her at lawilson87@hotmail.com.

The Sitka Local Foods Network is hosting a series of “It’s time to …” workshops this spring and summer designed to help local residents learn about various aspects of vegetable gardening and fruit growing. Many of these classes will be informal get-togethers at various gardens around town. Please watch our websiteFacebook pageFacebook group, and local news media for information about upcoming classes. If you have an “It’s time to …” workshop you’d like to teach, contact Michelle Putz at 747-2708.

In addition, don’t forget the Sitka Local Foods Network education committee will meet from 5:30-7 p.m. on Monday, May 5, at Harrigan Centennial Hall to discuss future workshops and classes for the rest of the spring and summer.

We are still looking to expand our network of local volunteers who can teach classes (formal and informal) this year about growing food, so please attend if you’re interested. If you can’t attend, please email Charles Bingham at charleswbingham3@gmail.com with info about what topics you can teach, your gardening experience, and contact information so we can add you to our database of instructors.

• Lori Adams discusses everything she’s learned about growing cauliflower in her latest Daily Sitka Sentinel garden column

(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 6 of the Wednesday, June 13, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

GARDENING IN SITKA

By Lori Adams

EVERYTHING I’VE LEARNED ABOUT GROWING CAULIFLOWER

Cauliflower is from the brassica family and all brassicas do really well here in Southeast Alaska. To prep your bed for cauliflower it should be amended with a fair amount of nitrogen as cauliflower is a heavy feeder. I like to prep my bed the previous fall with seaweed, seashell sand and salmon carcasses that are spaced about a foot apart. The next spring I start the seeds indoors around March 15.

All of the varieties I tried did well here, and the funny thing was that most of them matured at about the same time regardless of how many days the packets said were necessary. The only plants that matured later where the ones that were accidentally planted in partial shade. I think it might be a good idea to grow some in the sun and some in the shade on purpose to spread the harvest season out a bit.

I transplant the starts on April 15 while the starts are young and vigorous. If brassica starts get too old they will be stunted and not worth planting. The roots reach the boundaries of the 4-inch pot and the plant decides that its all the space it’s going to get so it stops growing.

When I transplant cauliflower starts I make a dish shaped depression in the soil and then dig a hole in the middle of it deep enough to bury the start up to its first true leaves. The depression acts as a catch basin for water to keep the starts from drying out. You would think that nothing would dry out with our weather, but a good raised bed that is properly amended with lots of sand can dry out in just one day of nice weather. I find it is also helpful to mulch the bed with a 4-inch layer of seaweed to ensure steady, adequate moisture. Just be sure the seaweed does not touch the plants so there is no chance of it rotting the tender starts.

Cauliflower needs to have lots of room to grow big beautiful heads so I like to space them at least 18 inches to 2 feet apart. When the starts are small it is tempting to crowd them close together to get more plants in the bed, but it is never worth it. If cauliflower plants are too close together they will produce little tiny heads, so try to imagine full-sized plants when you set them out.  I cover all my brassica beds with floating row cover and leave it on until July 15 to warm up the beds and protect the plants from the root maggot fly.

Many books will tell you that as cauliflower heads develop you need to “bleach” or “blanch” the heads by tying some leaves together over the top to protect them from the sun. This does not seem to be necessary here in Sitka. In fact, the year I tried it the slugs seemed very happy to have this great hiding area and ate my plants up. Sometimes the heads do turn slightly purple from the sun but it has no effect on their flavor.

It’s hard to know when to harvest cauliflower because it looks so beautiful and the heads just keep getting bigger and bigger, but if it goes past its prime the flowerets start to separate. This is called “ricing.” Ricing does not affect the flavor either, but for best results try to harvest cauliflower right before this happens. Once cauliflower is harvested the plant is finished and will not produce any more.

It’s a good idea to start some more seeds in June so that at harvest time you can pull the old plant, amend the spot with some compost and then pop a new start in for a second harvest later in the fall.

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/

• St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden work party takes place on Saturday, May 1

St. Peter's Fellowship Farm sign

St. Peter's Fellowship Farm sign

The next work party to get the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden ready for planting later this month takes place from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, May 1. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm is located behind the See House behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church on Lincoln Street. Tools and gloves will be provided.

Food grown at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden is sold at the Sitka Farmers Markets, which take place on alternate Saturdays starting on July 17. For more information about the May 1 work party, contact Doug Osborne at 747-3752 or doug_las@att.net, or contact Lisa Sadleir-Hart at 747-5985 or 3akharts@acsalaska.net.

Planting parties at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm take place from 2-4 p.m. on three straight Saturdays in mid-May — May 15, 22 and 29 — safely after the last frost of the spring. For more information on the planting parties, contact Lisa Sadleir-Hart at 747-5985 or 3akharts@acsalaska.net.

• Sitka growers to contribute to local CSA venture

Renee Pierce, right, explains the first Sitka CSA venture to Sitka Local Foods Network board member Natalie Sattler during the Let's Grow Sitka! event on March 14

Renee Pierce, right, explains the first Sitka CSA venture to Sitka Local Foods Network board member Natalie Sattler during the Let's Grow Sitka! event on March 14

One of the latest trends in farming is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which enables people to buy local, seasonal food directly from the farmer. Renee and Brian Pierce, who own the locally made kelp products and wild berry jelly shop Simple Pleasures of Alaska, are working with Sitka growers to start a small CSA venture with local produce during the summer growing season.

Renee Pierce said that instead of the CSA being a true farmers’ cooperative, she will buy produce from several local growers — including Florence Welsh of the Welsh Family Forget-Me-Not Gardens, Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals, Judy Johnstone of Sprucecot Gardens, Evening Star and Fabian Grutter of Eve’s Farm, and Lori Adams of Down To Earth U-Pick Gardens. The CSA also will include produce from the Pierce Family’s Simple Pleasures garden.

The Sitka CSA will start small, with membership slots for just 25 families the first year. Renee Pierce said of those 25 slots, only about 10 memberships are left. CSA members will commit to paying $50 plus tax every other week, which will give the member families a selection of produce that includes some organic produce purchased from Organically Grown Company of Portland, Ore. During the months when Sitka growers aren’t producing many vegetables, there will be more produce purchased from Organically Grown Company. There also will be an option to buy bread at $6 a loaf beyond the price of the produce box.

The produce selection includes many crops that can be grown in Sitka — such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, potatoes, radishes, zucchini, green beans, beets, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, greens, tomatoes, etc. But with the Organically Grown Company providing some of the produce, CSA members also can choose items that aren’t regular Sitka crops — such as bananas, lemons, limes, pineapples, oranges, etc.

Information about Sitka's first CSA from the Let's Grow Sitka! event on March 14

Information about Sitka's first CSA from the Let's Grow Sitka! event on March 14

Renee Pierce said she has worked with Organically Grown Company for about four years, purchasing organic produce for the Pierce family and several friends and other Sitka residents who heard about the venture (at one point she had about 60-70 families buying from her). She said she orders produce by the case, and it is available for pick-up from 3-6 p.m. every other Monday afternoon at the Simple Pleasures store next to Kettleson Memorial Library. The first pick-up day for the Sitka CSA is March 29 (which will be for the 15 or so families that already have reserved a spot in the CSA), and the next pick-up day is April 12. CSA members are encouraged to bring their own bags and/or boxes on pick-up days.

The pick-up days are slated to be during the weeks between the every-other-week Sitka Farmers Markets this summer, which will give local growers and buyers the opportunity to buy and sell local produce for both. Renee said there will be some produce extras for families that want to adjust their allotments, but everybody’s allotted produce value will be $50. If you add from the extras you will need to pay the difference, and if you give up some produce you don’t want so your value dips below $50 there are no refunds. She said the CSA is being done as a community service and it’s meant to just break even so the bills get paid.

To learn more about the Sitka CSA, contact Renee Pierce at 738-0044 (cell) or 747-3814 (home). You also can e-mail her at mpierce@ptialaska.net.

• Sitka Local Foods Network contracting for 2010 St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm lead gardener

Darby Osborne, Doug Osborne, Kerry MacLane and Maybelle Filler pick radishes at St. Peter's Fellowship Farm before the first Sitka Farmers Market in 2008

Darby Osborne, Doug Osborne, Kerry MacLane and Maybelle Filler pick radishes at St. Peter's Fellowship Farm before the first Sitka Farmers Market in 2008

The Sitka Local Foods Network is contracting for a lead gardener to help manage our activities at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm community garden this summer. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (SPFF) is growing, and we’re adding new garden beds so we can grow more crops. The vegetables grown at SPFF are sold at the Sitka Farmers Market to help support the efforts of the Sitka Local Foods Network, with some crops also going to local church and charity groups. Here is the lead gardener contract description.

St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm 2010 Lead Gardener Contract Description

Work Experience: 2-3 years of varied vegetable gardening experience, preferably with at least one year in Southeast Alaska. This includes planning, cultivating, harvesting, composting and preparing vegetables for sale or preservation, as well as putting the garden to rest for the season.

Contract Requirements:

  • Develop a garden plan that includes succession planting in conjunction with the SPFF tri-coordinators (board members Lisa Sadleir-Hart, Doug Osborne and Maybelle Filler)
  • Conduct soil testing and amend the soil to improve soil quality using available resources (i.e., seaweed, bone meal, etc) in conjunction with the SPFF tri-coordinators and volunteer work parties
  • Cultivate plant starts using seeds provided by the SLFN and make recommendations for SPFF seed start kits to be distributed at the Let’s Grow Sitka event on March 14, 2010
  • Use organic gardening practices
  • Host 3 initial planting parties (from 2-4:30 p.m. on three Saturdays, May 15, May 22 and May 29) i.e., coordinate with the SPFF tri-coordinators to plan and direct work
  • Direct 75 percent of the garden work parties, i.e., these are tentatively scheduled for Wednesdays 4:30-6 p.m. and Saturdays 2-3:30 p.m. (on non-Sitka Farmers Market Saturdays) during the months of June, July and August, plus the first half of September, but can be negotiated.
  • Plan and oversee the harvest of the garden for the first five 2010 Sitka Farmers Markets (harvest usually takes place early on market-day mornings, July 17, July 31, August 14, August 28 and September 4)
  • Develop a method for quantifying the amount of vegetables harvested from SPFF and implement it
  • Maintain the composting and watering systems
  • Direct any questions or concerns to the SPFF tri-coordinators

Compensation: A total of $1,500 paid in three installments (May 15, July 15 and September 15) plus 5 percent of the SPFF harvest – this compensation schedule is open for negotiation.

If interested in the SPFF lead gardener contract, e-mail a resume that includes two local references that can speak to your gardening ability and a letter of interest by February 20th to 3akharts@acsalaska.net. Direct questions to Lisa Sadleir-Hart at 747-5985 or Doug Osborne at 747-3752.