• Sitka Local Foods Network hosts Ed Hume for two sustainable gardening presentations on Memorial Day

Ed Hume

Ed Hume

The Sitka Local Foods Network will host Northwest garden guru, author, TV personality and seed company owner Ed Hume for two Memorial Day presentations on sustainable gardening.

The two presentations take place on Monday, May 31, at Grace Harbor Church, 1904 Halibut Point Road (the gray building across from SeaMart). The first presentation is from 3-5 p.m. and the topic will be “Preparing the Northwest Garden: Soil preparation and garden design for the Pacific Northwest climate.” The second presentation is from 7-9 p.m. with a topic of “Vegetables and Ornamentals: Sustainable solutions for common problems, variety selection and ideas for ornamental gardening.”

Tickets are $15 per session, or $20 for both sessions, and they are available at Old Harbor Books or White’s Pharmacy (at AC Lakeside Grocery). The two “Sustainable Gardening with Ed Hume” presentations are fundraisers for the Sitka Local Foods Network (http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/), a non-profit organization that promotes and encourages the use of locally grown, harvested and produced foods in Sitka. Event sponsors include White’s Inc., True Value, Garden Ventures, and the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Health Promotion, Diabetes and Lifestyle Balance programs.

A separate event for SEARHC patients and their families living with diabetes or prediabetes is being planned for Tuesday, June 1. Details about that event will be announced later.

“I remember first hearing about Ed Hume and his year-round vegetable garden a couple of years ago at a Northwest Flower and Garden Show,” said SEARHC Diabetes Grant Coordinator Maybelle Filler, who is organizing the event for the Sitka Local Foods Network. “This seemed impossible since he lives in the same climate zone as Sitka and as far as I knew once winter hits, even fall time, there aren’t any vegetable gardens to be found. But as I sat there listening to his presentation and looking at his slides, it definitely was true. I was so impressed, and I thought what a great opportunity for Sitkans to listen to what he’s been able to do so we can extend the growing season for our own vegetable gardens.”

Hume is host of the weekly “Gardening in America” television show, the longest continuously running TV show on gardening at 42-plus years. He also hosts a weekly radio show. He is a member of the Garden Writers Association’s “Hall of Fame,” and won the National Garden Communicator’s Award in 1977. He has written several books on gardening, including “Gardening With Ed Hume: Northwest Gardening Made Easy.” He owns Ed Hume Seeds (http://www.humeseeds.com/), manages a children’s educational garden in Puyallup, Wash., and also is an internationally known speaker on gardening.

“Ed’s seed firm has a reputation for quality and reliability that is second to none,” said Kerry MacLane, Sitka Local Foods Network Board President. “We’re pretty lucky that such a famous expert is coming to Sitka. People do like to come to Sitka. Last year we hosted Ciscoe Morris (for a sold-out Memorial Day gardening presentation). This is getting to be a great tradition.”

No stranger to Southeast Alaska, Hume has visited Sitka and other communities in our region several times. His son used to fish out of Elfin Cove, and Hume said he conducted some of the trials for his seeds in an Elfin Cove garden to see if the plants were hardy enough for our climate.

During his presentations, Hume said he will discuss soil preparation and he will show how to improve vegetable garden soil since successful gardens need to start off with high-quality soil. Another topic includes the advantages of growing vegetables in raised beds, which provide warmer soil temperatures and better drainage. For those gardeners who have limited space, Hume will discuss the concept of the wide row to make small spaces more productive. Other topics will be the importance of garden layout for better light exposure and air circulation, fertilization issues and the environment, what types of vegetables to plant, and more.

At the two presentations on May 31, Sitka strawberry plant starts will be available for sale at $2 each as a fundraiser for the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden (a Sitka Local Foods Network project). For information about the presentations and Ed Hume, contact Maybelle Filler at 966-8739. For information about the Sitka Local Foods Network and its projects, contact Kerry MacLane at 752-0654 or go to http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/.

Ed Hume sustainable gardening event flier (feel free to print out and post around Sitka)

• SEARHC, Cooperative Extension hosts free garden workshop on Sept. 9

Master gardener Bob Gorman shows off seed starts in wet paper towels during a March garden workshop

Master gardener Bob Gorman shows off seed starts in wet paper towels during a March garden workshop

Do you want to grow some of your own food this summer, so you can have more fresh food choices and eat healthier dinners? Then the fourth and final installment in a continuing series of garden workshops is for you.

The SEARHC Diabetes and Health Promotion programs have teamed up with master gardener Bob Gorman of the Sitka office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service to offer a series of four free garden workshops during the summer of 2009. The last workshop of the series takes place from 1:30 to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 9.

The class will be hosted at the SEARHC Community Health Services Building third-floor conference room in Sitka (1212 Seward Dr.). But participants in other communities will join by video or audioconference from the SEARHC Juneau Administration Building Conference Room, the SEARHC Jessie Norma Jim Health Center in Angoon, the Haines Borough Library, the SEARHC Kake Health Center and the SEARHC Alicia Roberts Medical Center in Klawock.

“Even though summer is winding down, people still have a lot they can do in this year’s growing season,” said Maybelle Filler, SEARHC Diabetes Grant Coordinator. “Southeast Alaska is unique in its growing conditions, and it’s great that the SEARHC Diabetes and Health Promotion programs can partner with the Sitka office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service to provide information on growing things in our area.”

The first three workshops in the four-workshop series were March 11, May 6 and July 8. The topics for the remaining workshop are:

* Sept. 9 — Late-winter plantings; trees and shrubs; house plants and indoor gardening; and winterizing your garden.

For more information about this series of free workshops, contact SEARHC Diabetes Grant Coordinator Maybelle Filler at 966-8739 or maybelle.filler@searhc.org. People who aren’t able to attend at one of the listed video or audioconferencing sites, should contact Maybelle for other options. Maybelle also has extra copies of the handouts for those who miss any of the garden workshops.

• Tlingít potato makes a comeback in Juneau

(Photo courtesy of Klas Stolpe/Juneau Empire) Bill Ehlers, assistant gardener at the Jensen-Olson Arboretum in Juneau, holds a Tlingít potato next to some borage plant flowers.
(Photo courtesy of Klas Stolpe/Juneau Empire) Bill Ehlers, assistant gardener at the Jensen-Olson Arboretum in Juneau, holds a Tlingít potato next to some borage plant flowers.

There was an interesting article in Wednesday’s edition of the Juneau Empire about the revival of a Tlingít potato that was a staple in Tlingít gardens for hundreds of years (Click here to read the Juneau Empire article by Kimberly Marquis).

Tlingít and Haida gardeners grew their own vegetables more than 200 years ago, and potatoes were one of their most important crops. In an article in the Winter 2008/2009 newsletter for Alaska EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research), University of Alaska Southeast social science/anthropology student Elizabeth Kunibe said residents of many Southeast Alaska villages planted gardens of root vegetables — such as potatoes, rutabagas and parsnips — on neighboring islands in the spring while they headed to their fish camps. They harvested them when they returned home in the fall (Click here to read the article on Pages 4-5).

Kunibe said many of these gardens disappeared over the past century, especially as the U.S. Forest Service parceled out some islands for homesteads or fox farms. She said Tlingíts in Sitka lost their island gardens in World War II when the government forbade private water travel. The increasing availability of imported food and other disruptions, such as tuberculosis outbreaks, also sped up the demise of the individual and community gardens found in many Native villages. Kunibe said in 1952 they grew 4,000 pounds of potatoes in Angoon, but the gardens disappeared and Angoon was without a garden until the last year or two when there was a movement to start a community garden.

The Tlingít potato is a fingerling potato with a yellowish skin and somewhat lumpy shape. They do not do well mashed or fried, but taste great in soups or roasted, said Merrill Jensen, manager of the Jensen-Olson Arboretum in Juneau where they expect to harvest about 1,500 pounds of the potatoes next month. The Tlingít potato also is known as “Maria’s Potato” in honor of the late Maria (Ackerman) Miller, the Haines woman who in 1994 gave Juneau’s Richard and Nora Dauenhauer their first seed potatoes. Miller, who died in 1995, told the Dauenhauers the potatoes had been in her family for more than 100 years.

According to Kunibe, who sent samples to a plant geneticist for DNA testing, the Tlingít potato is a distinct variety among potatoes, but they are very similar to two other varieties of Native American potatoes — the Ozette or Makah potato from Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula and the Haida potato from Kasaan on Alaska’s Prince of Wales Island. In a June 7, 2007, article in the Chilkat Valley News (click here to read it), Kunibe said potatoes arrived in Southeast Alaska aboard Spanish ships as early as 1765. She said the three Native American varieties are closely related to potatoes grown in Mexico and the Chilean coastal areas. (Most modern domestic potatoes are descended from species native to the Peruvian Andes.) The Tlingít potato grows well in our rainy climate and keeps a long time in a root cellar. Kunibe said the potatoes became a prime Southeast Alaska commerce item in the early 1800s and the Russian fleets contracted with the Tlingít and Haida tribes to grow them.

Bob Gorman, a master gardener who works with the Sitka office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, said off the top of his head he didn’t know of anybody growing the potato in Sitka right now, though he did suggest several longtime gardeners who might know if people grew them in the past. Maybelle Filler, a master gardener who works with the SEARHC Diabetes Program, said they are looking to bring some seed potatoes to give to Sitka gardeners, but she had been told the potatoes can’t be sold at local markets (though they can be given away).

(Photo courtesy of Klas Stolpe/Juneau Empire) Bill Ehlers, assistant gardener of the Jensen-Olson Arboretum in Juneau, tends to a Tlingít potato plant on July 27, 2009. The potatoes will be used as seed stock to be distrbuted to people interested in growing the variety.
(Photo courtesy of Klas Stolpe/Juneau Empire) Bill Ehlers, assistant gardener of the Jensen-Olson Arboretum in Juneau, tends to a Tlingít potato plant on July 27, 2009. The potatoes will be used as seed stock to be distrbuted to people interested in growing the variety.

• Reminder to submit nominations for Sitka’s best gardens

Cindy Westergaard, left, and Kerry MacLane pick lettuce from the St. Peter's Fellowship Farm community garden in August 2008

Cindy Westergaard, left, and Kerry MacLane pick lettuce from the St. Peter's Fellowship Farm community garden in August 2008

Last week we posted an item (click here to read it) seeking nominations for an informal survey about Sitka’s best gardens. We’ve had a few nominations come in, but it doesn’t hurt to remind everybody that the deadline to submit nominations is Wednesday, Aug. 12.

Check the original post linked above to see all the categories. You can nominate your own garden, or you can submit a neighbor’s garden (please double-check with them first). Hopefully we’ll be able to set up an informal garden tour, so other Sitka residents are inspired to grow their own gardens next year.

There are two ways to submit nominations. You can click the “Leave a Comment” link below and post it to this site (please keep them family rated and realize that all comments go to a moderator before they show up on the site). The other option is to e-mail the information to charles@sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org. When you submit your nomination, please write a note about why you enjoy this garden and include the address since we might want to go take pictures and feature the garden on our site.

• Healthy Wrangell Coalition hopes to build a community garden

Some of our neighbor communities also are looking for ways to get more local foods into their diets. Last week, KSTK-FM in Wrangell ran a story about the Healthy Wrangell Coalition’s goal of building a community garden in Wrangell. A couple of days later, there was a follow-up story about the project receiving a $5,000 start-up grant from the SEARHC Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska program.

Here’s wishing Wrangell well with the project. We can use more locally grown food in all Southeast Alaska communities.

By the way, Wrangell and Kake both recently launched new WISEFAMILIES Through Customary and Traditional Living health and wellness programs, which are modeled after a similar WISEFAMILIES program in Klukwan that’s been around for a couple of years. These programs feature culture camps where residents learn how to harvest and preserve traditional subsistence foods, learn Tlingít language, tell stories and learn other traditional activities such as carving and weaving. The more established program in Klukwan includes a community garden and a potato patch as part of its offerings, and Kake also is working on building a community garden. The three WISEFAMILIES programs are partnerships between the SEARHC WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Program and the local tribes in each community (Wrangell Cooperative Association, Organized Village of Kake and Chilkat Indian Village).

Click here to listen to the first KSTK-FM radio story about building a Wrangell community garden (note that link has streaming audio, so adjust your volume accordingly)

Click here to listen to the follow-up KSTK-FM radio story about the $5,000 start-up grant for the project (link also has streaming audio)

Click here to learn more about the Healthy Wrangell Coalition

• SEARHC, Cooperative Extension host free garden workshops

BobGormanSeedStarts

(Photo — Master gardener Bob Gorman shows off germinating seed starts during a free garden workshop in March. He will lead another workshop on July 8.)

SEARHC, Cooperative Extension host free garden workshops

Do you want to grow some of your own food this summer, so you can have more fresh food choices and eat healthier dinners? Then the third in a continuing series of garden workshops is for you.

The SEARHC Diabetes and Health Promotion programs have teamed up with master gardener Bob Gorman of the Sitka office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service to offer a series of four free garden workshops during the summer of 2009. The remaining workshops take place from 1:30 to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, July 8, and Wednesday, Sept. 9.

These classes will be hosted at the SEARHC Community Health Services Building third-floor conference room in Sitka, but other communities will join by video or audioconference from the SEARHC Juneau Administration Building Conference Room, the SEARHC Jessie Norma Jim Health Center in Angoon, the Haines Borough Library, the SEARHC Kake Health Center and the SEARHC Alicia Roberts Medical Center in Klawock.

“Even though summer hasn’t fully arrived, people still have a lot they can do in this year’s growing season,” said Maybelle Filler, SEARHC Diabetes Grant Coordinator. “Southeast Alaska is unique in its growing conditions, and it’s great that the SEARHC Diabetes and Health Promotion programs can partner with the Sitka office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service to provide information on growing things in our area.”

The first two workshops in the four-workshop series were March 11 and May 6. The topics for the two remaining workshops are:
* July 8 — Gathering and pest management.
* Sept. 9 — Late-winter plantings, trees and shrubs; house plants and indoor gardening; and winterizing your garden.

For more information about this series of free workshops, contact SEARHC Diabetes Grant Coordinator Maybelle Filler at 966-8739 or maybelle.filler@searhc.org. People who aren’t able to attend at one of the listed video or audeoconferencing sites, should contact Maybelle for other options. Maybelle also has extra copies of the handouts for those who miss any of the garden workshops.