Sitka Ranger District, Sitka Tribe to harvest Tlingit community potato garden

(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 of the potato plant’s flowers.

The community is invited to help harvest the Sitka Ranger District/Sitka Tribe of Alaska Tlingit potato garden and learn scientific and cultural information about the unique crop at 3 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 25, at the USDA Forest Service Sitka Ranger District office, 2108 Halibut Point Road.

Leading Tlingit potato researcher Elizabeth Kunibe will join the group to present information on the biology, history, and cultural aspects Tlingit potatoes. Topics will include harvesting potatoes, learning to store potatoes for seed and for food, preparation for next year’s garden, and the cultural aspects of Tlingit potatoes and native gardening.

The Sitka Ranger District provided the sunny plot of land for the shared potato garden and tended the garden over the summer after volunteers from the Sitka Tribe’s Traditional Foods Program, the gardening class from Pacific High School, and others from the community planted the potatoes in April.

Community involvement is needed for the harvest. Participants should come prepared for the weather as all activities will occur outdoors. All of the attendees are asked to wear boots, gardening gloves, and bring hand trowels or shovels. Bringing buckets of kelp to incorporate into the soil after harvesting would be beneficial.

The potatoes will need to be dried and prepared for storage. Many of the potatoes harvested will be saved for next year’s seed potatoes, Depending on the size of the harvest, the group hopes to share the harvest among the volunteers and through the Sitka Tribe’s Traditional Foods Program and Social Services.

Tlingit potatoes (sometimes called Maria’s potatoes) have been present in Tlingit gardens for over 200 years. The potatoes originate from Mexico or Chile and were a trade item in Southeast Alaska in the early 1800s.

This work day and educational opportunity will be at the Sitka Ranger District office, located at 2108 Halibut Point Road. For more information, contact Michelle Putz at 907-747-2708 or mputz@fs.fed.us. For interviews and information to be used for publication, contactthe Tongass Public Affairs Officer Paul Robbins at 907-228-6201 or paulrobbins@fs.fed.us.

Advertisements

Date changed to May 26 for spring garden class about raising trees

There is one spring garden class left on this year’s schedule, but the date has been changed. The “Everything You Need To Know About Trees” class taught by Jud Kirkness now will take place from 6:30-8 p.m. on Friday, May 26, at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine Street, parking off Spruce Street).

The class is free, but donations to the Sitka Local Foods Network will be accepted.

For more information about the class, contact Jennifer Carter at 747-0520. Other classes may be added at a later date if we find volunteers to teach them.

Tlingít potato garden being readied for community of Sitka

(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 of the potato plant’s flowers.

The U.S. Forest Service-Sitka Ranger District and Sitka Tribe of Alaska have joined forces to help create an educational opportunity and traditional food source for community members.

The two groups will show how to grow Tlingít potatoes, and tell about their biology, history and cultural aspects.

The Sitka Ranger District is providing a plot of land to serve as the shared potato garden. The Sitka Tribe’s Traditional Foods Program and the gardening class from Pacific High School will assist on the project, but community involvement also is needed.

Attendees should bring boots, gardening gloves and shovels, and (if possible) five-gallon buckets of kelp to incorporate into the soil. The first work day and educational opportunity is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. on Friday, April 14, at the Sitka Ranger District office, 2108 Halibut Point Road.

Organizers said that members of the community who help tend the shared garden may receive more than gratitude as their reward.

“We hope to share the harvest among those helping out, and possibly share potatoes through the Sitka Tribe’s Traditional Foods Program and Social Services,” Sitka District Ranger Perry Edwards said. “This project will teach people how to grow and sustain a traditional food, while supporting the growing need for food security among Sitka families.”

K’únts’ — sometimes called Maria’s Potatoes — have been present in Tlingít gardens for more than 200 years. The potatoes originate from Mexico or Chile and were a trade item in Southeast Alaska in the early 1800s.

For more information, contact Michelle Putz at 747-2708 or mputz@fs.fed.us.

Sitka Local Foods Network education committee announces its 2017 spring garden classes

Want to learn how to grow your own food? Are you new to Sitka and want to learn what veggies grow in our town? The Sitka Local Foods Network education committee has a list of free 2017 spring garden classes that can help you learn what to do and when to do it so you have a healthy garden.

This spring, all of our classes except one will take place from 6:30-8 p.m. on Thursdays at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine Street, parking off Spruce Street). Each week will feature a different topic, and all classes are free (donations to the Sitka Local Foods Network will be accepted).

The class schedule is as follows:

  • Gardening in Sitka 101March 30, taught by Michelle Putz
  • Cottage Foods Business BasicsApril 6, 6-8 p.m., Room 106, University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus, taught by Sarah Lewis and Nina Vizcarrondo, in partnership with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service
  • Growing Potatoes in SitkaApril 13, taught by Kathy Kyle
  • Extending Your Garden SeasonApril 20, taught by Kerry MacLane
  • Container GardeningApril 27, taught by Joshua Andresky
  • Raising ChickensMay 4, taught by Joshua Andresky, Nina Vizcarrondo and Brinnen Carter
  • Everything You Need To Know About TreesFriday, May 19, taught by Jud Kirkness
  • Growing Garlic in SitkaDate TBA (toward the end of the summer), taught by Jennifer Carter

For more information about the classes, contact Jennifer Carter at 747-0520. Other classes may be added at a later date if we find volunteers to teach them.

Final classes set for 2016 Sitka Local Foods Network garden mentor program

img_1732

img_1993The final batch of classes (Class Six) for the 2016 Sitka Local Foods Network garden mentor program are being set for our two participating first-year families and our three returning second-year families. The classes will be similar at each location, and they are open to the public.

There were six classes in the series, with Class Six being about preparing the garden for the winter. Class One focused on site selection, garden preparation, building planter beds, simple vegetables and soil preparation, while Class Two was about simple vegetables and planting. Class Three was about garden maintenance, with Class Four about early harvest and Class Five about the final harvest.

Our first-year gardener families (Erin Mathes and Fran Baratki), learn how to grow four hardy crops for Sitka — kale, lettuce, potatoes and rhubarb. Our three returning families (A.J. Bastian, Rebecca Kubacki and Breezy) will be planting carrots, chard, green onions and peas this year. These four crops are slightly more difficult crops to grow that our first-year plantings of kale, lettuce, potatoes and rhubarb. Even though the crops for our second-year students are more difficult to grow, many gardeners in Sitka still have good results with these vegetables. These classes are essentially the same, so feel free to attend the class that best fits your schedule.

The class schedule and location for the one first-year and three second-year families is (some classes still need to be scheduled and will be announced later):

  • ERIN MATTHES (first-year family), 716 Etolin Street — CLASS 6: 9 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 25.
  • FRAN BARATKI (first-year family), 180 Price Street, No. 6 (purple trailer) — CLASS 6: TBA.
  • A.J. BASTIAN (second-year family), 207 Brady St. — CLASS 6: 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 28.
  • REBECCA KUBACKI (second-year family), 1202 Halibut Point Rd. — CLASS 6: 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 3.
  • BREEZY (second-year family), 616 Sawmill Creek Rd. — CLASS 6: TBA.

img_1911This is the third year of the garden mentor program, which provides one-to-one mentoring to families who are trying to garden for the first time. In order to reach more people, our participating families allow the classes to be made public. By teaching families the basics of gardening, we are helping them improve their family nutrition, extend their family food budget, and increase food security in Sitka.

Michelle Putz has been contracted to coordinate the program and design lesson plans. We also have about a half-dozen experienced Sitka gardeners who serve as mentors for the program. For more information, please contact Michelle at 747-2708.

Do you need to test your soil for a better garden? Sometimes you do

simple-plant-deficiency-guideHave you ever planted your garden and even though you’ve had plenty of sunny weather it just doesn’t seem to be growing the way it should? You might need to test your soil to see if you need to replenish some nutrients.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service has several publications and a video that can help you decide if you need to test your soil, and if yes, teach you how. Many gardeners test their soil at the end of the season, so they can amend their soil as needed to prepare for the next spring’s planting. But sometimes you might need to test during the growing season, which is what Sitka Local Foods Network Garden Mentor Program Coordinator Michelle Putz did last year when one of her student’s gardens wasn’t doing very well.

Soil testing is not always necessary,” Michelle said. “If you have several hours of direct sun and your garden is growing beautifully, then you may not need to test your soil. If you have sun but your garden is not doing so well, or if you have brand new soil, it might be worth testing the soil.

“One of our Garden Mentor families in 2015 grew beautiful but tiny plants that were struggling to get bigger, she added. “A simple soil test showed that their soil was low in nitrogen and needed a little acid. Once we added coffee grounds (for acid) and blood meal (for nitrogen), the plants grew substantially. Had we realized that our starting soil was so basic (not acidic enough) and nutrient poor, we could have made adjustments before the growing season and had a much more productive garden.”

In Southeast Alaska, our rain tends to wash a lot of the nutrients out of the soil. This is why it’s almost a requirement for gardeners to amend their soil with seaweed, compost, coffee grounds and other items to replenish the missing nutrients. It also helps to rotate your crops from one garden plot to the next, since different plants draw different nutrients as they grow (for example, potatoes use a lot of nitrogen while tomatoes use a lot of potassium).

To learn more about soil-testing, watch the video at the top of this story and read the three attached files below. The attached files and video will show you how to take a soil sample and how to send it to a lab for testing.

• Soil and Fertilizer Management for Healthy Gardens (UAF Cooperative Extension Service publication, HGA-0338)

• Factors to Consider in Selecting a Soil-Testing Laboratory (UAF Cooperative Extension Service publication, FGV-00045)

• Soil Sampling (UAF Cooperative Extension Service publication, FGV-00044)

Sitka Local Foods Network to launch informal garden club for Sitka gardeners on July 15

GreensLowTunnelAtStPeters

Do you grow vegetables or fruit or want to? Would you like to meet and learn from other gardeners in Sitka and visit their gardens?

Then come to Sitka Local Foods Network’s first informal, unofficial Garden Club meeting from 7-9 p.m. on Friday, July 15, at 131 Shelikof Way. This is a chance for Sitka gardeners to share successes and discuss problems they may be having with their gardens.

Perry Edwards and Michelle Putz will share their garden and homemade wine (if you are older than 21). Participants will decide the next location and club meeting date (so bring your calendars). If parking looks tight, please walk up from SeaMart. For more information, contact Michelle at 747-2708.