• Lori Adams discusses herbs she has grown 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 4 of the Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

GARDENING IN SITKA

By Lori Adams

HERBS I HAVE GROWN

Herbs are a fun addition to the garden and do not take up very much space. I do not have vast experience growing herbs, but each year I learn a little more and now have an area in the garden that is set aside exclusively for herbs. When I can’t start them from seeds I buy them as starts from Penny out at Garden Ventures.

CHIVES: Every Sitka garden should have a clump or two of chives, they are so easy to grow and seem to love our climate. They look beautiful, taste delicious and attract beneficial insects for pollination. Chives are perennial so don’t bother with seeds, just get a division from a friend or neighbor. Each year your clump will get bigger and bigger and soon you will be looking for someone to share your divisions.  They grow in any type of soil but grow much larger and healthier if mulched with compost spring and fall. Chives can be harvested at any time (they taste like mild sweet onion). Simply grab a handful and cut them off three inches above the ground. The flowers are edible but the stems they grow on are extremely tough and fibrous. If your clump starts to look ragged and  turns brown, just cut the entire thing down three inches above the ground and it will start to send out tender new blades.

FRENCH SORREL:  This is the first year I have grown sorrel and I am in LOVE with it. It is a hardy perennial that multiplies quickly with deep roots and has a decidedly lemon flavor.  It can be planted by seed, but I recommend you buy a start or get a division from someone that is growing it in their yard. Sorrel can be harvested at any time, simply cut the stems to harvest the leaves. Do not take more than a third of the leaves at any one time. I use sorrel to make a pesto that is delicious with fish. Do not let the plant flower, if it does just cut the stalk off and throw it away.

OREGANO:  I have had pretty good luck with oregano.  It is an annual here with only rare instances where it survives the winter.  I usually start mine from seed indoors and transplant out in April.  There are several different varieties which range from bitter to sweet.  To harvest just cut a stem close to the ground and harvest the whole sprig.  To cook with it snip the leaves off and throw the stem away.

DILL:  Dill does okay here, and on a good year can grow quite large.  I grow two types, one for flowers and one for foliage.  Start seeds indoors in March.  The seedlings can get tall and unmanageable but once transplanted in April seem to straighten up and grow strong.  To harvest foliage just cut the ferny sprigs free from the stalk, mince and use.  It’s great with fish and cooked carrots and cheese balls look beautiful covered with it.  The flowers are used for pickling and look beautiful in flower arrangements.  If the flowers are left on the plant to go to seed it is possible they’ll reseed themselves the following spring.

STEVIA:  Stevia is a curiously strong flavored sugar substitute that does well here most years (it didn’t do well this year for me).  Fresh out of the garden it is 15 times sweeter than sugar.  It can be started from seed indoors in March and transplanted outside in April with cover.  Harvest the leaves, mince and add to fruit salad or iced tea.  It tastes stronger by the end of the summer, almost bitter, and will not survive the winter.

MINT:  Mint is EASY to grow but is invasive so plant it in a pot that is lined with landscaping cloth.  You can start it from seed, but almost every garden in Sitka has a patch of mint so get a start from a friend or neighbor.  Although it will grow in any soil it will be more lush and healthy if you feed it with compost spring and fall.  To harvest just cut a sprig loose at ground level.  Use leaves fresh or dried and discard the stems.

PARSLEY:  Parsley does well in Sitka.  I grow both the flat and the curly varieties.  Start seeds indoors in March and transplant outdoors in April using 12-18 inch spacing.  The flat parsley is an excellent green to mix in salads that tastes a lot like strong celery.  The curly parsley is even stronger and is used mostly for garnish.  I have noticed that parsley does really well in partial to full shade, especially the curly variety.  In full sun the leaves are tightly curled and in partial shade they seem to loosen up and look more lush.  To harvest just snip the outside sprigs from the plant leaving the center to continue to grow.

BASIL:  My customers always ask for basil but I have had many challenges trying to grow it.  As a rule it does not do well outside, but I have had some survive in pots right next to the house.  The red variety seemed to be the hardiest.  It is just best to grow it indoors.  Start seeds in March and be sure to keep the seedlings warm.  Transplant to bigger pots as needed.  My biggest problem has been aphids.  The soap/water treatment did not take care of the problem but I found some very effective organic insecticidal soap that I am going to use from now on — really it is the difference between having basil or not, so I am using the spray.  Wait to harvest any basil until the plant has grown at least four sets of true leaves.  Then pinch out the tops just above the second set of leaves to encourage the plants to branch out.  There is just nothing like the aroma of fresh basil.  There is a big demand for it here in Sitka so if you have the room please consider growing it to sell at the Sitka Farmers Market.

SAGE:  Sage can survive for several years before it dies.  It is another one of the herbs that can run from bitter to sweet depending on variety.  A mature sage plant is sort of like a small shrub with woody branches.  I recommend buying a start rather than planting seeds.  In the spring when you see new growth, prune the plant to remove dead branches and encourage new tender growth for harvesting.

OTHER HERBS: I have grown rosemary and thyme and they have done okay. I know there are some creeping thymes that do well here for ground cover.  I hear people talking about the chervil they are growing but I have no experience with it at all. Cilantro grows great here for about a month and then all it wants to do is bolt, bolt, bolt.  You have to cut it down many times to keep it producing and then it has mosly small leaves. Comfrey does well but be sure you want it — it gets quite large, spreads easily and has deep, deep roots so it will probably be there forever.  Someone recently gave me a horseradish start so I guess it grows here too.  I hear it has a deep invasive root system and the roots are the part of the plant used during harvest so I think I will grow it in a pot.  If you have an herb that does well here that I did not mention please let me know.

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/

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• Lori Adams discusses everything she’s learned about growing rhubarb 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 4 of the Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

GARDENING IN SITKA

By Lori Adams

EVERYTHING I’VE LEARNED ABOUT GROWING RHUBARB

Rhubarb grows so well here that I’m surprised it’s not indigenous. I have always been amazed at how many customers come out to the Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden just to pick it because I figured everyone had a clump growing behind their house.

Rhubarb is a vegetable but it is used most often like a fruit in pies and desserts. It grows out of a tuberous root system. The stalks are very tart, tasting a lot like lemon, and the leaves are poisonous but can be composted.

The best way to started growing it is to get a clump of roots from another Sitka gardener any time after May 15 but before Sept. 15. Penny Brown out at Garden Ventures has sold rhubarb seeds in the past and has had good reports from customers who have planted them, but I have no experience with rhubarb seeds.

The best growing conditions for a rhubarb patch in Sitka are partial shade, acidic soil, plenty of moisture, and a thick layer of mulch and nitrogen-rich food spring and fall. If at any point a flower stalk comes up out of the center of the plant it should be removed to ensure that the plant uses all of its energy to grow edible stalks. The flower is totally useless unless you are planning to save seeds. Just use a knife and cut it off close to the base of the plant.

It would be best not to harvest any stalks from your patch the first year and then in the following years harvest as much as you like as long as you don’t take more than two-thirds of the stalks from each clump each time you pick. It’s good to leave at least one or two stalks on the plant at the end of the season to die naturally to ensure that the plant is photosynthesizing up until the very end.

Rhubarb is “ripe” at any size. It does not change in flavor as it matures, but large, old stalks can get “pithy” or tough if they aren’t utilized and should be removed and thrown away. If most of your stalks are pithy you are not watering your patch enough. DO NOT cut your stalks from the plant when harvesting. It’s best to pull them loose by twisting them while pulling down and out with one hand and supporting the rest of the plant with the other. New plants could pull completely out of the ground and clumps of stalks can come out all together if you are not careful.

The entire stalk can be chopped up for use — even the very bottom tip that is white is good. Rhubarb holds up really well in the freezer. Just measure out  enough for a pie and put it in a labeled Zip-Lock bag and throw it in the freezer. No blanching is necessary. When it’s thawed out it will be kind of freezer burnt and soggy looking, but it cooks up just beautifully.

Rhubarb grows well in a pot but after a few years the root system will grow too large for the pot and the plant will become less and less productive. It’s also more susceptible during freezing weather so it’s best to grow it right in the ground.

About every five years or so it is beneficial to divide the plant. Shove a space right down through the middle of the clump and cut it into four pieces. The tubers can be very large and go very deep but you can be quite aggressive while dividing. Rhubarb is very hardy and even a portion of a tuber can survive just fine.

Replant some of the clumps for yourself but be sure to share the others with your neighbors  It’s good to spread the love!

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/

• Let’s Grow Sitka garden education event is Sunday, March 11, at ANB Hall

Mark your calendars, because the 2012 “Let’s Grow Sitka” gardening education event opens at noon and runs until 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 11, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall on Katlian Street. Don’t forget to set your clocks to spring forward so you can get ready to grow.

This annual event brings together local garden supply stores, local gardeners, landscapers and anybody who is interested in learning how to grow food and/or flowers. Sitka Local Foods Network Vice President Linda Wilson, who is coordinating the event with SLFN Board Member Cathy Lieser, was interviewed during the Morning Edition show Thursday on KCAW-Raven Radio and she provided more details about this event (click the link to listen to the interview), which helps Sitka residents get excited about the upcoming garden season.

There will be a wide variety of individuals and businesses with booths for the event, with some booths providing gardening information geared toward and others selling gardening supplies. Lunch will be available for purchase. Here is a tentative list of some of those planning to host booths:

  • Linda Wilson, Sitka Farmers Market, Grow a Row for the Market
  • Cathy Lieser, Let’s Grow Sitka, Sitka Local Foods Network
  • Doug Osborne. Sitka Local Foods Network?
  • Johanna Willingham, Pacific H.S./Sitka Farmers Market backup.
  • Jud Kirkness, Sicka Waste compost project, Fruit tree map
  • Tom Hart, compost, NZ composter ?
  • Kerry MacLane. Pest management
  • Lisa Sadleir-Hart. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm
  • Laura Schmidt, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm/Seed swap & share
  • Maybelle Filler, ???
  • Stanley Schoening, Chickens, fig trees, UAF Cooperative Extension Service
  • Judy Johnstone, High Tunnel program
  • David Lendrum, Guest speaker 3:15, info on new/unusual varieties for Southeast Alaska
  • Jeren Schmidt, Sitka Spruce Catering, lunch for purchase
  • Robert Gorman, UAF Cooperative Extension Service, history of Experimental Station
  • Andrianna Natsoulas, Food Sovereignty
  • Tracy Gagnon, Sitka 4H Club
  • Eve Grutter, Chickens, produce
  • Adam Chinalski, Model greenhouse
  • Penny Brown, Garden Ventures – products for sale
  • Amanda Grearson, True Value – products for sale
  • Lowell Frank, Spenard Building Supply Garden Center ??
  • Michelle Putz, Locally grown environmental benefits?
  • Rick Peterson, Gardening 101 – easiest to grow, need to amend soil, etc…
  • Lori Adams, Down-to-Earth U-Pick Garden – garden promotion and information
  • Mike Tackaberry/Robin Grewe, White’s Inc. – products for sale
  • Mandy Summers, Pacific High School
  • Kelly Smitherman, National Park Service – garden at Bishops House, etc…
  • Lisa Teas, Sitka Farmers Market art debut
  • Florence Welsh, Forget-Me-Not Gardens, local garden booklet, possible plant starts
  • Hope Merritt, Gimbal Botanicals herbal teas – info on wild herbs and herbs to grow

Right after the three-hour Let’s Grow Sitka event ends, guest speaker Dave Lendrum of Juneau will speak at 3:15 p.m. on “New Vegetable Varieties, Small Fruits, and Ornamentals for Southeast Alaska.” Lendrum is a landscape designer who just finished a two-year term as president of the Southeast Alaska Master Gardener Association and with his landscape architect wife, Margaret Tharp, owns Landscape Alaska.

Dave’s life has evolved in partnership with the natural world. He grew up in California on an organic u-pick vegetable farm, learning horticulture from his parents and the 4H club. He did nursery work and continued his post-college adventure in Ecuador by starting a fresh market produce business. After being a city horticulturist at the Eugene (Ore.) Parks Department, Dave started his first nursery, Western Oregon Perennials. A few years later, he found himself in a high-temperature photosynthesis lab at Stanford. In the Pacific Northwest, Dave restored old estate gardens. When he heard Alaska’s call, he moved north to Elfin Cove. Dave and his wife started Landscape Alaska in Juneau 28 years ago. They design and build landscapes on every scale and have won numerous awards both locally and nationally. In addition, Dave is the landscape superintendent for the University of Alaska Southeast and the Southeast representative on the statewide invasive species organization (SNIPM).

For more information about Let’s Grow Sitka, contact Linda Wilson at 747-3096 (evenings, weekends) or lawilson87@hotmail.com, or Cathy Lieser at 978-2572. The two event fliers for this event are posted below as Adobe Acrobat files (PDF files).

• Main flier for 2012 Let’s Grow Sitka event

• Flier for Dave Lendrum presentation after Let’s Grow Sitka event ends

• Sitka Fruit Tree Initiative planting group to meet on Tuesday, Jan. 18

Apples are still on the tree in front of a house on Sawmill Creek Road in early December 2010.

Apples are still on the tree in front of a house on Sawmill Creek Road in early December 2010.

The Sitka Fruit Tree Initiative planting work group will meet from 7-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 18, at Harrigan Centennial Hall. All members of the public are welcome to attend.

The Sitka Fruit Tree Initiative hopes to plant 200 apple, crabapple or cherry trees in Sitka before the next Sitka Health Summit on Sept. 30-Oct. 1, 2011. The group just turned in an order of 40 “project” apple trees — 30 Williams Pride and 10 Pristine — with Garden Ventures. Penny Brown, owner of Garden Ventures, also has an order of 60 fruit trees coming for her regular supply.

A key agenda item will be updating the list of possible locations to plant the fruit trees. Several local residents already have expressed interest in purchasing trees to grow in their yards, and the group has worked with local businesses, churches and other landowners to see if they are interested in trees.

The Sitka Fruit Tree Initiative continues to host fundraising events where Sitka residents can buy shares of fruit trees for $100 (full), $50 (half) or $25 (quarter). They also can buy shares in fruit-producing berry bushes ($25). The fruit tree shares make nice alternative gifts, and purchasers receive a certificate to give. To learn more, contact Lisa Sadleir-Hart of the Sitka Local Foods Network at 747-5985. The gift information brochure is posted below as a PDF file.

• Sitka Fruit Tree Project gift information brochure

• Sitka Fruit Tree Initiative to meet on Monday, Dec. 13

Apples are still on the tree in front of a house on Sawmill Creek Road in early December 2010.

Apples are still on the tree in front of a house on Sawmill Creek Road in early December 2010.

Folks working on the Sitka Fruit Tree Initiative will meet at 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 13, at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

The Sitka Fruit Tree Initiative hopes to plant 200 apple, crabapple or cherry trees in Sitka before the next Sitka Health Summit on Sept. 30-Oct. 1, 2011. The group just turned in an order of 40 “project” apple trees — 30 Williams Pride and 10 Pristine — with Garden Ventures. Penny Brown, owner of Garden Ventures, also has an order of 60 fruit trees coming for her regular supply.

In the meantime, the Sitka Fruit Tree Initiative continues to host fundraising events where Sitka residents can buy shares of fruit trees for $100 (full), $50 (half) or $25 (quarter). They also can buy shares in fruit-producing berry bushes ($25). The fruit tree shares make nice alternative gifts this holiday season, and purchasers receive a certificate to place under the Christmas tree. To learn more, contact Lisa Sadleir-Hart of the Sitka Local Foods Network at 747-5985. The gift information brochure is posted below as a PDF file.

• Sitka Fruit Tree Project gift information brochure

• The new Sitka Local Foods Network e-newsletter (March 20)

Click here to read the current Sitka Local Foods Network e-newsletter courtesy of Linda Wilson. Don’t forget, you can sign up for the e-newsletter by typing your e-mail address in the “Join Our Mailing List” box on bottom of the left side of the page.

• Garden Ventures to host open house on Sunday, March 28

Information about a March 28 open house at the Garden Ventures booth during the 2010 Let's Grow Sitka! garden show

Information about a March 28 open house at the Garden Ventures booth during the 2010 Let's Grow Sitka! garden show

Penny Brown of Garden Ventures is inviting Sitka gardeners to her plant nursery for a spring open house from 3-9 p.m. on Sunday, March 28. Garden Ventures is located at 4103 Halibut Point Road and it also will be open its regular Sunday hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on March 28.

The open house will feature a presentation at 3 p.m. on new annuals and perennials for the 2010 season. There also will be a presentation at 5 p.m. about growing vegetables in Sitka. Class sizes are limited for both free presentations. To register for one or both classes, call Penny at 747-5329.

In addition to the two presentations, local artist Julie Stroemer will be on hand to display her watercolors of flowers grown locally here in Sitka. All who attend the open house are invited to explore Penny’s gardens filled with spring bulbs, perennials and flowering trees. Garden Ventures sells seeds, plant starts, bushes, shrubs and trees. Bare root fruit trees will arrive by the first week of April, and you can contact Penny for more details and varieties.