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.

• State of Alaska updates safe seafood consumption guidelines


Eat all the salmon you want, but limit your amount of salmon shark, the Alaska Section of Epidemiology (part of the Division of Public Health) said when it recently updated its safe seafood consumption guidelines.

The Section of Epidemiology, in partnership with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, started testing Alaska seafood for toxic heavy metals, such as mercury, and other pollutants, such as pesticides, back in 2001. The main reason for the research was to determine safe levels of seafood consumption for pregnant women, nursing mothers, infants, and others. According to the Alaska Dispatch News, the research involved testing fish, and using human hair samples to see how the heavy metals moved from species to species.

The Division of Public Health Division recommends eating fish at least twice a week. Medical research shows salmon are high in omega 3 fatty acids, which are believed to improve cholesterol and fight heart disease. Many types of Alaska seafood also are part of the traditional Alaska Native diet.

The good news is Alaska’s five salmon varieties (chinook/king, sockeye/red, coho/silver, chum/keta/dog, and humpy/pink) all tested as safe for everybody, with no limitations for pregnant women or others, as did halibut smaller than 40 pounds and Alaska pollock (commonly found in fish sticks and fast food fishburgers). This year’s expanded testing increased the number of safe-for-all species to 23 from 11 in 2007 (see chart above for complete list).

However, there were some seafood species where the Office of Epidemiology suggests consumption limits. Alaskans should use a point system, where people can eat up to 12 points a week (the safe species get zero points), with points based on six-ounce portions. Halibut (40-80 pounds), lingcod (35-40 inches) and lake trout are worth three points. Halibut (80-140 pounds), lingcod (40-45 inches) and longnose skate are worth four points. Halibut (140-220 pounds) and yelloweye rockfish are worth six points. Halibut (220 pounds or larger), lingcod (45 inches or longer), salmon shark and spiny dogfish are worth 12 points and should only be eaten once per week.

• UAF Cooperative Extension Service publishes new sustainable gardening manual for Alaska

(The following is a press release from the University of Alaska Fairbanks news service)

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service has published a new comprehensive gardening manual.

“Sustainable Gardening: The Alaska Master Gardener Manual” was adapted for Alaska from an Oregon State University publication, “Sustainable Gardening: The Oregon-Washington Master Gardener Handbook.”

The 490-page manual, which sells for $40, is a basic gardening text. It also offers information on soils and fertilizers, propagation, berry crops, pruning, composting, flowers, greenhouses and season extenders, lawns, plant diseases, pesticides and integrated pest management. The manual is a good resource for home gardeners and also will be used as one component in Extension’s master gardener training programs.

Michele Hebert, Extension’s Tanana District agriculture and horticulture agent, was one of several people who contributed to the manual. She said gardeners need additional information to overcome the challenges and capitalize on the benefits of growing vegetables and flowers in the Far North.

The manual focuses on sustainable gardening practices, a holistic method for growing plants that is good for the environment, good for families and good for the community, said Hebert. “It takes a minimal input of labor, water, fertilizer and pesticides while building the soil into a healthy living system. A thoughtful balance is made between the resources used and the results gained.”

Other contributors to the manual include current and former Alaska Extension faculty Stephen Brown, Jeff Smeenk, Tom Jahns, Robert Gorman (of Sitka), Fred Sorensen, Julie Riley, Heidi Rader, Bob Wheeler, Peter Bierman and Jay Moore. Copies may be ordered through Extension’s toll-free line at 1-877-520-5211 or by clicking this link.

(The Alaska Public Radio Network ran this story about the book on the Tuesday, Sept. 7, Alaska News Nightly show.)