• Lori Adams discusses everything she’s learned about growing radishes 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. 22, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)


By Lori Adams


All of the gardening books I have read say that growing radishes is SO easy, but I really have a hard time growing a good decent radish.

Every year I try, and every year I get a few good ones and a whole lot of bad ones — skinny tough roots with nice tops that immediately bolt. This year I actually grew some pretty decent radishes so I think I’m starting to get it figured out a little. I refuse to give up.

First of all, radishes are a root crop, so they don’t like a lot of fertilizer. In fact, the books pretty much say to just throw the seeds in any old dirt and they will grow. Nitrogen produces large luscious tops, not large plump roots, so this fall don’t put any nitrogen-rich material in the bed where you plan to plant radishes next year. Instead, bulk up the bed with sand and loose organic material such as beach/forest mulch (not much seaweed) and leaves.

Next spring, either mix some bonemeal into the soil or gather some starfish to bury about four inches below the surface and then plant your seeds directly on top of the bed. I recommend buying seeds for varieties that are shaped like carrots rather than the typical round ones because they produce more poundage per square foot. If you are using a seeder the seeds will be buried, but if you broadcast the seeds by hand you will need to rake them in a little or sprinkle some dirt over the top.

Be sure not to get the seeds too close together. I am sure this is one of my biggest problems. Radishes that are too close together just shoot up and bolt. Proper spacing is VERY important. About three inches of spacing is about right. You can hand plant each seed, but that is very, very tedious. That’s why I purchased a seeder. I am still learning how to use it, but I think it will be helpful to achieve proper spacing.

Radishes need cool weather to germinate and grow and we have that, but even though our winters are mild it doesn’t work to plant outdoors in February (believe me, I’ve tried). Some years you can plant in March, but mid-April is probably the best time to plant.

Be sure to cover the bed with floating row cover to protect the seedlings from frost and the dreaded root maggot flies. Radishes are from the brassica family and root maggot flies love them. It can be helpful if you do not grow radishes (or any other brassicas) in the same spot each year.

It is important to keep the surface of the bed damp while you are waiting for the seeds to germinate, and on dry days it may be necessary to water the bed more than once. After germination it is very important to water evenly. Large fluctuations in watering can cause radishes to split, bolt or get pithy.

If you have tried everything and your radishes still bolt, pull them up and throw them in the compost, but leave a few of them in the ground. They will flower and then grow seed pods. The green, tender pods can be eaten whole and they taste just like radishes.

One variety called the “Rat Tail Radish” (raphanus sativus) is grown specifically for its pods. It grows about six feet tall and produces hundreds of pods. The advantage of growing this variety is that it matures in the summer and likes warm weather, but unlike other varieties it needs rich, fertilized soil. I like to plant both types for radish taste all season long.

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


• Down To Earth u-pick garden opens for its second summer of providing fresh produce in Sitka

Sitka resident Lori Adams said the Down To Earth u-pick garden is open for its second summer of producing locally grown vegetables that Sitka residents can pick themselves.

Lori said she has lettuce and spinach available now, as well as rhubarb, white and red radishes, herbs, Egyptian walking onions, and a few plant starts. She also makes gift baskets. Lori is posting updates to the Sitka Local Foods Marketplace page about what in-season produce is available. (This page is available for other Sitka gardeners, commercial fishermen and other local food producers to use to let residents know what food is available.)

The Down To Earth u-pick garden is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays through Saturdays for the rest of the summer, and people can reach Lori at 738-2241 to see what produce is available and what’s about to come into season. The garden is located at 2103 Sawmill Creek Road (across from the Mormon church, look for the sign in the photo). Click here to learn more about the Down to Earth u-pick garden.

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• St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm hosts Saturday and Wednesday work parties throughout the summer

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There will be St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm work parties from 4:30-6 p.m. 5-6:30 p.m. every Wednesday afternoon and from 3-5 p.m. 2-4 p.m. every Saturday afternoon (when there aren’t Sitka Farmers Markets scheduled) throughout the summer. (PLEASE NOTE CORRECTED TIMES)

While most of the garden has been planted and veggies are growing, there is a lot of maintenance work needed to keep the gardens working at full capacity. Tasks include watering the plants (when needed), weeding, thinning out some crops so the remaining ones have more room to grow, and even making some early harvests of food and replanting some of the faster-growing veggies. There were several radishes ready during the last planting party in May, so volunteers got to add them to their salads. Yum. Besides the May 29 planting party photos above, there is a similar photo gallery on the Sitka Local Foods Network’s page on Shutterfly.

Food grown at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden is sold at the Sitka Farmers Markets. This summer the Sitka Farmers Markets take place on five alternate Saturdays starting on July 17 and running through Sept. 11. The St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden is located by the See House behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church on Lincoln Street.

For more information on the work parties, contact Lisa Sadleir-Hart at 747-5985 or 3akharts@acsalaska.net, or contact Doug Osborne at 747-3752 or doug_las@live.com.

• Sitka Local Foods Network selling seeds from Bountiful Gardens as fundraiser

Screenshot of Bountiful Gardens website

Screenshot of Bountiful Gardens website

Help support the Sitka Local Foods Network by purchasing organic seed varieties from Bountiful Gardens seed company that have been specially selected for our challenging climate by longtime Sitka gardener Jamie Chevalier.

There will be a serve-yourself seed rack at Old Harbor Books, with an honor-system donation jar for making change next to the seeds.

Among the seed varieties available will be cabbage, broccoli, beets, carrots, a variety of greens mixes, kale, lettuces, peas, radishes and summer squash. Seed supplies are limited for first come, first served.

Bountiful Gardens is an educational nonprofit organization that specializes in heirloom, untreated and open-pollinated varieties of seeds for sustainable agriculture. Bountiful Gardens also promotes the GROW BIOINTENSIVE sustainable mini-farming concept, which helps gardeners make small plots of land productive sources for agriculture.

For more information, contact Kerry MacLane at 752-0654.

• 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.