Sitka Local Foods Network to host informal garden club for Sitka gardeners on Sept. 2

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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 informal, unofficial Garden Club meeting from 7-9 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 2, at the home of Jennifer and Brinnen Carter, 113 Jamestown Drive. This is a chance for Sitka gardeners to share successes and discuss problems they may be having with their gardens. Appetizers will be provided.

Participants will decide the next location and club meeting date (so bring your calendars). If parking looks tight, please walk up the hill. For more information, contact Jennifer at 747-0520.

Fifth-grade students start their own garden at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School

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Five fifth-grade boys are growing a variety of crops this year after starting their own garden at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary School.

The five boys who started the garden — Kyan Scudero, Bridger Bird, Takeshi Handy, Samuel Jones, and Camden Young — were assisted by their classmates, teacher Jennifer Tulloh said. They will be in sixth grade at Blatchley Middle School this fall.

The boys let student-teacher Julie Jordan know they wanted to start a garden and, with Tulloh’s blessing, Jordan contacted Sitka Local Foods Network board member Jennifer Carter for technical assistance. Jordan designed the garden beds, and her husband, Karl Jordan, had the students in his Blatchley Middle School shop class build the raised garden beds.

“You know, this started as a project for my kids that weren’t interested in band but my whole class got involved in the project,” Tulloh said. “The boys got really into the planting and enjoyed meeting with Jennifer (Carter), who was so giving of her time and resources. They started and followed the garden from beginning to end and took great pride in it.”

“The young men wanted to start a vegetable garden for their school and leave it as a parting legacy before they moved on to middle school,” Carter said. “They learned how to prepare the soil, measure for proper spacing and start their own seedlings. They have planted rhubarb, strawberries, potatoes, peas, lettuce, carrots, kale, onions, and radishes.”

A slideshow of photos of the boys and their garden (taken by Jennifer Carter) can be found below.

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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

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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.

Second batch of classes set for 2016 Sitka Local Foods Network garden mentor program

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DSCN0387The second batch of classes (Classes Three and Four) 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.

Class Three is about garden maintenance, while Class Four is about early harvest. 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. There are six classes in the series, with Class Five about the final harvest and Class Six about preparing the garden for winter.

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 3 or Class 4 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 3: 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 2; CLASS 2: 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 21.
  • FRAN BARATKI (first-year family), 180 Price Street, No. 6 (purple trailer) — CLASS 3:  7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 31; CLASS 4: TBA.
  • A.J. BASTIAN (second-year family), 207 Brady St. — CLASS 3: TBA; CLASS 4: TBA.
  • REBECCA KUBACKI (second-year family), 1202 Halibut Point Rd. — CLASS 3: 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 1; CLASS 4: 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 22.
  • BREEZY (second-year family), 616 Sawmill Creek Rd. — CLASS 3: 5 p.m. on Monday, June 6; CLASS 4: 5 p.m. on Monday, June 27.

This 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.

First two classes set for 2016 Sitka Local Foods Network garden mentor program

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Rebecca Kubacki and her family after planting their garden bed in 2015.

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Breezy and her family after planting their garden bed in 2015.

The first two classes for the 2016 Sitka Local Foods Network garden mentor program have been 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. (Note: This post has been updated with our second first-year family and a new time on one of the other classes.)

For our first-year families, the first class will focus on site selection, garden preparation, building planter beds, simple vegetables and soil preparation. The second class will be about simple vegetables and planting. 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 1 and Class 2 that best fits your schedule.

The class schedule and location for the one first-year and three second-year families is:

  • Erin Matthes (first-year family), 716 Etolin Street — CLASS 1: 3 p.m. on Wednesday, April 27; CLASS 2: 3 p.m. on Monday, May 9.
  • Fran Baratki (first-year family), 180 Price Street, No. 6 (purple trailer) — CLASS 1:  Done; CLASS 2: 4:30 p.m. on Monday, May 9.
  • A.J. Bastian, 207 Brady St. — CLASS 1: Done; CLASS 2: 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 28.
  • Rebecca Kubacki, 1202 Halibut Point Rd. — CLASS 1: Done; CLASS 2: 5:30 p.m. on Monday, May 2.
  • Breezy, 616 Sawmill Creek Rd. — CLASS 1: 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 28; CLASS 2: 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 5.

This 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.

Sitka Local Foods Network seeks two coordinators for our garden mentoring education program

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IMG_0004The Sitka Local Foods Network is looking to contract with two Sitka residents to coordinate our garden mentoring education program. This year we’re splitting up the duties, so one of the coordinators will work with our returning families and the other will work with our new families (and be paid slightly more).

These contracts run from spring through fall 2016, and the coordinators will be in charge of developing curricula, teaching classes, obtaining supplies, and providing evaluation of the program. A full list of job duties and expectations can be found in the linked document at the bottom of this article.

Applicants should have at least 3-5 years of varied vegetable gardening experience, preferably in Southeast Alaska. They also should have 3-5 years of project coordination experience, as well as demonstrated communication, organizational, and teaching/mentoring skills.

100_8734BastianKidsThe garden mentoring project began in 2014 when two families of first-time gardeners were chosen to receive help planning and building a simple garden to grow four relatively easy plants for Sitka (kale, rhubarb, potatoes, lettuce). In 2015, the program was expanded to provide mentoring service to four new first-time gardening families, plus the two families from 2014 will receive a second year of mentoring as they learn to grow plants that are a bit more difficult for Sitka (carrots, peas, chard, green onions).

There are six classes with each family, and they usually are open to the public. In 2016, we expect three returning families and three new families (one of our first-year families from last year asked to repeat as a first-year family this year).

Applicants should submit a letter of interest and resume by 5 p.m. on Friday, April 8, to sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com. Please put “Garden Mentor Coordinator” in your email subject line. The contracts pay in three installments over the summer. Questions about the contracts can be directed to sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com.

• 2016 SLFN garden mentoring coordinator contract information