• Lori Adams discusses transplanting time 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, April 25, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

GARDENING IN SITKA

By Lori Adams

TRANSPLANTING TIME

Most vegetable transplant starts can not handle any frost, so it is important to know the average frost-free date in your area. In Sitka we can get frost right up to about May 15, but you can transplant out a full month earlier if you utilize a product called a “floating row cover.”

Our local stores carry several brands of row cover in varying sizes. It is basically a light-spun polyester type of fabric through which water and light can penetrate. A floating row cover protects plants from frost and raises the temperature of the bed approximately 10 degrees. It can lie directly on the plants or be held aloft with hoops, but it needs to be weighted down around the edges to keep it from blowing away.  Here at the Down To Earth U-Pick Garden, I use a seine net to hold it down. But you can use rocks or milk jugs full of water if you don’t have netting.

It would be best to leave this cover on your beds all season, but I take mine off about July 15 or when the vegetables are ready to pick, whichever comes first.

As a general rule I transplant the following vegetables outdoors in mid-April —  broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, Swiss chard, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, kohlrabi, kale and beets.  And I sow these seeds directly into the soil — radishes, potatoes, turnips, carrots and peas. In May, I transplant — celery, leeks, fennel, sunflowers, herbs, zucchini, cucumbers and tomatoes; and I sow beans directly into the soil.

The first step in the transplanting process is to “harden off” your starts.  This is a very tedious task which I hate, but it really is a must. Hardening off is a term used to describe the process of gradually getting the transplants used to the outside environment. During this process you carry your flats of transplants outdoors into a sunny sheltered area for several hours and then bring them back inside. Each day you extend the time they spend outdoors until they are ready to go out permanently. This reduces the shock to the baby vegetables.

When transplanting make a shallow dish-shaped depression in the bed and then dig a hole for the start right in the center. Carefully remove the start from its pot without handling the fragile stem (the plant can grow another leaf but it can’t grow another stem). Put it in the hole and lightly firm the soil around it. The shallow depression should remain to help catch water. You can bury most plants up to their first true leaves, but be sure not to cover the growing center of the plant with soil. Water lightly about three times that first day and at least once a day for the next two days if it doesn’t rain. Watering with a vitamin B solution is said to help starts deal with this stressful process. In a week or so your transplants should recover from the move and start showing signs of growth.

Next week’s column — Everything I know about carrots.

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 plants some seeds in her 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 3 of the Wednesday, March 21, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

GARDENING IN SITKA

By Lori Adams

PLANTING SEEDS

Most vegetable seeds can be planted directly outdoors after May 10, but if you have a sunny window you can get a tremendous head start by planting seeds indoors and then transplanting them outside later.

In February, I start celery, tomatoes and leeks. In March, I start broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kohlrabi, kale, fennel, herbs, lettuce, spinach, chard, brussel’s sprouts. In April, I start squash and cucumbers. The only things I don’t start indoors are carrots, radishes, peas, beans, beets, turnips, potatoes which I plant in April and garlic which I plant in October. Anyone can have some luck starting seeds, but you can really improve your success rate by paying attention to details.

The killers for indoor seedlings are poor germination and “damping off”(a disease caused by fungi that results in wilting and death). To prevent these things from happening to you, buy high quality seeds packaged for 2012 and sterile potting soil. I have tried to use soil from my garden to save money and it has NEVER worked. You do not want to scrimp on these two things.

Fill the containers of your choice with dampened potting soil and then set them in a shallow tray that will hold water. Be sure the pots are all the same height and the soil is level with the tops of the containers. The soil should just be damp, not waterlogged. Place the trays in any warm spot (60-80 degrees F), cover them with plastic to reduce evaporation and check on them every day.

Once you see some seedlings emerging you can uncover the trays and place the trays in the sun. Reduce the temperature to 40-60 degrees F to prevent them from getting tall and scraggly. From this point on you should only water from the bottom by pouring water in the tray using a watering can rather than a hose with a spray nozzle.

Place an oscillating fan so that it blows gently over the level surface of the soil causing the seedlings to wiggle in the breeze.  Good airflow reduces disease problems and wiggling makes the stems stronger. If you don’t have a fan, brush your hand across the tops of the seedlings twice a day.

When the seedlings start to lean toward the sun you can flip the trays around once in awhile to encourage them to grow as straight as possible. You can plan on transplanting these seedlings outside mid April-mid May. Once outside they will need to be protected with a floating row cover to survive any late freezes.

If you think it might be June before your new beds are ready, just put everything off a month.  Better late than not at all.  Just be sure that your seedlings don’t get too old, they are best when young and fresh!

Next week’s column will focus on how to find good gardening advice.

Brought to you by Down to Earth U-pick Garden

Located at 2103 Sawmill Creed Road

Open June-August / Mon-Sat 11:00-6:00

747-6108 or 738-2241

• Cooperative Extension Service hosts free class on planting trees, shrubs and transplants on May 4

Bob Gorman of the Sitka office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service will lead a free class on planting trees, shrubs and transplants from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 4, in Room 106 of the University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka Campus.

Cooperative Extension publications related to the topic will be available. Subjects covered include selecting the right plant for the right place; site preparation; water drainage; soil amending; purchasing, transporting and storing plant materials; handling plants; and post-planting care.

There is no charge for the class which is open to all interested people. The class is offered as a public service by UAS Sitka and Cooperative Extension. For more information, contact UAF Cooperative Extension Service Resource Development Agent Bob Gorman at 747-9413 or by e-mail at rfgorman@alaska.edu.

• UAF Cooperative Extension Service’s Bob Gorman to teach series of free classes on gardening in Sitka

Bob Gorman of the Sitka office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service shows some germinating seed starts during a free garden workshop on March 11, 2009.

Bob Gorman of the Sitka office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service shows some germinating seed starts during a free garden workshop on March 11, 2009.

Bob Gorman of the Sitka office of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service will lead several free gardening classes starting this week and running through April.

Gorman will lead two classes this week — Wednesday night (March 2) on fruit trees and berry bushes and Thursday night (March 3) on basic food gardening. He also will lead four more classes about fruit trees and berry bushes on March 16, April 6, April 8 and April 27 (this last date may be rescheduled). All classes take place in Room 106 at the University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka Campus.

The “Tree Fruits and Berry Bushes for Sitka” class at 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 2, will cover recommended fruit trees and berries for Sitka, site selection and site preparation considerations. Basic tree fruit and berry bush cultivation will be discussed. An update on spruce needle aphid detection and control will be included.

The “Basic Food Gardening” class at 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 3, covers making soil from locally available products, container gardening, establishing and tilling a garden plot, variety and seed selection, starting transplants indoors, direct seeding, frost-free dates, extending the growing season and garden pest prevention. UAF Cooperative Extension Service publications will be available.

The topics for the final four classes are:

  • Wednesday, March 16 (6:30-8:30 p.m.) — Growing Berry Bushes in Sitka
  • Wednesday, April 6 (6:30-8:30 p.m.) — Managing Garden Soils
  • Friday, April 8 (6-8 p.m.) — Prune It Now
  • Wednesday, April 27 (6:30-8:30 p.m.) — Planting Trees, Shrubs and Transplants (class may be rescheduled).

Bob Gorman is the Sitka District Extension Agent for the UAF Cooperative Extension Service and teaches the Alaska Master Gardener certification course to garden volunteers in Sitka (the course features 40 hours of horticulture classes and 40 hours of volunteer work in local garden projects). Before moving to Alaska in 1991, Gorman worked three years in berry crop research and four years in commercial fruit tree production.

To learn more about these classes, call the UAF Cooperative Extension Service office in Sitka at 747-9440 or 747-9413, or just show up since the classes are free.