• Let’s Grow Sitka garden education event is Sunday, March 20

Mark your calendars, because the 2011 “Let’s Grow Sitka” gardening education event opens at noon and runs until 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 20, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall on Katlian Street. Celebrate the first day of spring and get ready to garden.

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. This year’s theme is “Adding edibles to your landscape — focus on fruit trees and berry bushes.”

Master Gardener Ed Buyarski of Ed’s Edible Landscaping in Juneau will be on hand to provide expertise during the show. Buyarski will give a special presentation on “Growing Fruit in Southeast Alaska” at 11 a.m. on March 20 at ANB Hall (just before the show opens).

Buyarski also will lead some free hands-on tree pruning workshops on Saturday, March 19, with the first tree pruning workshop at 10:30 a.m. at the trees outside Patty Bickar’s house, 310 Cascade (at the top of the hill). The tree pruning workshops will continue Saturday afternoon at the trees outside the home of Tory O’Connell, 608 Etolin Way (off Baranof Street downtown). Buyarski will provide instruction on how to properly prune the trees and bushes to encourage fruit production and maintain healthy growth. Pruning needs to be done before the trees bud, so NOW is the time to get it done. The tree pruning workshops are hosted by the Sitka Fruit Tree Initiative.

The Sitka Local Foods Network encourages people to share their knowledge by hosting a booth or posting an educational display about a specific garden topic. We especially want people with experience growing fruit trees to share their knowledge about growing apple, cherry or crabapple trees in Sitka; growing strawberries; growing rhubarb; growing unusual berry varieties that do well in our climate such as aronia, sea buckthorn, honeysuckle (fruiting), gooseberry, currant and elderberry; and how to legally transplant and cultivate wild berry bushes to your property.

In addition, you can learn about home greenhouses, how to prepare your soil, how to raise chickens and what to do with all those slugs. Buy seeds and plant starts. Swap ideas and tips. Come learn, share, and get ready to grow your garden. Learn about plans for the Sitka Farmers Markets this summer. Let’s Grow Sitka is organized by the Sitka Local Foods Network and is part of the Arti Gras Sitka Music and Arts Festival, which takes place March 6-20.

There still are a few FREE tables available for vendors, education and demonstrations. For more information about Let’s Grow Sitka or to reserve table space, contact Linda Wilson at lawilson87@hotmail.com or call her at 747-3096 (in the evenings or on weekends only). She also has information about the tree pruning workshops.

Master gardeners are encouraged to sign up to share their personal experience on how to create a successful garden in Sitka. Also, anyone with a garden-related product or service to sell is invited to participate. Some of the expected booths are from:

  • True Value Garden Center (type Sitka or 99835 into the store locator search bar) — garden supplies
  • White’s, Inc/Harry Race Pharmacy — garden books, magazines, accessories
  • Garden Ventures — lots of lovely primroses for sale along with garden supplies
  • Lori Adams — Down-To-Earth U-Pick garden promotion
  • Andrew Thoms — raising chickens and chicks for sale (Andrew suggests anybody wanting to buy chicks contact him as soon as possible so he can start incubating the eggs. He can be reached at 747-3747 or andrew@sitkawild.org.)
  • Eve Grutter — jams for sale, garden and raising chickens expertise to share
  • Sitka Local Foods Network — garden information and volunteer sign up
  • Sitka Farmers Market — tomato plant starts for sale, Farmers Market information
  • St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm — seed starter kits
  • Sitka Fruit Tree Initiative — information on growing your own fruit trees and berry bushes in Sitka
  • Sitka Fruit Tree Initiative — community fruit tree mapping project
  • Sitka Seed Savers — information on how to save your own garden seed, and a sign up to participate in an educational workshop on how to save vegetable seed and start a seed savers group in Sitka
  • Display and information handouts on growing rhubarb and its nutritional benefits
  • UAF Cooperative Extension Service — lots of free garden handouts
  • Ed Buyarski of Ed’s Edible Landscaping in Juneau — edible landscaping

• Let’s Grow Sitka event flier for March 20, 2011, at ANB Hall (please print and post around town)

• Local foods in the news this week

Many of Alaska’s newspapers had articles about local foods this week. Here is a sampling of some of the offerings.

Click here to read an article called “Beware of wild things in the blueberry patch” from the Capital City Weekly, about slugs, bugs and bears.

Click here to read an update on the Second Annual Juneau Farmers Market and Local Foods Festival from the Capital City Weekly. This event is from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 29, at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center.

Click here to read an item in Capital City Weekly about a tree planting and pruning workshop here in Sitka on Monday, Aug. 24, at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

Click here to read an article and photo package from Fran Durner’s “Talk Dirt To Me” gardening blog in the Anchorage Daily News about Dan Bilyeu of Nikiski, who grows and sells gourmet oyster mushrooms.

Click here to read a “Berries of the Kenai Peninsula” feature from the 2009 Peninsula Clarion Recreation and Tourist Guide.

It’s not from an Alaska publication, but the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service has a story (click here to read it) about new research into phytochemicals and other healthy plant compounds in potatoes.

• Alaska Division of Forestry hosts tree planting, pruning class Aug. 24

Sitka residents are invited to learn how to select the right tree for the right place — and how to plant, maintain and prune it — at an all-day class on Monday, Aug. 24, at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

The class is taught by urban forester and arborist Jim Flott. He has 25 years of experience in urban forestry and the nursery and landscape industry to offer to participants. He teaches tree workshops nationwide.

Chief among the topics the class will cover is how trees function as complex systems and how to use this information when selecting, siting, planting, pruning and maintaining landscape trees. A classroom presentation will be followed by a demonstration in the field and hands-on experience in pruning and planting.

The class is sponsored by the Alaska Division of Forestry Community Forestry Program and the Alaska Community Forest Council, with financial support from the U.S. Forest Service.

For more information, go to the Alaska Division of Forestry Web site at http://www.forestry.alaska.gov/community/, or the Kettleson Memorial Library, or contact Lisa Moore in Sitka at 747-5534 or moorelisa@aol.com. The registration fee is $35.