• Lori Adams discusses weeding and feeding 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, July 11, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

GARDENING IN SITKA

By Lori Adams

WEED AND FEED

I consider July 15 to be the middle of the gardening season. By this time a large portion of the nutrients you added to your beds in the spring have either been used up or washed away by the rain, and the weeds are threatening to take over the garden. Weeds rob what little nutrients are left in your soil, block sunlight and harbor mold and mildew. It can really make a difference in the health and harvest of your garden if you invest some time in weeding and amending the soil at this time.

If you tilled your garden this spring like I did, and did not mulch with seaweed, you were probably amazed at the carpet of weeds that sprouted up. It is very important to take the time to sit down and pull every single one of them before they produce seeds. If you did till and mulch with seaweed, you probably saw a pronounced decrease in the amount of weeds in your garden.

Most weeds really aren’t a problem if you are diligent to pull them before they produce seed and are sure to get all the roots because once they are pulled they are gone forever. The only two weeds I have had real trouble with are horsetail and Japanese knotweed. These two weeds have invasive root systems that are just about impossible to eradicate. If you break them off, the broken end just grows multiple sprouts. A small piece laying on the ground can even take root.

Someone once told me that the best defense is a good offense … that these weeds like acidic, poor soil, so the first step is to add lime to the soil and make it as nutritious as possible. It helped, but was not a complete solution. I noticed that where I till they are drastically reduced. I think it is because the roots get chopped up into bits, the bits sprout, I pull on the sprouts and the entire bits come up.

The places were I can’t till or really work it over with a trowel (like the asparagus bed) have become infested with horsetail. This year I mulched the asparagus bed heavily with beach seaweed/leaf mulch and I noticed that the horsetail roots are starting to spread through the loose mulch. When I pulled on them I was able to pull up long root sections. In fact, the other weeds that were growing in the beach mulch pulled up easily. I plan on gathering lots of beach mulch this fall.

If you have a traditional bottomless box bed that has a lot of horsetail in it, it is probably coming up from the ground below.  You can’t till in the box so the only way to get rid of it is to completely empty the bed, lay two layers of landscaping cloth in the bottom and up around the OUTSIDE of the box a few inches and staple it to the sides of the box. Then sift the dirt to remove every scrap of root, and start over. If anyone reading this has a magic bullet for these weeds please let me know.

To add nutrients to your beds either fertilize with commercial fertilizer, spread cured compost an inch thick over every bed or mulch with seaweed. Even with this awful weather we’ve been having I think you will see a definite difference in the health of your garden if you weed and feed.

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 discusses everything she’s learned about planting carrots 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, May 2, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

GARDENING IN SITKA

By Lori Adams

EVERYTHING I’VE LEARNED ABOUT PLANTING CARROTS

The carrots that are grown in Sitka are the best I have ever tasted. They are so sweet that they are more like candy than a vegetable. They are probably the single most popular item grown at the Down To Earth U-Pick Garden.

Kids love to try to judge the size of the carrot by brushing aside the dirt and looking at the tops. I never get tired of the look of joy and amazement on their faces after they finally make their selection, pull one up and get a look at their prize.

Carrots grow in fairly poor soil, don’t take up a lot of space and provide a lot of poundage per square foot. To get your bed ready for carrots, be sure the soil is not heavily fertilized. Carrots do not like a lot of nitrogen. It makes them grow beautiful, luscious tops and small, hairy roots.

It’s best to amend the bed with a small amount of organic material, like broken down leaves from last fall and then, right before planting the seeds bury starfish or amend with purchased bone meal. It’s good to add sand to the soil if you can get it. Next you should sift out any gravel or sticks that could cause the carrots to become crooked or split. I grow only Nantes varieties because they are shorter with blunt ends and do not taper. This shape is best because most of my beds are not deep enough for long carrots and my soil is not sandy enough for skinny carrots to be pulled out without breaking.

I used to just sprinkle the seeds on top of the soil and lightly rake them in, but I had bare spots and spots that were too thick, so I recently purchased a seeder. It is an expensive tool, but it’s important that every square inch of my garden is utilized to its full potential. With a seeder you use fewer seeds, the spacing is more consistent and you can predict where your seedlings are going to grow, which makes it easier to weed. Carrots should be spaced about two inches apart.

Carrot seeds take a long time to germinate, so be sure to water regularly. Don’t let the surface of the soil dry out. Because the soil is bare of vegetation for so long, it is important to cover the entire bed with row cover to discourage cats from using it as a litter box. Another drawback of having bare soil for that amount of time is that weed seeds are given free range to sprout. My carrot bed always has the most weeds.

When the carrot seedlings are about four inches high it is a good idea to weed even though it seems harsh on the fragile seedlings. They recover from weeding just fine, so be sure to get in there and pull every tiny weed.

About mid to late July you should be able to start eating delicious, sweet carrots, and you will be so glad you planted them.

Next week’s column — Everything I’ve learned about planting peas.

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/

• Sitka Local Foods Network seeks lead gardener for St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm

St. Peter's Fellowship Farm sign

St. Peter's Fellowship Farm sign

The Sitka Local Foods Network is looking to contract with a lead gardener for the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden this spring and summer.

The person who’s selected will help manage the network’s activities at the community garden, lead the planting parties this spring and coordinate routine maintenance (watering, harvesting, weeding, etc.) at the garden this summer. Vegetables grown at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm are sold at the Sitka Farmers Markets, with some crops also being donated to charitable groups in need of fresh fruits and vegetables. St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm is a communal garden located behind the See House behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church, 611 Lincoln Street.

Details about the job duties and pay can be found on the Sitka Local Foods Network website (see PDF file below), http://www.sitkalocalfoodsnetwork.org/. If you are interested in the lead gardener contract, please submit a resume with two local gardening references and a letter of interest by Saturday, Feb. 5th, to 3akharts@acsalaska.net. For more information about the position, contact Lisa Sadleir-Hart at 747-5985 or Doug Osborne at 747-3752.

• St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm lead gardener job details (opens as PDF document)

• Come help put St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm to bed for the winter

St. Peter's Fellowship Farm sign

St. Peter's Fellowship Farm sign

It’s time to put St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm to rest for the fall and winter!

Join us from 1-3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 2, as the Sitka Local Foods Network hosts a “bedding-down party” at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm. We need help weeding, de-slugging, planting row cover crops and finishing up early fall harvesting.

All are welcome. Come by for 15 minutes or stay the entire time; it’s loads of fun and means we’ll have even more fertile soil for the 2011 growing season!

St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm is a communal garden located behind the See House at St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church on Lincoln Street (above Crescent Harbor). Vegetables from the garden are sold at the Sitka Farmers Markets during the summer, with some crops also going to local churches and other charities that provide food to local residents who need it.

For more information, call Lisa Sadleir-Hart at 747-5985.

• 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 hosts garden work party on Oct. 17

The Sitka Local Foods Network will host a “putting the garden to rest” work party from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17, at St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm.

The Oct. 17 work party involves a last bit of weeding, pulling out the annual plants for compost, putting mulch and protective coverings over the perennials, and getting all the tools inventoried and stored away for the winter. This will help make the garden easier to get ready for spring planting. Most of the vegetables grown at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm are sold at the Sitka Farmers Markets during the summer.

For more information about the work party, contact Lisa Sadleir-Hart at 747-5985 or Maybelle Filler at 738-1982.

To learn more about the Sitka Local Foods Network and how it supports community gardens and greenhouses, organizes the Sitka Farmers Market, supports traditional foods and provides education and encouragement to local gardeners, browse through this site.

• Sitka Farmers Market debriefing and work party on Wednesday

The Sitka Local Foods Network will host a Sitka Farmers Market debriefing and St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm work party on from 4:30-6 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 19, at the communal garden located behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church, 611 Lincoln St.

Ideas on how to improve the Sitka Farmers Markets will be discussed, and we’ll do some weeding and slug hunting. The person that catches the most slugs gets a rare, tasty, healthy prize. Volunteers are discouraged from bringing slugs from their own yards in an attempt to increase their odds of winning. This event is open to the public.

For more information, contact Linda Wilson at 747-3096 (nights and weekends).