• It’s time to … learn how to build a simple raised garden bed

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While we’re waiting for spring to finally show up in Sitka, one thing gardeners can do to prepare for planting is build a simple raised garden bed. The pictures with this post feature members of the WISEGUYS men’s health group (Rick DeGroot, Kerry MacLane, Doug Osborne and his daughter, Darby, then 4) building a garden bed in May 2008 at Blatchley Community Garden in Sitka.

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First, you will need some untreated lumber (treated lumber has chemicals that can get into your food), with 2x12s being good for the frame. Your garden bed will probably be between 3-4 feet wide and 6-8 feet long, depending on your garden space and your lumber. Don’t go much wider than four feet, because you will want to be able to easily reach across the garden so you can plant and weed without falling into the bed. You can go longer than eight feet, but you might need to use more than one board to get that length. So cut your boards to your desired length and width.

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Next, lay out your lumber and nail or screw your boards together to form a box. Some people prefer screws over nails, because they don’t pull loose as easily as nails. But use what you have. Some people will add corner posts that can be punched into the ground.

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After you’ve built the frame, cover the ground with a bunch of old cardboard or newspapers. This will act as a barrier to help keep weeds from getting into your veggies.

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Now you can start filling your frame with soil. About halfway through filling the frame, you can add a layer of seaweed, compost or other soil amendments to add nutrients to your soil. Finish by adding top soil that you mix with some of your soil amendments.

 

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Once you have your raised garden bed built and full of soil, you can start planting (if you’re past your last-frost date, which tends to be mid-May in Sitka). Once you have your seeds planted or starts transplanted, you can water your garden bed.

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In Sitka it’s always a good idea to use row-cover over your garden, especially early in the season. This not only helps keep birds and other pests out of your garden, but the white fabric creates a mini-greenhouse effect that helps warm your soil so your seeds sprout sooner.

• UAF Cooperative Extension Service publication on raised bed gardening

• UAF Cooperative Extension Service publication Gardening In Southeast Alaska

• UAF Cooperative Extension Service publication Southeast Alaska Garden Varieties

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• St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm hosts first planting party of the season

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The first of three scheduled planting parties this month took place on Saturday, May 15, at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm communal garden (located by the See House behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church on Lincoln Street). In addition to the slideshow above (which also includes some photos from a SEARHC WISEGUYS men’s health group work party the same day at its plot in the Blatchley Community Garden), click here and scroll down for a similar slideshow on our Shutterfly site.

The volunteers planted a variety of plant starts, including many that were grown by local residents who signed contracts at the Let’s Grow Sitka garden show in March. Residents who have plant starts from their Let’s Grow Sitka contracts can drop them off at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm planting parties.

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.

Two more planting parties are planned, from 2-4 on Saturday, May 22 and 29. Tools and gloves will be provided. For more information on the planting parties, contact Lisa Sadleir-Hart at 747-5985 or 3akharts@acsalaska.net, or contact Doug Osborne at 747-3752 or doug_las@att.net.

• WISEGUYS men’s health group builds a community potato patch in Klukwan

Tubs of potatoes are loaded into the back of a pick-up truck after they were picked at the WISEGUYS potato patch in Klukwan

Tubs of potatoes are loaded into the back of a pick-up truck after they were picked at the WISEGUYS potato patch in Klukwan

While this site is about the Sitka Local Foods Network and projects in Sitka promoting local foods, occasionally we have news from a nearby community that’s worth reporting.

This summer, the new WISEGUYS men’s health group in Klukwan, a Tlingít community just north of Haines, decided to build a potato patch to raise potatoes and a few other vegetables for community members of the Chilkat Indian Village.

“The idea was to provide a sustainable subsistence based crop that could supply every house in Klukwan with potatoes every year,” said Mike Adams, a Community Health Practitioner at the SEARHC Klukwan Health Center. “This would also allow us to get together with the community kids, exercise and spent time together doing something for our community.”

Adams said the group started with a donated piece of land from the Chilkat Indian Village and began clearing it of debris and cleaning it up so the ground could be tilled for planting. The WISEGUYS received funding from the SEARHC WISEWOMAN Women’s Health Program so they could purchase the potato seed and fertilizer, and the SEARHC Behavioral Health Prevention Program (a program to educate youth about drug and alcohol abuse) bought a few hand tools.

Sixty hours were spent in clearing and ground preparations, as well as 20 hours of donated heavy equipment time from Chilkat Indian village and Hank Jacquot. This got us to a 100-foot-by-100-foot piece of usable ground. The preparations for planting then began. Many of us spent several days with three Roto-Tillers tilling the area, digging furrows for planting, adding organic fertilizers and ultimately planting 1,000 potato plants. Four varieties were planted — Kennebec, Tlingít, Yukon Gold and Chippawa’s.

The summer was unseasonably hot and there was a minimal water supply from a nearby creek. To supplement the creek, watering was done using the village fire truck to spray the patch with 750 gallons of water every three to five days.

“We harvested the potatoes on Sept. 25th and had many community members participate as well as all the kids from the Klukwan school and their teachers,” Adams said. “We grossed approximately 1,500 pounds of potatoes. Every child and teacher was sent home with a large bag of potatoes and every household in Klukwan was given potatoes. Due to the prolonged unseasonable hot weather all summer the final harvest amount was a bit lower then we’d hoped, but everyone was given potatoes and we all had a great time harvesting.”

Adams said the WISEGUYS received a positive note when they applied for a small grant from RurAL CAP in August to purchase supplies and equipment, and they recently found out they were awarded the grant. He said the group plans to build a sprinkler system in the potato patch next year.

“Thanks goes to everyone for all your support,” Adams said. “We look forward to another great year in 2010!”

Potato pickers gather for the potato-picking party on Sept. 25 at the WISEGUYS potato patch in Klukwan

Potato pickers gather for the potato-picking party on Sept. 25 at the WISEGUYS potato patch in Klukwan

Barren land before it was cleared to become the WISEGUYS potato patch in Klukwan

Barren land before it was cleared to become the WISEGUYS potato patch in Klukwan

Potato plants growing in the WISEGUYS potato patch in Klukwan

Potato plants growing in the WISEGUYS potato patch in Klukwan

Community members pick potatoes during a potato-picking party Sept. 25 at the WISEGUYS potato patch in Klukwan

Community members pick potatoes during a potato-picking party Sept. 25 at the WISEGUYS potato patch in Klukwan

Lani Hotch and Bev Klanott stand behind a big cabbage growing at the WISEGUYS potato patch in Klukwan. The cabbage weighed nearly 30 pounds when it was harvested.

Lani Hotch and Bev Klanott stand behind a big cabbage growing at the WISEGUYS potato patch in Klukwan. The cabbage weighed nearly 30 pounds when it was harvested.