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“Plant a row” for wildlife

During the growing season life is abundant across our landscape. Birds, bees, moose, ermines, foxes, voles and insects of all kinds can be found shacking up or passing through for hydration and nutrition.

Once we stopped removing all the plant material at the end of the growing season, it allowed the living roots from the harvested crop to finished their legacy and exchanges within the soil economy. This process vastly improved our soil but it also provided the necessities for life to return to the land…even in winter.

There is as much life on our landscape during the days governed by King Winter as there is in the days engrossed in the midnight sun. With the exception of the warm weather insects we still have life here- in the bitter cold.

Plant a row for wildlife this coming season. Design a space where flowers are allowed to go to seed so that our friends of the air can sustain. Allow the spent plant material of the harvest to give shelter to those that need a little more protection. The amount of joy that this has brought to my heart during the winter months is immeasurable. I hope that these small actions will bring you some happiness as well.

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Are you ready to plant???

We have been waiting so eagerly to put our hands in the soil and grow…whether you started your plants from seed 😉 , purchased them from an Alaskan farm, garden center, Master Gardener plant sale or the Palmer FFA – plants need to be hardened off to your landscape prior to being transplanting.

What does this mean and why? For those plants grown indoors under lights or glazing (greenhouse coverings) they have enjoyed a lot of cotteling. Including but not limited too: constant consistent temperatures, timely watering, frequent feedings, reduced UV light exposure, minimal wind, limited pest pressure and lack of exposure to the soil ecosystem.

All of these protective measure have grown strong healthy plants but can they withstand the forces of nature on your landscape? If we take our juvenile plants and place them directly into the outdoor environment without a hardening off period, there may be some rather shocking impacts.

Suddenly plants that have adapted to a protective environment are now subjected to fierce drying winds, massive fluctuations in temperature, intense UV exposure, “pest” pressure and cooler soil temperatures. A period of gradual transition to their new home will allow for adaptation to occur so that they may thrive in nature.

Excluding the warm loving plants that may suffer tissue damage below 45F (tomatoes, peppers, squash, pumpkins, corn, dahlias, sunflowers, zinnias and others) many cultivated varieties can handle cooler temperatures. What they cannot handle is direct and immediate exposure to UV rays. Sunburn and sunscald are the most common concerns that will come up during this time of year.

Taking a broad focus to include as many plants as possible:

In a protective location out of the wind and direct light- away from pets, littles and wild animals

Start hardening off with time: setting plants out plants each day for a period of time (start with one hour and increase every day over a 10 day period)

Use directional hardening off: start in the North, move to the East, then to the West and finally the South

Increase watering and fertility: we want to give our plants the best chance at survival and the capacity to fend off “pests” and disease. Restricting food and water (although are adaptations in the wild) decreases a plants health and vitality. We are growing in managed ecologies with a goal of food production…our actions should reflect that.

Once your plants are in their new homes you may find that they are not looking so well. This is a period of adjustment as plants are taken from the current vessel that lacks all the biodiversity that living soil has to offer. Once transplanted, new relationships within the soil will begin to form with millions of microorganisms, fungi, bacteria, nematodes and protozoa. Your plant is now the new kid at school and it will take time for the root system to become part of an even bigger system. Help your plants through this phase with light feedings, warm water, staking and of course wind protection.

Once our trees fully leaf, the temperatures are consistently in the 60Fs and soil temperatures are above 50F…we will begin to see a massive influx of insects who are hungry! Will your plants be strong and healthy enough to fend off this initial pressure? They will because you have hardened them off 🙂

 

 

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“I don’t feel well” said the plant…

I am a doer…I go all the time. From homeschooling, to running a business to teaching and growing things- I am on the move constantly. There are times when I go too hard and I start to neglect the basic needs of my body. I may not drink enough water, I may choose nutrition that is not inline with my health or I might indulge a bit too much.

My actions then accumulate into a feeling of being run down, overtired, my digestion may be altered and suddenly I’ve opened myself up to illness. I am much more susceptible to the ills that ail during these times of stress and lack of care than when I am full of rest, proper hydration and nutrition.

We can look at plants in the same way.

When our plants are too cold, too wet, too hot, too dry, when they lack fertility, when they lack nutrients, when they cannot form the life sustaining relationships in living soil…they too are open to ailments such as pests, disease, fungal infections and so forth.

Strong  and healthy plants that have their needs met (food, air, shelter and water) are going to be able to withstand the environmental factors that come their way. They are going to have the energy and strength to fend off the parts of the ecosystem designed for decomposition.

Changing my mindset from “I have a black thumb” or “Mother Nature hates me” when infestations and disease arrive- to a mindset of “my plants’ needs are not being addressed” and “what can I do to support my plants” was a paradigm shift that allowed me to understand that pests and disease are really a symptom of an underlying factor. Addressing the cause versus addressing the symptom (as Elliot Coleman so eloquently outlined as one of the founders of organic gardening).

Holistic gardening-

Giving our plants the best chance at fulfilling their legacy. This means that we are consistently observing and interacting with our plants to ensure that their needs are met.

Hardening off plants to the elements- sun, temperature, soil and wind. These are important for plants as they transition from their temporary home to their full time residence. A slow transition to the intense Alaskan sun, fierce winds, cooler soil, cold morning and warm afternoons. A period of adjustment to acclimate.

Ensuring balanced fertility by feeding your plants. Sticking with a broad focus here, plants need a myriad of nutrients to live their best life. They all need to right amount of nutrients. Excesses in fertilizer can cause other deficiencies, planting in soil too cool can lock up nutrients and deficiencies can cause excesses. Backing off the extreme nitrogen loads to reduce the amount of “pests” being invited to our plants is really key to success. Mild fertility and amendments that are balanced to fulfill all the needs of a plant.

Compacted soil prevents air, water, nutrients and soil life to move freely. Roots are restricted from making connections when space is restricted. Planting too early in heavy wet soils and walking on permanent growing spaces are just a few ways soil can become impacted.

The right amount of water…too much water can be just as damaging as too little water. Think of all the activity that goes on underground. Healthy soil is a vast ocean of activity where air and water are key elements within the ecosystem. Many plants require 1″ of water per week increasing by 1/2″ of water per every 10 degree rise in temperature.

Wind can be very beneficial for pollination, transfer of nutrients and seed broadcasting. Wind is also very destructive to plants with stems, flowers and fruits breaking or falling off, but wind is extremely drying. Before/after wind events, plants should be watered deeply to help rehydrate and heal.

Learning to speak the language of plants as they are constantly communicating to let us know if they are well or unwell. Droopy, curly, changing colors, falling over, drying out, splitting, dropping flowers, dropping fruit, rotten ends and pests/fungal infections are all ways in which our plants let us know “I am not feeling well”.

 

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What does this even mean “as soon as the soil can be worked”???

As the snow melts and the ground thaws, many folks are ready to transplant, to seed and start the growing. I have the itch myself after what has seemed like a hard Alaskan winter.

Nature is giving hints that our time is approaching. Flowering bulbs are pushing through the soil with some even blooming in warm microclimates. Certain perennials are beginning to put on their new growth. Fruiting trees are are showing leaf buds and insects are making their first appearances.

With all these signs of life and the desire to awaken our growing spaces…there are still many other indications that we need to have some patience.

Nightime temperatures are still in the “killing frost” zone for many cultivated plants. Areas of the soil are still frozen below 6″. Soil life is just beginning to emerge and make new economies for trading resources.

We are still covered in feet of snow albeit melting quickly. Soil is nature’s water catchment…soil needs time to allow the water to infiltrate and turn mud into a thriving ecosystem to support plants.

So what is “as soon as the soil can be worked”? There are specific plant scenarios but we will stick with a broad focus to include as many plants as possible.

Soil temperatures around 50F – not only is this nearing the optimal temperature for soil life but it is a great indicator that those seeds that appreciate a cooler soil temperature (peas, cilantro, spinach and others) will germinate more evenly and timely. If we seed too early there is potential that the soil is too cold for germination. Seeds will sprout with the soil temperature and soil moisture nurture life.

Soil is dry (ish) you can squeeze a ball and it is not dripping wet. If we seed too early…for those seeds that do not have a hard coat (carrots, lettuce, arugula) they can rot with too much soil moisture. If we transplant too early into heavy mud, roots can rot as well. Soil life, air, water and nutrients need to move freely throughout the soil. Think “would I want to grow in this soil”?

Nightime temperatures consistently in the 40s for cold hardy plants (caution here…too cold and broccoli will button instead of crown). Our current temperatures are perfect for perennials and biennials to emerge from their sleep. They are extremely hardy and are prepared for what lies ahead.

As for the warm loving plants (squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, dahlias, zinnias, eggplants and others) many will suffer tissue damage at 45F. It is truly best to wait until night time temperatures are in the upper 50s to transplant. This may be the first week of June for Southcentral.

Many folks may be new to gardening or new to Alaska. I will say as my 15th Spring that anything goes…it is the wild! When in doubt look to when the trees leaf- around the second or third week in May. This is an excellent time to grow!

 

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Farmhouse Kitchen Recipe: Daily Bread

8 ingredients

From the farm
  • 1 Egg yolk
Yeasts and Salts
  • 1 1/2 tbsp 2 packages active dry yeast or (if you use bulk yeast
  • 6 cups All-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 4 tbsp Sugar
Fats
  • 1/3 cup Olive oil
Water
  • 110F  Degree 2 cups warm water
  • 2 tsp Water
    1. In your mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water. Add 1 tablespoon sugar; let stand for 5 minutes until it becomes bubbly/foamy. Add the oil, salt, remaining warm water and sugar and 4 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.

    2. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place back into bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
    3. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide into 8 pieces or two large pieces for bread
    4. Shape each into a ball and than flatten just a bit to spread out a little. Place 2 in. apart on greased baking sheets.
    5. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Beat egg yolk and a splash of cold water; brush over rolls with a pastry brush.
    6. With a sharp knife (I like non stick knives), cut a 1/4-in.-deep cross on tops of rolls
    7. Bake at 400° for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from baking sheet to wire racks to cool.
    Recipe Notes

    After brushing bread with yolk (I prefer yolk for the golden hue it gives the bread), I sprinkle artisan cheese, roasted sesame seeds or cayenne pepper before baking.

    Store in a covered container for up to 1 week or in the refrigerator for 10 days.

    I originally found the basic roll recipe on Pinterest

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Seeds and Soil

I cannot believe we are coming up on our 6th year! We have grown with over 600 Alaskans (and some lower 48 friends).

If you know someone that would benefit from our classes but may not have the means, please email me directly: seedsandsoilorganics@gmail.com. We do cap the number of participants in our classes and workshops. I provide “support” throughout the growing seasons to come and we have to ensure a full commitment to each of our class participants.

Our online classes are hosted on a teaching platform (non-zoom). Classes are about 2 hours long with the exception of the seed classes in which a recorded video lesson is the precursor. Each and every class is recorded and all presentation materials including the video are sent out within 24 hours of the event.

As I start designing the 2022 classes, workshops and coursework…I am reflecting on the old, ancient, ancestral, intuitive and natural growing methods that have been past down for thousands of years. Our upcoming classes will be vested in the ways of the old coupled with the lessons of an ever shifting and living growing space.

Below please find a deeper summary of the upcoming classes and some exciting events that are sure to please.

Our first class starts in September 2021- Home to Harvest. Join us as we share our processes on long term cold storage, our in home root cellar, how we preserve our flowers, vegetables and herbs for winter use. Everyone wants to know how we are cooking our harvested carrots in January- join us and learn how.

We have added Advanced Seed Starting to our Seven class series! We provide the seeds- 24 seed types including perennial edibles, vegetables, flowers and herbs.

The Spring Seed Starting class includes 18 types of seeds (supplying all the needs of the sub arctic garden). We add new varieties every year. We share everything we know about “how to grow, where to grow and how to save the seed”.

We have added Prepare for Planting as a core course as these are the most asked questions/answers/mistakes we have ever encountered. So much success can be gained in growing in the far North with proper bed preparation and balanced soil.

Of course Permaculture design (must), soil and soil amendments will lead the charge following Advanced Seed Starting.

We have an entire new series for 2022! “The Permaculture Series” will be defined and outlined by the end of July. Thank you to everyone who has emailed showing their interest.

We have some amazing guests to further our knowledge on an array of topics including animal husbandry, Advanced Permaculture design, mushroom cultivation and so much more.

Our hearts are full of gratitude. Thank you all for such an amazing journey…through seed and soil.

Here is the link for registration: https://seedsandsoilorganics.com/product-category/dec-2021-2022-classes/