Posted on Leave a comment

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 🙂

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

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!

 

Posted on Leave a comment

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/

Posted on Leave a comment

What seeds are we starting this week?

Artichokes!

These beauties really take the stage as part of an edible landscaping or in the Alaska home garden.

Artichokes grow slowly…and require a cold period (vernalization) to influence this perennial into growing a heart as an annual. There are many options on how and when the cold processing can be completed. Here is our process:

We start our Artichokes in 4″ pots and keep the temperature 60F-70F. It can take up to three weeks for germination.

We pot up as these giants slowly grow over the next three months. Around the end of April or beginning of May we set the starts outside when the temperatures are above 34F and below 50F for about 2-3 weeks.

Once all danger of a killing frost has passed, we transplant outside. Design and bed preparation is key as these show stoppers need a minimum of 4′ sq. ft.

Alaska sown- Alaska grown

Posted on Leave a comment

What seeds are we starting this week?

Asparagus!

Purchasing crowns is another alternative to starting from seed. Crowns are about two years older and will be at a harvestable size earlier.

Starting from seed does require more time and a delicate transplanting hand. Seeds can take up to 21 days for germination so patience is a virtue.

Asparagus seeds should be started in 4″ pots and sown at approximately 1/8″ deep. Avoiding multiple “potting ups” is one of the keys to success.

These beautiful perennial edibles can supply food for up to twenty years! Bed preparation, soil fertility and nutrition will certainly pay off immeasurably.

Female asparagus typically produce less than their male counterparts but produce tiny flowers that the chubbiest Bombus occidentalis (a vulnerable species of Bumble Bee) will attempt to squeeze themselves into. The striking red berries on the wispy fronds are quite a sight to see in the fall.

We have had enormous interest in purchasing our divided Spring crowns…our household has yet to come to an agreement as the mouth watering flavor of our Asparagus is priceless (I am being humble here).

Another inquiry is if we have Asparagus seeds available: not yet…we are putting our energy into the future.

Happy Growing!