Gardening

Farmers Almanac

If you’ve found yourself stumped with a gardening question, you may have queried the hive mind at Central Peninsula Garden Club.

The club saw a slight drop in membership earlier in the pandemic while its meetings were held virtually, said Larry Opperman, who’s on the club’s board of directors.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Nikiski is a little greener these days. Gardeners have tilled and planted a garden next to the Nikiski Community Park on Hedberg Drive, where volunteers can plant, pick and take home their own produce.

Toni Loop, of Nikiski, has been planning the project for a while and made headway this summer. About a third of the garden is now planted.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

When Toni Loop started working on building a community garden in Nikiski, the price of lumber was a lot lower.

Before the pandemic, she could cover all the costs with a $3,500 grant she had from the Alaska Farm Bureau. But lumber costs have skyrocketed during COVID-19, due to supply shortages and high demand. 

Still, Loop is charging ahead with the project and plans to open it this summer. She wants a garden for people who don’t have their own at home.

Snow might still be on the ground but spring isn’t far away. When we get there, gardeners need to have their planting plans ready. Here’s some food for thought — growing native edible perennials. Local vegetables, if you will. Didn’t know there was such a thing? Shawn Jackinsky, of Green Cannon Gardens in Ninilchik, can tell you all about it. This is a “Know Your Lands” presentation from the Homer Soil and Water Conservation District. Find more of their presentations on their Facebook page.

Farmers Almanac

New gardeners who sprouted green thumbs during the pandemic will soon face their first Kenai frost.

Night-time temperatures could dip into the high 20s this week in the Kenai-Soldotna area. For the scores of newbies who just started gardening during the pandemic, this might mean learning to clean up outdoor beds, bring plants inside and prep early for next spring.

Aspiring gardeners everywhere used this stay-at-home summer to get planting for the first time, with Alaskans especially reaping the benefits of the long summer days. Renae Wall, secretary of the Central Peninsula Garden Club, said there’s been increased activity in the club’s Facebook group, where local gardeners commiserate about the approaching cold and share advice about transitioning to fall.

“Really, the preparation is just dealing with all your harvest,” Wall said. “That’s the fun thing about talking to other gardeners, is finding out how they put away their harvests. You can do it in a root cellar, you can blanch and freeze, you can dry, you can pickle, there’s lots of different creative ways people do it and add their own variety.”

The plants are in the ground and produce is already popping up at Central Peninsula farmers' markets. During this special Spring 2019 Fundraiser program, host Jay Barrett talks with three local farmers about what it takes to grow such delicious bounty.

Join this month's Kenai Garden Talk to celebrate Alaska Agriculture Day, get a jump on local foods with a look at some spring harvestables and hear about an initiative to offer more agriculture opportunities in the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

Information from this episode:

Wild plant guides:

May 7 was Alaska Agriculture Day, celebrated the first Tuesday in May since 2007 to highlight the importance of home-grown sustainability in Alaska. Did you know that the Kenai Peninsula has more than 260 farms? And that total sales of Kenai Peninsula agricultural crops in 2017 was $5.4 million?

Today’s Tune-In Tales is a story celebrating Alaska Ag Day, read by Kenai Peninsula farmers, Lou Heite and Steve Dahl, of Eagle Glade Farms, in Nikiski.

Just when you thought it might be time to risk moving plants outdoors, freezing temperatures and even some snow flurries returned to prove that you can’t rush spring in Alaska.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t play in the dirt this time of year. This is prime seed-starting season. In this month's Kenai Garden Talk, we’ve got wisdom from veteran gardeners about how to start seeds efficiently and cost-effectively. After that, we’ll visit an asparagus farm down in Homer, proving that even persnickety crops can be successful on the peninsula with the right knowledge and care.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

On the calendar, spring officially begins March 21. In reality, we’ve got a while yet before anyone in southcentral Alaska is digging in the dirt, but that doesn’t stop intrepid growers from getting started.

On March 2, the Central Peninsula Garden Club had its annual get-ready-for-spring roundtables event at Peninsula Grace Brethren Church on Kalifornsky Beach Road in Soldotna, and a new opportunity for year-round greens has sprouted up in Soldotna.

  Velma Bittick and Will Hightower join host Jay Barrett as they answer your questions about gardening.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

Dave Ianson thinks rhubarb could be the next big thing in Alaska agriculture, if only growers would show it a little love.

And if you're thinking about raising dairy goats, make sure you plan ahead so your experience doesn't turn sour.

Links from this episode:

Karluk Acres, Julie Wendt and& Paul Vass:

Phone: 907-252-3980

Website: www.karlukacres.com

Facebook: Karluk Acres

In this month's Drinking in the Last Frontier, get a taste of the latest brew at St. Elias, made with locally grown hops. And hop on over to your 'third place,' perhaps to try this month's beer style, the gueuze.

Wild plants sometimes get a bad rap. When they’re pretty, we call them wildflowers. But usually, when they’re in our gardens without being intentionally planted, they’re weeds. And if they’re especially tenacious, like horsetail, they might get called even worse names.

But how often do we look at them as food or medicine? Tia Holley, an ethnobotanist who works in the wellness program at the Dena’ina Wellness Center in Kenai, gives us tips on how and what to pick locally.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

It continues to be a slow, cold, soggy start to spring this May, but the gardening scene is heating up.

The Central Peninsula Garden Club is holding workshops every Saturday this month, giving gardeners a chance to pick the brains of experts on a variety of topics. Last week, KDLL tagged along for some sweet insight into growing berries at Alaska Berries farm and gathered snippits of information on tree pruning with Curtis Stigall of An Arboristic View.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

It's April — the snow is melting but not fast enough to be gardening outside anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be harvesting. Greenhouses get you a jump on spring and hydroponics can be a vault toward productivity. Tour Cheryl and Steve Beesun's hydroponic greenhouse in Soldotna, with cucumbers, lettuce and zucchini already ready to eat.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

Spring is in the air, if not quite evident on the ground yet. We’re at least a month from digging in the dirt but if you’re planning to grow or raise your own food this year, now is the time to get started — and we’re here to help. On this month's Kenai Garden Talk, we’ve got the buzz on beginner beekeeping, some tips for your chicks and a plea for pest patrol. And if you're fresh out of patience waiting for farmer's market season, there's now a mobile option on the Kenai Peninsula, bringing produce to a parking lot near you.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

Sink your teeth into one of fall’s tastiest treats, cozy up for fall with a different kind of fleece and take a walk on the wild side with local plants that can be used for medicinal purposes.

Links in this episode:

O'Brien Garden and Trees:
https://www.facebook.com/obriengardenandtrees/

The Alpaca Guy:
http://www.thealpacaguy.com/

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

It’s harvest time on the central Kenai Peninsula. But what to do with all that garden goodness? On today’s show, we’ll turn flowers into food, follow food from the high tunnel to the soup pot at the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, and we’ll grill local chef Willow King for a quick-and-easy preparation for fresh, local produce.

UAF Cooperative Extension Service fireweed recipes

Kenai Peninsula Food Bank

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

We've got tips on what to do with spruce tips, a food guide that makes harvesting local produce way easier than growing it yourself, greenhouse grow boxes that'll about raise the roof, and there are some farmers who are loving the cool, wet weather this year. Thanks to our guests, Jacki Michels, Marcia Kardatzke, Wayne and Patti Floyd of Cool Cache Farms and Heidi Chay with the Kenai Soil and Water Conservation District.

Don't have your own garden but still want to eat fresh and local? Never fear — farmers markets and the Kenai Food Hub are here. While you're at it, get the dirt on how to maintain healthy dirt. And Brenda Adams, author of “Cool Plants for Cold Climates,” offers advice to avoid the perils of impulse planting.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

High tunnels can mean high yields for Kenai Peninsula crops. Rupert Scribner with Kenai Feed tells us how to avoid high stress by installing them correctly. Then, kids at Soldotna Montessori have the dirt on what it takes to grow good gardeners. Finally, May is morel mushroom season on the central Kenai Peninsula. Dr.  George Spady shares tips for finding fungi on the forest floor.