Saturday, January 2, 2010

Getting Ready to Order Seeds for 2010 - Updated

2010 will be our 14th year gardening at Neklason Lake, and the tenth for our greenhouse, which I added on in 2000 and 2001. We've learned a little bit each year. In 2008 and 2009, we seriously ramped up our composting efforts, and in 2010, we're adding Bokashi cycling, which isn't exactly composting. It can use an aerobic or anaerobic inoculation to produce the finished product, which is very full of nutrients.

This year, we're finally going to start asparagus. And I'm going to start tomatoes and peppers from scratch - seed. I've started peppers from scratch twice recently, but haven't started tomatoes from seed since 1984.

In 2009 and 2010, I was unhappy with the starter varieties of tomatoes and peppers available at Anchorage and Mat-Su commercial greenhouses. It seemed like every greenhouse was getting their stuff from the same sources.

We've already started our garden, with five varieties of garlic I planted last September. I ordered them from Irish Eyes Garden Seeds in Ellensburg, Washington.

This winter, we're ordering our seed from two places:

We've been pretty satisfied in the past with Nichols Garden Nursery near Albany, Oregon. They offer a lot of hardy bean and carrot varieties for Alaska.

And this year, we're going to try a seed company I heard about at a local garden supply in Wasilla last summer - Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Their inventory of heirloom tomato seeds is huge! Not a bad pepper seed source, either.

This year, I'm going to intensively plant individual lettuce heads from seed in small starter sets. I just started doing that in 2009, and find it hard to believe I hadn't done it earlier. I may even try spinach that way.

I can't wait to start. I'll be planting the first tomato and pepper starters at the end of January.

Update - Sunday, 6:25 p.m: I just found Jeff Lowenfels' article in the ADN from December 31st, on ordering seeds and other mid-winter preparations for the coming growing season. His article mentions both Nichols and Baker Creek seed sources, along with some others that are useful for northern climates.

One of Lowenfels' recommendations is also mentioned in the comments below by seedman:

Have you tried any of the Siberian tomato varieties found at Seeds Trust? Bill McDorman went to Siberia in 1989 and brought back 60 delicious varieties, surly adapted to Alaska too! They have been searching the world for more than 25 years for vegetables adapted to the coldest climates.

I was unaware of Seeds Trust. Sounds like it will be worthwhile finding out more about them. Here's a link to the Seeds Trust web site.

One commenter asked how we keep the Black bears out of the garden. They've never been a bother here, though they occasionally visited our garden when we lived on Fairview Loop Road. Moose live in our marsh in the winter, but have never visited our garden in the summer. Knock on wood, eh?

Another commenter, new to Alaska, wants to start gardening, and hopes to find learning resources. Lenore Hedla's Alaska Gardener's Handbook is the standard. Ann D. Roberts' Alaska Gardening Guide, Vol. One is excellent, but difficult to read.

The ADN carries all their gardening articles under the sub-heading Talk Dirt to Me.

top image - Ananas Noire or Black Pineapple Tomato from Baker Creek
bottom image - five kinds of garlic from Irish Eyes


Anonymous said...

Mornin phill!
We have used the Bokaski method for about 5 years. In the begining we used sawdust with little show of results. Then about three years ago I over ordered on my bulk foods = got way too much bran!

Wow it sure was a difference using wheat bran. Strong and sweet smelling. The break down of organics seemed fast, yet didnt get that putrid rotten slime, seemingly almost toxic compost. At the same time I collected 17 five gallon buckets of coffee grounds and made another compost pile. Using half bran, half cedar chips (got a Tlingit carver on the property) into the coffee grounds, I ended up with a wonderful compost soup that was eventually added to my huge grass pile compost. This compost pile turned soil has been just fab for my potato and carrot squares (container garden boxes). High yield, deep color in the veggies, big veggies and strong flavor.

I totally recommend using bran from the get go if your small to normal scale composting. I did the larger composting soup with bran, cedar chips and coffee grounds cause my lawn grass compost pile was huge, seemed to turn into a vole castle and hunting ground for the grey owls, than usable composted soil.

I love making dirt!

Have a wonderful time with the compost soup!

seedman said...

Have you tried any of the Siberian tomato varieties found at Seeds Trust? Bill McDorman went to Siberia in 1989 and brought back 60 delicious varieties, surly adapted to Alaska too! They have been searching the world for more than 25 years for vegetables adapted to the coldest climates.

Coral said...

Hi! I'm new to Alaska but looking forward to growing container vegetables (I rent, alas). I'm not really an accomplished gardener, anyway, but I know Alaska offers some special advantages and challenges, as far as growing vegetables goes. Do you have a good book about Alaskan gardening you could point me to, please?

alaskapi said...

ok- so how do you all up there in the valley keep black bears out of your compost?

HarpboyAK said...


I can also recommend Territorial Seed Company who have great salad mixes, seed potatoes, and carrot seed, as well as mushroom spawn. They have been offering shitake kits for years, and they are now offering shaggy mane spawn. I'm planning on having the hillside behind my house becoming a mushroom patch!

I make compost and grow spuds at the same time, using the old tire method.

1. Cut tire cords with a cable cutter or sawsall, and cut through sidewalls to the tread, 8 cuts per side, and then turn tire inside out to make a small rubber barrel.

2. Put the tire on the ground, put in seed spud(s), and add enough compost to cover the spud.

3. When the potato plant sprouts, add a layer of seaweed (popweed) that has been well rinsed to get rid of salt. As the plant grows, add an inch or two of seaweed every week. The seaweed will collapse slightly as it decomposes.

4. At harvest time, just lift off the tire "pot". You will have a hill of beautiful compost with a slightly slimy layer on top, full of beautiful spuds.

Another advantage of using seaweed compost is that your potatoes are less likely to be marred by potato scab, caused by a virus in garden soil.