Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Paradox of April in Alaska - Part II

Almost all the snow is gone from our neighborhood. The lake is still mostly covered in ice, but - except in the early morning - nobody wants to walk on the rapidly deteriorating structure. Our front yard still has a large, silt and micro debris-laden drift, just inside the riparian berm we created when we landscaped the place in 1996. The drift is still almost four feet deep in a couple of places. It will be gone soon, if the sun comes back out much.

Inside the greenhouse hundreds of plants are growing. Since Wednesday, it has been mostly cloudy and chilly, so growth has slowed, especially among the smallest seedlings. But the plants that have grown some foliage are able to grasp enough energy from the ambient sun to still grow fairly rapidly, as with these zucchini.

Our experiment of starting beets in seedling planters to transplant in the outside garden in late May worked so well last year, that may be the only way we plant them in 2011. Some of last year's transplants became huge - over a pound apiece. But those we planted in the ground suffered from the chilly temperatures of late June through mid-August, and were very small.
Some of these tomatoes - Stupice and Black from Tula, are growing from seeds saved from 2010.
This morning I began clearing Judy's very large rock garden of winter debris and dead foliage from 2010. First I picked up the sticks and large objects. Then I clipped off stems of iris, columbine and other long-stemmed flowering plants. Then I sucked up leaves and debris with the leaf blower. Then I switched it to blower and cleared the area off.


About four hours later - after:

With the old stuff gone, signs of new life were rampant.
Up in the vegetable garden, we've already used new chives in a couple of fresh meals.

A perennial onion set emerges from under the cleared debris.

Last year's broccoli remains, about to join the compost universe.


Anonymous said...

I am fascinated by your beet experiment! You said you planted them in May last year ... how big were they when you put them in the ground? I am thinking of putting them in a cold frame here on Kodiak. They never seem to amount to good size beets in my garden.

Philip Munger said...

We usually put in the outside garden as close to Memorial Day weekend as practical. By then the ground and air have warmed to the point we don't need cold frames. I plant the seeds two to a six-pack, then pull it back to one per, after they come up. Keep 'em in the six-pack until time for planting, just as you might cabbage or broccoli starters.

Until the planting, they grow in the greenhouse, hardening them outside the last week before planting.

In Kodiak, you probably are able to plant in the garden a bit earlier than in the hills between Wasilla and Palmer.

Anonymous said...

Are you heating the greenhouse at all?
I am assuming you are a zone 4 or 5?
We are still getting some occassional snow showers but the ground is thawd about 4"-5" inches down so we are getting closer to getting things in under the hopps we use.

Philip Munger said...


If it looks like it will be getting down into the 20s or lower at night, an electric heater goes on until it warms back up the next day. Right now it is 47 F outside, 59 F in the GH, with the sun shining through a thin, hazy stratus layer, and promising to heat the GH up into the mid-70s by 2:00.