We really have good intentions for this blog, but wow is it a lot of work to keep up with general life, blogs, travel and a 1,600 square foot garden. My apologies for the lack of updates through early June, we were simply overwhelmed and spent our spare time gardening along with all the other things we have to attend to. Overall, it took more than 120 hours between the both of us to plant everything not including the initial garden preparation.
We spent a lot of weekends and evenings planting everything in our gardens. All in all, more than 700 of our own vegetable and flower starts kicked off our first Fairbanks garden and we’re well on our way. We followed the plan that we posted about before almost to a T, but there were a few changes at the last-minute to accommodate some purple cauliflower, a shortage on our bean starts and the typical plus/minus of what we actually had versus what we planned for. We did buy a number of starts from Risse’s greenhouse this spring, some to fill in what we needed and some to expand our varieties.
The black weed barrier we used provides multiple functions in a sub-arctic garden. Not only does it prevent most weeds from getting a foot hold, it also has two other critical functions. The major purpose is to help warm the soil more quickly since it acts like black leather in a car on a hot summer day. It also helps with lessening water evaporation, which is always much appreciated when you want to spend a couple of days away from the garden. You can also see that we planted most of our Brassica related plants in Solo style party cups. We learned this was a good technique to prevent voles from chewing on the stems. It seemed like good advice and so far, so good.
We still have a bit of space at the UAF garden. I think that I failed to mention previously that we signed up for a third plot at the UAF community garden. This allowed us just a bit of extra space for the 20 tomatoes that we really wanted to grow but simply didn’t have space for all of them. When we considered an extra plot versus soil costs to grow in containers, it just made sense to pay the extra $20 for an extra plot. We’re going to put in another winter squash and a few knick knacks that we picked up at the Risse’s customer appreciation day here a couple of days ago and call that space good. I seem to always forget my phone when I’m up there, so we’ll post pictures soon.
We had originally intended to grow our herbs, grown entirely in containers, at the house. We have great sun exposure with shade both on the early and late sides of the long days up here, which will help with holding off early bolting and seed production. We decided to move them down to an open space we have available at Fairbanks Community Garden, mainly to save on water costs. (It turned out we had a 4′ carpet laid down 4″ beneath the soil that was near impossible to remove, so we just kept it as “green space” for setting up a couple of chairs, hose storage, etc.) At the house, we’re on a holding tank and at 10 cents per gallon, it just makes sense to keep our water expenses down. This is one of the major reasons we would like to continue using community resources, not just for the camaraderie but also to save money in basic utilities.
Growing with the midnight sun has been incredible. We fertilized with our typical Alaska fish emulsion here a couple of weekends ago and things just absolutely took off. I had to leave for work travel for a week and came back to a stunning amount of growth, so much I could hardly believe it happened in just six days. I’m really pleased with the garden progress so far, it turned out a lot better than expected and we can really appreciate the planning efforts we put forth this year.
Our cabbages are getting huge leaves and starting to form their heads and our lettuces are looking absolutely amazing. We’ve even got some early broccoli forming on a couple of our plants. The growth here is incredible, especially when you give the greens a solid boost of nitrogen! We’ve also got some of our first flower blooms, which has been perhaps a bit surprising for us but likely related to the relatively late start and small root space they had in their early life.
The only real problem we have so far is a major chickweed infestation at the Fairbanks Community Garden. That stuff is just miserable to deal with. While it’s easy to weed out, it’s just small, pervasive and seems to do just fine when shaded out by other plants. We’re just going to deal with it, weeding when we can, but we’re sure glad that we used weed barrier on several of our wide rows.
As far as what we’ve learned up to this point? We need to start more broccoli and Brussels sprouts next year, we just simply didn’t have enough and had to buy starts. We could have used more pea, runner bean and dry bean starts too. Additionally, I’d like to see us start focusing even more on varieties of everything to really get a better understanding of what does well and to add a little more fun to the mix. Also, I think we’re going to broadcast seed our green onions and chives in 4″ containers to get good clumps of these next year. I think come harvest time, we’ll have a lot more information on overall quantities we need to grow, but we should have more than enough of many things. Oh, and remember to bring the camera every time we go to each garden!
For the most part, we’re now on regular watering schedules and monthly fertilization at this point, with timely harvests when appropriate. It feels so good to have everything in and growing! We’ve even managed to have a couple of dinner salads with our lettuce, which is really coming along great! Looking forward to the next two months and hoping we get a late first frost!