I have to tell you, it’s so hard to support a blog over the summer here in Alaska. There is so much to do with our incredibly long days, beautiful surroundings and many activities that it’s hard to keep up. Most days of summer it is hard to get any meaningful time in front of the computer.
As I look outside, I see the awesome golden displays of birch, all over Fairbanks, signalling that the season is soon coming to a close. We saw our first frost practically right on schedule, September 2nd. Our tomatoes and warm weather crops didn’t take to it well and it’s a reminder that we need to get everything harvested as soon as possible. Our last week or so has been a major effort to shut our gardens down.
Our warm weather garden up at the UAF Community Garden is largely finished. We have tons of tomatoes, onions, carrots and other things that we grew up there getting processed. Our dehydrator and pressure-canner have been seeing regular use since August. Sometimes it’s hard to deal with so much bounty at once!
Down at Fairbanks Community Garden, we were largely growing cool weather stuff. We’ve harvested what we could so far, but have a bit still to go. We pulled about half of our potatoes, probably more than a hundred from just half a row! We have lots of broccoli stored up as well. We’re still not sure if our Brussels sprouts are going to be meaningful this year, we had some challenges. We have kale, collards and swiss chard for days.
Our herb garden at the house was prolific, probably the best of show. We have so many herbs drying and ready for preparation, we can hardly make time to actually prepare them! We were really happy with the quantities and overall growth. While we had the typical problems with early blooming of cilantro and oregano, everything else seemed to go really well. We’re hoping to have enough time left in the season to finish out our coriander seeds!
Overall, in some ways we did better than last year. In other ways, not so much. We were far better prepared for garden starts, overall organization and quantities. Our early game was strong. But, we had some nutrition issues and problems with a lack of time to tend the garden. We did buy a house this summer, so we’re cutting ourselves some slack with the time thing. Next year should be a little better off time-wise. In some ways, our harvest has suffered, but we still aren’t complaining because we have a ton of food.
We learned some incredibly valuable lessons this year, though. I think our first year we had some beginners luck, our second not so much. I think part of our success at Fairbanks Community Garden came from a fresh, deep till of all the soil. What we’ve learned, though, is that the soil here is just not that great and requires a huge amount of amending to make right. Far more than we are used to, anyway. A bit of fertilizer when planting, a top-dressing of compost and a monthly shot of fertilizer just isn’t enough in our soils. It makes sense, there’s hardly any decomposing matter otherwise.
What it comes down to is when garden season is over, it’s over. To have a really productive garden, you need aggressive growth over the whole growing season. This means your soil has to be at the top of its game, otherwise things will fall behind. If you don’t do this, you’ll get to September and your Brussels sprouts will barely be formed. There’s just no time to make it up on the back-end. We knew this before, but didn’t realize how much of a hit our soil took the second year.
We have a plan for next year, though. We’re going to try to get some raised beds online here at the house, so at least we can forego the costly UAF gardens. But, we’ll still keep up Fairbanks Community Garden. Our plan, though, is to go above and beyond compost and really dose the soil with long release fertilizers. We need to bump the nutrition way up each year to combat the nutrient-lacking soil. It will likely be an expensive endeavor to prepare 1700 square feet in this way. But, so is spending 6 months preparing a garden with only moderate results.
On a personal note, we finally were able to break away from the rat race and get a short road trip in. We spent a few days in south central Alaska. We have meant to go to Valdez for many years now, and finally got it done! It was gorgeous down there, but as with Valdez, the wind and rain did sock us in a bit! Also, we spent a few nights in the Anchorage area. We visited the Alaska State Fair and saw the incredible displays everyone around the state put up! We have so much to learn, hopefully some day we can compete in the State Fair!
Anyway, I can’t help but feeling there’s something else I need to be doing than writing this blog post. We’ve got a ton of herbs ready to go, so I think I’ll try to get that mostly done tonight!
We hope that your season has been great and that you’re doing much of the same! We’ll touch base again before the winter sets in, but good luck in getting all your garden processed!