Well, it seems that every winter I regret that I could have put so much more into the Frosty Garden blog. This year is no different. I would have loved to spend my time writing and putting down the things we know. But, instead, we enjoyed a fairly relaxed winter and kept at our normal fire-work-fire winter routine.
We are into year four of gardening in Fairbanks, Alaska! We are still reeling that four years has gone by so quickly!
It’s that time of year where everyone is starting to think about summer. For us, that means planning out the garden and getting our seeds in. We started last weekend with the plan and as with every year, it’s bigger and more involved than the prior year. This year is going to be termed the year of the flower as we are going to grow a bunch!
We are really starting to figure out what works and what doesn’t here. As we went through our plan, we decided we weren’t going to waste time on things that don’t work. We’re also going to give our nemesis, the cauliflower, another chance because we had moderate luck last year. I think in our harsher cold climate, you have to be ruthless like that when it comes to gardening.
This year, we are also going to try to get better at donating our excess food to the foodbank, or anyone that will take it. We are changing some of the amounts of various things because we always have excess of some things and not enough of others. I think this is one of the more challenging aspects of larger scale gardening. That is, figuring out what you need to grow and what you need less of.
One thing we are scaling back will be the herbs. I always love having a plentiful herb garden, but we literally still have 2016 stock of thyme, sage and others. Instead of the usual 20+ herb plants, we will focus on a smaller quantity of larger, higher quality bed grown plants.
On the scale up side, we always seem to never have enough broccoli going into winter. We love the stuff and it’s always one of the earliest things to go. This year, we’re planting an additional 40 feet. We like the Packman variety for its main head and subsequent smaller shoots, but will continue to grow different varieties to keep it coming all season. We are also adding Brocolini into the mix, which we’ve never grown before.
Of course, we can’t go a year without some sort of experimentation. This year is no different. Most notable, we are trying cardoons. A relative of the artichoke plant, which did decent here in years past, it’s something we’ve never eaten before. Additionally, we are trying Perpetual Spinach from Baker Creek. This is a chard that supposedly tastes exactly like spinach. We always struggle with getting spinach past June, so we are hopeful for a long season of spinach-like chard.
We reflected on last year’s invasion of pests and are hoping our mild winter didn’t give them a chance to take hold. I’ve never seen a worse aphid infestation. We are hoping this year there will be less, or even none as we’ve had in years past. If they come back, I’m going in with a Molotov cocktail of anything they hate. I will be notorious among aphid murderers.
We are also reflecting on lessons learned. Last year, we had a stunted season for all of our warm weather crops. This was mostly due to an extremely cool summer, with very few hot days. But, we also had a frost well into June that hurt seriously set back our warm weather crops. I think we’re going to wait until mid-June to put out basil, peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers. We are also adding an inexpensive greenhouse into the mix, which we will discuss more of later.
On the perennial front, we did a fair number of trials last year in our yard and will be checking them for their return this year. We are shifting our focus away from a large trial to one or two plants. We want to plant a lot of what we know works well at our home. Our long term goal is to have a “food forest” of low maintenance perennials. We will be picking up quite a few saskatoons as a result and will be planting them all along our southern property line.
We are also looking to transition our primary flower bed into a perennial garden as well. We’ve done some experimentation and between some bulbs, lillys and delphiniums, there’s a surprising number of great flowers that do well here. We, of course, will continue to do annuals, but we like low maintenance things.
Stay tuned for more!