Talk Dirt To Me

Gardening in Alaska presents big challenges, whether it's the extra effort in finding plants tough enough to survive our Zone 2-4 climate, communicating with like-minded Alaska gardeners, or keeping up with the latest trends, issues and solutions. We'll try to help with that. We'll also tour gardens from Homer to Anchorage to Wasilla to Willow whenever we get the chance, and post the best garden photos around. Presenting a forum about cold-weather gardening and for cold-weather gardeners is what we are all about. We hope you'll join us on the Talk Dirt garden blog.

Photographer and gardener Fran Durner (fdurner@adn.com) writes the blog.

February Garden Calendar - 1/29/2010 9:28 am

UA Anchorage recognized as a Tree Campus USA - 1/27/2010 10:36 am

Stone walls provide beauty and exercise - 1/26/2010 8:43 am

USDA program for high tunnels offered - 1/25/2010 8:08 pm

Worms could eat your garbage too - 1/24/2010 8:01 pm

Wildflower Garden Club offers annual scholarship - 1/21/2010 1:08 pm

Where did you find inspiration last year? - 1/19/2010 3:57 pm

Zaumseils say farewell for now - 1/18/2010 3:57 pm

February Garden Calendar

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Have you ordered your seeds and tubers yet? Won't be long now. Photo by Fran Durner/ADNHave you ordered your seeds and tubers yet? Won't be long now. Photo by Fran Durner/ADNSign up now! for a five week Organic Gardening course at Mat-Su College (AGRI 138) with Ellen Vande Visse. Five Friday evenings and a Saturday field trip from March 19 - April 17. (907) 745-9746 for more info.

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UA Anchorage recognized as a Tree Campus USA

January Garden Calendar
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A Siberian pear tree in fall plumage on the west side of Rasmuson Hall on the UAA campus last fall. Fran Durner/ADNA Siberian pear tree in fall plumage on the west side of Rasmuson Hall on the UAA campus last fall. Fran Durner/ADNThe Arbor Day Foundation has announced the selection of the University of Alaska, Anchorage as a 2009 Tree Campus USA University for its "dedication to campus forestry management and environmental stewardship."

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Stone walls provide beauty and exercise

January Garden Calendar
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A well-constructed stone wall can last for centuries. Use that wall to create a terraced surface where a short, steep and dangerous-to-mow grassy slope once lay. On level ground, use a stone wall to better define your terrace or driveway, or to create a garden "room." AP Photo/Lee ReichA well-constructed stone wall can last for centuries. Use that wall to create a terraced surface where a short, steep and dangerous-to-mow grassy slope once lay. On level ground, use a stone wall to better define your terrace or driveway, or to create a garden "room." AP Photo/Lee ReichBy LEE REICH

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USDA program for high tunnels offered

January Garden Calendar
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The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service has a pilot program underway that will share the cost of high tunnel structures with producers under the agency's Environmental Quality Incentive Program. Participants will have to meet program eligibility and there are some specifications that are required in the structures themselves.

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Worms could eat your garbage too

January Garden Calendar
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A handful of worms, castings, food and compost. Photo by Fran DurnerA handful of worms, castings, food and compost. Photo by Fran DurnerThere were no frowns or disapproving looks among this group of people, no squeals of disgust or moves to empty out the stacked containers full of worms into the dust bin.

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Wildflower Garden Club offers annual scholarship

January Garden Calendar
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Wild Iris setosa at Eklutna Flats. Fran Durner/ADNWild Iris setosa at Eklutna Flats. Fran Durner/ADNThe Wildflower Garden Club is again offering an annual scholarship to graduating high school students and current college students intending to major in Horticulture, Floriculture, Landscape Design, Forestry, Botany, Agronomy, Plant Pathology and/or allied subjects.

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Where did you find inspiration last year?

January Garden Calendar
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'Black Cherry' tomatoes. Photo courtesy TomatoFest.com'Black Cherry' tomatoes. Photo courtesy TomatoFest.comI can just feel my mood lightening with the increase in daylight and the seed catalogues are pouring in so it must be time to think about planting already.

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Zaumseils say farewell for now

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This is the only photo I could find of Lori and Troy Zaumseil, in the backround, just behind our former governor, and at a Weed Fair in Anchorage in 2008. Erik Hill/ADNThis is the only photo I could find of Lori and Troy Zaumseil, in the backround, just behind our former governor, and at a Weed Fair in Anchorage in 2008. Erik Hill/ADNWeed warriors Lori and Troy Zaumseil, the force behind the movement that got everyone focusing on invasive weeds in Alaska sent out this email today:

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Book Review: Growing Chinese Vegetables in Your Own Backyard

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Growing Chinese Vegetables in Your Own Backyard: Grow 40 Vegetables and Herbs in Gardens and Pots by Geri Harrington.Growing Chinese Vegetables in Your Own Backyard: Grow 40 Vegetables and Herbs in Gardens and Pots by Geri Harrington.By guest book reviewer Rosemary Kimball of Sterling:

When I was a kid in Honolulu many years ago, my parents would occasionally pick up some Chinese takeout in McCulley and once in a while there would be the most delicious flavor in a dish, which years later, I found out was cilantro, or Chinese parsley. Because of that memory that was the first vegetable I turned to in the book Growing Chinese Vegetables in Your Own Back Yard by Geri Harrington. (Storey Publishing, softcover, $16.96.)

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UAF to study invasive sweet clover

January Garden Calendar
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Late season white sweet clover at the Trunk Road overpass in Palmer on September 18, 2008. The invasive weed is spreading along the road system. Stephen Nowers/ADNLate season white sweet clover at the Trunk Road overpass in Palmer on September 18, 2008. The invasive weed is spreading along the road system. Stephen Nowers/ADNBy Jeff Richardson / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner via AP

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Ice luminaria warm Willow nights

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Ice luminaria throw a warm light despite freezing temperatures. Photo by Les Brake.Ice luminaria throw a warm light despite freezing temperatures. Photo by Les Brake. Les Brake: Plantsman by summer, The Ice Man in winter.

Les Brake busy setting up his ice display. Photo courtesy Les Brake.Les Brake busy setting up his ice display. Photo courtesy Les Brake.Les Brake is presenting his annual luminaria display this Friday from 5 - 9:30pm at Coyote Garden on the Willow Hatcher Pass Rd. Created with tinted water frozen in molds - Les uses everything from Bundt pans to milk cartons to ice cube trays - he then builds sculptures and luminaria by freezing pieces together. He has even been known to "glue" sculptures to the side of his house in below freezing temperatures to get the look he wants.

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Florida fruits and vegetables chill under icy temperatures

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A blanket of ice covers strawberries in Plant City, Fla.  Farmers spray their crops to help protect them against the cold temperatures.  Temperatures in the area dipped into the mid-20's, and farmers worked to salvage millions of dollars' worth of strawberries and other crops. AP Photo/Chris O'MearaA blanket of ice covers strawberries in Plant City, Fla. Farmers spray their crops to help protect them against the cold temperatures. Temperatures in the area dipped into the mid-20's, and farmers worked to salvage millions of dollars' worth of strawberries and other crops. AP Photo/Chris O'MearaMITCH STACY

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Meet Ashley Grant, new CES Invasive Plant Instructor

January Garden Calendar
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Ashley Grant is the new Invasive Plant Instructor for the UAF Cooperative Extension Service. Photo by Michael Rasy.Ashley Grant is the new Invasive Plant Instructor for the UAF Cooperative Extension Service. Photo by Michael Rasy.The UAF Cooperative Extension Service recently announced the addition of an Invasive Plant Instructor, a statewide position based in Anchorage:

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Save the dates for these upcoming events

January Garden Calendar
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Noteworthy upcoming events, conferences and workshops of interest to Alaska gardeners.

Sign up now! for a five week Organic Gardening course at Mat-Su College (AGRI 138) with Ellen Vande Visse. Five Friday evenings and a Saturday field trip from March 19 - April 17. (907) 745-9746 for more info.

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More winners added to 2010 All-America Selections

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Echinacea purpurea ‘PowWow Wild Berry’ is hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone 3. Deep rose-purple 3 to 4 inch flowers retain color on the plant longer. This first year flowering perennial will flower approximately 20 weeks after sowing and has a basal branching habit resulting in more flowers per plant. Reaching a height of 20 to 24 inches in the full sun garden, it will bloom continually without deadheading. Seed should be sown before the end of January for the most prolific and uniform flowering in the first year. U.S. Utility Patent Applied For. Bred by PanAmerican Seed Co.Echinacea purpurea ‘PowWow Wild Berry’ is hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone 3. Deep rose-purple 3 to 4 inch flowers retain color on the plant longer. This first year flowering perennial will flower approximately 20 weeks after sowing and has a basal branching habit resulting in more flowers per plant. Reaching a height of 20 to 24 inches in the full sun garden, it will bloom continually without deadheading. Seed should be sown before the end of January for the most prolific and uniform flowering in the first year. U.S. Utility Patent Applied For. Bred by PanAmerican Seed Co. All-America Selections has added five more plants to the 2010 winners and changed the way they are introduced to the public. Effective immediately, seeds for all winners are available from seed suppliers and plants will be available in the spring.

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A chance to recycle artificial Christmas trees here...

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A note forwarded from Central Peninsula Garden Club in Kenai:

"And speaking of recycling trees, ......artificial that is.....(green plastic that is, oil in a different form that is), the Kenai Visitor Center is looking for donations of artificial trees, preferably without lights, and with all the branches and tree stand in good shape.

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Last Chance for 2009 Garden Gallery

January Garden Calendar
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The holidays are over and 2010 has arrived. Seed catalogues are beginning to show up in mailboxes and the days are getting longer.

Pretty soon we'll be planning our gardens for the summer and starting seeds indoors.

This is a great time, while we have a little lull, to go through your photos from the past year and post them to the garden gallery!

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January Garden Calendar

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Fireworks launched from three different sites light up the Anchorage skyline at the beginning of 2009. Eik Hill/ADNFireworks launched from three different sites light up the Anchorage skyline at the beginning of 2009. Eik Hill/ADNJanuary 1, Happy New Year! May all our gardens be green and healthy this year.

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Christmas tree recycling on again

December Garden Calendar
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Mike Post places Christmas trees into a wood chipper in a Carrs  parking lot last year. Tree chips are used for trail cover, erosion control, and mulch for landscaping. Bill Roth/ADNMike Post places Christmas trees into a wood chipper in a Carrs parking lot last year. Tree chips are used for trail cover, erosion control, and mulch for landscaping. Bill Roth/ADNThe holidays are over and the toys are put away. The Christmas tree is dropping it's needles and doesn't have that fresh spruce scent anymore. Don't chuck that tree out with the garbage. Alaskans for Litter Prevention and Recycling (ALPAR) want to remind you that you can recycle your tree.

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Enjoy the winter wonderland

December Garden Calendar
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The lilac in winter. Fran Durner photo.The lilac in winter. Fran Durner photo.Every winter I grudgingly give in to admiration as snow blankets the landscape. I hate it when it first begins to snow but once it’s landed, it works it’s way into my heart.

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