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

Review: Hardy Succulents

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What I love about succulents: They are almost always fresh and plump looking when spring snow begins to pull away from the flowerbeds. Their appearance is unique and not like anything else. They are drought hardy and neglect resistant. They have THE most startling flowers. They come in a wide variety of species and habits.

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Two forums of interest to gardeners this week

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Steve Brown and friend. Photo courtesy Steve Brown.Steve Brown and friend. Photo courtesy Steve Brown.November 13, Friday, 8:30am-noon. Gardeners are invited to the Friday morning forum of the Alaska Farm Bureau annual meeting. Presentations include Chicken University, learn to raise chickens in your backyard presented by CES agent Steve Brown, Growing Apples in Alaska presented by grower Dan Elliott and Preserving Your Harvest presented by CES home economist Leslie Shallcross. At the Millennium Hotel in Anchorage. $20 registration or $30 including lunch. You can register online here or contact Jane Hamilton at janehamilton99737@yahoo.com or 907-895-4752.

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First snow was a surprise

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The lilac looks lovely with the new snow and lights entwined in it. Photo by Fran Durner.The lilac looks lovely with the new snow and lights entwined in it. Photo by Fran Durner. View a timelapse video of a garden through the season

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Lesson learned

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Red runner beans hanging on the vine. Photo by Fran DurnerRed runner beans hanging on the vine. Photo by Fran DurnerI learned a lesson this weekend when I opened a jar of dilly red runner beans canned earlier in the fall, to test for flavor. The pods were tough and stringy - unchewable - although the beans inside were good to eat.

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Moose-free garden?

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The moose pawed down the barrier to get to the cotoneasters. Fran Durner/ADNThe moose pawed down the barrier to get to the cotoneasters. Fran Durner/ADNMy nose is running like a river and glowing as red as Rudolph's as I write. What is it about freeze-up and the end of outdoor gardening that lets one's immune system and defense mechanisms down?

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Book review: Black Plants

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Take a trip into the dark side of gardening with Black Plants: 75 Striking Choices for the Garden. (Paperback, Timber Press, $14.95) by Paul Bonine. This new book of hort noir is out just in time to haunt your dreams for Halloween.

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The first significant snow of the season.
Richard J. Murphy/ADNThe first significant snow of the season.
Richard J. Murphy/ADN
November 1, Sunday, 2pm. Join outdoorsman Dick Griffith for a presentation on his 250-mile trek along the coast from Glacier Bay to Copper River. Points of interest along the way are Lituya Bay and the crossing of LaPerouse Glacier. At the Eagle River Nature Center. Free program; $5 parking for non-members.

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Fall means apples and winter veggies

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Bob Boyer shows the difference between a greenhouse-grown "Prairie Magic" and the same variety of apple grown outside in his orchard. Fran Durner/ADNBob Boyer shows the difference between a greenhouse-grown "Prairie Magic" and the same variety of apple grown outside in his orchard. Fran Durner/ADNFor those of you who have been waiting to find out if Bob Boyer would be selling his wonderful greenhouse apples again - he is! Thursday, October 29, from 1 to 5 pm only. I hear it's been the best year yet for apple production. The last time I checked, Boyer was growing about 37 apple trees, nine peach trees, three apricots, two plums and one quince tree inside the greenhouse. His orchard held over 100 fruit trees including apples, cherries and pears. Although he doesn't heat the greenhouse, the trees inside do much better than the trees outside.

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Botany of Desire airs on Wednesday

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A tulip - one of the plants examined in "The Botany of Desire." Photo by Ruth Dundas/PBSA tulip - one of the plants examined in "The Botany of Desire." Photo by Ruth Dundas/PBS

Anyone who has read Michael Pollan's book The Botany of Desire (2001, Random House) is familiar with the stories he tells weaving the adaptation of the apple, tulip, potato and marijuana to man's own evolutional history. The question Pollan asks is, isn't it actually the other way around? "We don't give nearly enough credit to plants," Pollan says during the opening of the two hour PBS adaptation of his book, airing this Wednesday on Channel 7 from 7 - 9 p.m., "They've been working on us, they've been using us, for their own purposes." "The Botany of Desire," the bestseller book by Michael Pollan."The Botany of Desire," the bestseller book by Michael Pollan.

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Some changes proposed for muni Horticulture Section

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Impatiens started from seeds in the municipal greenhouses at Russian Jack Springs Park. Bill Roth/ADNImpatiens started from seeds in the municipal greenhouses at Russian Jack Springs Park. Bill Roth/ADNI thought I'd take a minute to look into persistent rumors flying around regarding cuts to the Horticulture Section within the Municipality Parks and Recreation Department.

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Verna and Frank Pratt recognized

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Verna and Frank Pratt with their award planted in their garden. Fran Durner/ADNVerna and Frank Pratt with their award planted in their garden. Fran Durner/ADNThe Anchorage Chapter of the Alaska Master Gardeners gave out their first ever Lifetime Achievement Award to Verna and Frank Pratt on Monday night. The award was a large granite stone, suitable for the garden of course, with an attached plaque that read, "In Recognition of Your Knowledge and Dedication to Teaching Others to Appreciate and Understand the Wildflowers of Alaska.

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Birds are gardeners' companions

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A great blue heron preens at Potter Marsh. Fran Durner/ADNA great blue heron preens at Potter Marsh. Fran Durner/ADNThe great blue heron is uncommon in Anchorage, but one has been hanging out at Potter Marsh directly in front of the boardwalk at the entrance. It's been there for a week or so, wading in the shallows, catching fish and preening itself on a gnarly log - putting on a show for the admiring crowd.

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Anchorage is one of the best cities for community gardens

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The growing season is a memory for this year at McPhee Community Gardens in Mountain View. Makeshift fences divide the plots in which some Anchorage residents take great care to grow traditional foods. Marc Lester/ADNThe growing season is a memory for this year at McPhee Community Gardens in Mountain View. Makeshift fences divide the plots in which some Anchorage residents take great care to grow traditional foods. Marc Lester/ADNThe Daily Green an online magazine devoted to "earth-friendly living" has picked Anchorage as one of the top ten cities across the country to nurture community gardens.

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Fall colors Outside

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Fall colors are reaching their peak Outside from coast to coast. I just wanted to share some beautiful photos from the AP wire service with you.
Lyn Walters, 71, fly fishes in the Merrymeeting River in Alton, N.H., as fall leaves begin to change Thursday, Oct. 8,2009. AP Photo/Jim ColeLyn Walters, 71, fly fishes in the Merrymeeting River in Alton, N.H., as fall leaves begin to change Thursday, Oct. 8,2009. AP Photo/Jim Cole
A couple takes in the view from the ocean lookout ledges on 1375-foot Mount Megunticook, Monday, Oct. 12, 2009, at Camden Hills State Park in Camden, Maine. The state's forest rangers, who have been tracking fall foliage for 50 years, are now using personal data assistants to send in fall foliage reports from the field.  Most of the state is reaching peak colors this week. AP Photo/Robert F. BukatyA couple takes in the view from the ocean lookout ledges on 1375-foot Mount Megunticook, Monday, Oct. 12, 2009, at Camden Hills State Park in Camden, Maine. The state's forest rangers, who have been tracking fall foliage for 50 years, are now using personal data assistants to send in fall foliage reports from the field. Most of the state is reaching peak colors this week. AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

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Take advantage of the sun to mow your leaves.

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Golfers enjoying the best fall weather yet at Russian Jack Springs Park golf course. Fran Durner/ADNGolfers enjoying the best fall weather yet at Russian Jack Springs Park golf course. Fran Durner/ADN

Wouldn't you know, as soon as I come back to work, the sun comes out again.

At least I had an hour this morning to run the mower back and forth over the lilac and cherry leaves on the grass in the back yard. There was something very satisfying about doing that. Thanks to our friend Jeff Lowenfels, I've been doing this for years now, feeding the soil, the grass and the worms without the use of any chemicals.

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A gardener's conundrum

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Helenium 'Sahin's Early Flowerer' has had a long period of bloom.  Fran Durner photo.Helenium 'Sahin's Early Flowerer' has had a long period of bloom. Fran Durner photo.When faced with impending ice and snow, what is one to do when garden flowers are still in bloom?

Starting the week off with the full intention of cutting down and cleaning out everything from the beds around the house, I was stopped full short when I got to the foxglove still blooming in the back yard. So I let them stand. They look a little strange out there on their own, but I can see them through the window when I'm in the kitchen - even on a gloomy day - which has been every day this week.

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Out of the office and in the garden

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Dear readers, it's time for me to spend some time putting my own garden to bed before the snow falls. So I will be out of the office for the next ten days pulling and cutting and mulching and composting.

In the meantime - post more garden photos!

See you when I r

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Fall colors are reflected in the water of Westchester Lagoon as a mallard duck feeds along the shoreline. Erik Hill/ADNFall colors are reflected in the water of Westchester Lagoon as a mallard duck feeds along the shoreline. Erik Hill/ADNOctober 1, Thursday, 7pm. The ins & outs of Flower Arranging presented by Camille Williams. The Anchorage Garden Club monthly meeting at the Pioneer School House basement, corner of Third Avenue and Eagle Street. Call the AGC hotline for program information, 566-0539.

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Yes Virginia, maples can grow in Alaska

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Fall colors of maple and birch leaves in downtown Anchorage. Fran Durner/ADNFall colors of maple and birch leaves in downtown Anchorage. Fran Durner/ADNDoes anyone remember a better fall season? It seems like it’s going on and on and some trees haven’t even begun to turn yet. Take a drive before the winds or killing frosts destroy the view. My favorite outings so far have been down the Seward Highway to Portage or north along the Eagle River Road all the way to the Eagle River Visitors Center. Then get out and take a walk on one of the trails. On a sunny day the colors are absolutely intense but even on a cloudy, rainy day, there is a sereneness to the view.

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