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

TREErific tree tour on Wednesday at UAA

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A Siberian pear tree in fall plumage on the west side of Rasmuson Hall on the UAA campus. Fran Durner/ADNA Siberian pear tree in fall plumage on the west side of Rasmuson Hall on the UAA campus. Fran Durner/ADNJoin TREErific for a fall color tree tour led by Pat Leary, UAA Landscaping Horticulture Manager and certified arborist, on the UAA campus on Wednesday, September 30 at 6PM.

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Dig, bake and eat potatoes in Palmer Friday

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A variety of heights and styles of raised beds can accommodate seniors who wish to garden at the Palmer Veteran & Pioneer Home. Photo courtesy Ellen Vande Visse.A variety of heights and styles of raised beds can accommodate seniors who wish to garden at the Palmer Veteran & Pioneer Home. Photo courtesy Ellen Vande Visse. Ellen Vande Visse, organic gardening goddess and compost queen, has been up to her usual tricks this summer helping to get two community gardens going in the Mat-Su. She's been working with students and volunteers at the Mat-Su College, Palmer Veteran & Pioneer Home and UAF’s Matanuska Experiment Farm to learn to garden organically.

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Still time to harvest

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Flat leaf Italian parsley and chives. My favorite combo. Photo by Fran DurnerFlat leaf Italian parsley and chives. My favorite combo. Photo by Fran DurnerFrost finally arrived last night but I haven't been home since I scraped the ice off my windshield this morning so I don't know how things have fared. Luckily, I did cut what was left of the dahlia flowers and brought them in. Tonight, will try to bring in more herbs for drying and also to chop fresh to mix up with butter blends. They'll go in the freezer.

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Termination dust signals the end of summer

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Fall colors along the Sterling Highway in the Kenai Wildlife Refuge as Mt. Redoubt steams up a cloud, literally, in the backround. New snow on the still hot volcano lava dome sent up clouds of steam at Redoubt  on Friday, September 18, 2009. The volcano was not renewing activity. In fact, it is about to be down graded to level green, according to volcano scientists. Fran Durner photoFall colors along the Sterling Highway in the Kenai Wildlife Refuge as Mt. Redoubt steams up a cloud, literally, in the backround. New snow on the still hot volcano lava dome sent up clouds of steam at Redoubt on Friday, September 18, 2009. The volcano was not renewing activity. In fact, it is about to be down graded to level green, according to volcano scientists. Fran Durner photoThe timing was perfect for a berry picking expedition to the Kenai Peninsula last Friday. Word from area friends was that the lingonberries - low bush cranberries - were ready, and so were we. The sun was out and warm, the ground was dry and I was with a friend who got down to business as seriously as I did after we had scouted out a few spots and settled into a promising area near Kelly and Peterson Lakes. The take - about three quarts for the freezer. The reward - a cup of salmon chowder and a piece of orange spice pumpkin pie with whip at Gwins on the way back home.

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I know you have photos, I know you do...

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So don't tell me that with all the gorgeous weather, you haven't been taking oodles of photos of your garden. Don't try to wiggle out of it, I know you've got photos, I know you do.

And where better to show them off, I ask you, than in the Garden Gallery?

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More mushroom walks this weekend

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A full basket of birch boletes and green russulas. Bob Hallinen/ADNA full basket of birch boletes and green russulas. Bob Hallinen/ADNSince I posted the blog about mushrooms, interest grew so much that the Alaska Botanical Garden was overwhelmed at their scheduled mushroom walk led by Diane Pleninger last week. So they have added on two more, this time led by visiting naturalist Dominique Collet from the Kenai Peninsula. Don't delay if you wish to go; they want your reservations by noon tomorrow, Thursday, 9/17.

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Gardening grows camraderie

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It was hard to part with the garden. Fran Durner photo.It was hard to part with the garden. Fran Durner photo.Last night was incredibly bittersweet as those of us in the ADN newsroom who planted a garden around the patio spent the evening pulling it out. It was a team effort this year - planting, watering, weeding and deadheading - and the effort paid off in abundant and prolific blooms, lettuce, vegetables and herbs.

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It was a good summer in Fairbanks for apples

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University of Alaska Fairbanks research specialist and project manager Kendra Calhoun picks an apple in Fairbanks, Alaska. Researchers at the UAF are reporting an encouraging sign for locally grown fruit, a robust apple crop. AP Photo/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Eric EngmanUniversity of Alaska Fairbanks research specialist and project manager Kendra Calhoun picks an apple in Fairbanks, Alaska. Researchers at the UAF are reporting an encouraging sign for locally grown fruit, a robust apple crop. AP Photo/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Eric EngmanIn the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (Sunday) is a story about the abundant apple crop grown at the UAF Experiment Farm this summer.

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Carrots gone wild

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A pink carrot showed up among the more "normal" colors grown in my garden. Fran Durner photo.A pink carrot showed up among the more "normal" colors grown in my garden. Fran Durner photo.It's been a strange year for carrots in my garden.

Let me back up a bit and make a disclaimer: I've spent most of the summer working on the house and totally neglecting the garden. I planted late and didn't water as much as I should have. Despite this, most things have done all right. Go figure.

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Lend a hand at the ABG

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Enrique Delacruz, left, and Andy Kirk of BP help with preparations for construction of a new rock garden while volunteering at the United Way of Anchorage 2009 Day of Caring Wednesday September 9, 2009 at the Alaska Botanical Garden. About 600 volunteers from area businesses took on 50 projects at local parks and non-profit organizations. "Over the years they've been a great help," added gardener Verna Pratt, herself a volunteer.Enrique Delacruz, left, and Andy Kirk of BP help with preparations for construction of a new rock garden while volunteering at the United Way of Anchorage 2009 Day of Caring Wednesday September 9, 2009 at the Alaska Botanical Garden. About 600 volunteers from area businesses took on 50 projects at local parks and non-profit organizations. "Over the years they've been a great help," added gardener Verna Pratt, herself a volunteer.The Alaska Botanical Garden needs your leaves! If you don't mow yours into the lawn or use them for mulch - don't throw them away! Bag 'em and bring them to the ABG.

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'Tis the season for mushrooms

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Local mushroom expert Diane Pleninger will lead a mushroom walk at the Alaska Botanical Garden on Thursday, September 10 at 6:30. Meet at Shop-in-the-Garden. Cost $5 for non-ABG members.

It's been a good year for Clavaria rosea, which is showing up in lawns around Anchorage this summer. Fran Durner photo.It's been a good year for Clavaria rosea, which is showing up in lawns around Anchorage this summer. Fran Durner photo. A reader emailed me recently with photos of these tiny watermelon-pink fungi-like fingers that were sticking up in her lawn. She wondered if I knew what they were. I didn't but said I'd find out.

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Fair flower entries are worth seeing

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A knockout dahlia in the flower entries at the Fair. Fran Durner photoA knockout dahlia in the flower entries at the Fair. Fran Durner photoLooks like the weather may hold if you are planning to visit the State Fair in Palmer on it's very last day. Go early, first thing if you can, to avoid the crowds.

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Two new world records set at State Fair

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Steve Hubacek and the cabbage fairies celebrate first-place honors, the $2,000 prize and another new world record with a 127 lb entry in the 14th annual Giant Cabbage Weigh-Off Friday evening September 4, 2009 at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer. Photo by Ted Bell/Alaska State FairSteve Hubacek and the cabbage fairies celebrate first-place honors, the $2,000 prize and another new world record with a 127 lb entry in the 14th annual Giant Cabbage Weigh-Off Friday evening September 4, 2009 at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer. Photo by Ted Bell/Alaska State FairJust catching up after being out of the office for a few days... It's been quite a week at the State Fair in Palmer with world records dropping by the wayside. As you know, Steve Hubacek of Wasilla brought in a whopper green cabbage to second crops entry on Wednesday to beat the record held for twenty years by a Welsh gardener.

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New cabbage world record

This just in from Wednesday's second crops entry at the State Fair:

World record green cabbage by Steve Hubacek from Wasilla - 125.9 pounds.

The previous world record, of 124 pounds, was set in 1989 in Wales, United Kingdom by Dr. Bernard Lavery, in his garden at Llanharry.

The state record had been held for nine years by Barb Everingham of Wasilla who brought in a 105.60 green cabbage in 2000.

Friday night is the 14th Annual Giant Cabbage Weigh-Off at 6 p.m. You can bet another record breaker will be entered.

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Pumpkin weigh-off over 'til next year

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Dale Marshall (arms crossed) and J.D. Megchelsen, center, watch as Dale's 594 pound pumpkin is weighed. Fran Durner/ADNDale Marshall (arms crossed) and J.D. Megchelsen, center, watch as Dale's 594 pound pumpkin is weighed. Fran Durner/ADN
Video: Great Pumpkin Weigh-Off

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Sumo-sized pumpkins vie for title at State Fair

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Dale Marshall with the pumpkin he calls his "bean bag." He estimates both to be over 500 pounds. Fran Durner/ADNDale Marshall with the pumpkin he calls his "bean bag." He estimates both to be over 500 pounds. Fran Durner/ADNThe competitors lay within feet of each other, squat and fat and bulging in the middle. Their skin was smooth on the one and heavily scarred on the other. During the middle of the summer, they put on weight at an average of fifteen pounds a day. Even now, they were still gaining weight daily, maybe five pounds a day. Neither would be able to move without the help of many people and heavy equipment. Both were absolutely beautiful.

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September Garden Calendar

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Be sure to stop by Millie's Garden near the red entrance at the Alaska State Fair to see unusual varieties of vegetables. Fran Durner/ADNBe sure to stop by Millie's Garden near the red entrance at the Alaska State Fair to see unusual varieties of vegetables. Fran Durner/ADN
ONGOING

Through September 2, Wednesdays, 6pm–7pm. Storytime in the Garden at the Alaska Botanical Garden. Nature stories for kids ages 3-5 with a caregiver. Meet in the Lower Perennial Garden, 4601 Campbell Airstrip Road. Cancelled if raining.

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Alaska State Fair flowers burn with color

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Dark, hot colors in the perennial garden at the Fair. Fran Durner/ADNDark, hot colors in the perennial garden at the Fair. Fran Durner/ADNAlaska State Fair head gardener Becky Myrvold and her crew deserve praise year after year for the marvelous display of blooms and color that grace the beds and baskets around the fairgrounds. Hot colors and black flowers and plants are especially evident this year from corner to corner.

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First crops entry day at the Alaska State Fair

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Roxanne Broughton of Wasilla cleans and shines up her potatoes with a dab of olive oil before entering them as well as her crookneck squash and peas in the crops department at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday afternoon, August 26, 2009. Fran Durner/ADNRoxanne Broughton of Wasilla cleans and shines up her potatoes with a dab of olive oil before entering them as well as her crookneck squash and peas in the crops department at the Alaska State Fair on Wednesday afternoon, August 26, 2009. Fran Durner/ADNAUDIO SLIDESHOW: 1st day of crops

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More work is yet to be done in the war on noxious and invasive weeds

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Jeff Heys, a habitat restoration biologist with U.S. Fish and Wildlife, moves native grass out of the way to expose reed canarygrass, an invasive plant making its way into Chester Creek. Fran Durner/ADNJeff Heys, a habitat restoration biologist with U.S. Fish and Wildlife, moves native grass out of the way to expose reed canarygrass, an invasive plant making its way into Chester Creek. Fran Durner/ADNA success story of a sort played out on Tuesday afternoon this week along the Chester Creek Nature Trail. The sun came out as 10 adults dressed in hip waders, most from area agencies, purposely explored the shores and islands in the creek near Westchester Lagoon. They were searching for purple loosestrife and another invasive weed - reed canarygrass - that have been trying to secure a roothold in the area. Both species are wetland invaders and have become problems across the Pacific Northwest. This was the last weed pull of the season for the Citizen Weed Warriors group.

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