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

Eat local, support local art

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Check out these videos about eating local, posted on YouTube by former ADN photog Stephen Nowers.

Two videos feature Mat-Su farmer Arthur Keyes in his extraordinary corn and strawberry fields, one features the indomitable Sarah Bean of Arctic Organics and one video shows the remarkable organization it takes to plant thousands of lettuce seedlings in the field in the spring.

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Nursery-supplied plants can be the "superhighway for the spread of weeds."

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Purple loosestrife boasts a color similar to fireweed's, but the plant can devastate areas where it grows and chokes out other plant life. Jim Lavrakas/ADNPurple loosestrife boasts a color similar to fireweed's, but the plant can devastate areas where it grows and chokes out other plant life. Jim Lavrakas/ADNThe last weed pull of the year is Tuesday, Aug. 25, from 3-5 p.m. Purple loosestrife is the target weed, where it has taken hold along the Chester Creek Nature Trail. Meet at the 19th Avenue parking lot trail access -- turn west off Arctic Blvd. to get there. Bring hip or chest waders or boots. For details, contact Wade Collins, Volunteer Coordinator, Anchorage Parks & Recreation, CollinsWA@muni.org or 343-4460

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2010 All-America Selections award winners announced

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All-America Selections has announced their winning plants for 2010.

Zinnia ‘Zahara Starlight Rose’. Zinnias are old-fashioned flowers but these rose and white flowers are a new bicolor for this sun loving class of annuals. Other new traits are the proven resistances to leaf spot and mildew.These superior qualities resulted in long lasting zinnia plants that provide generous color all season. Photo courtesy All-America Selections.Zinnia ‘Zahara Starlight Rose’. Zinnias are old-fashioned flowers but these rose and white flowers are a new bicolor for this sun loving class of annuals. Other new traits are the proven resistances to leaf spot and mildew.These superior qualities resulted in long lasting zinnia plants that provide generous color all season. Photo courtesy All-America Selections.

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Organic farm tour this weekend

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Did you know there was a NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) farm in the Mat-Su? Or that it is all organic? I didn't either.

Saturday from 2 to 3 p.m. there will be an opportunity to tour the farm and check out some of their interesting techniques such as:
* A new solar-powered, gravity-fed, drip irrigation system.

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A new, old potato is rediscovered

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A Tlingit potato is shown in the gloved hand of Bill Ehlers, assistant gardener at the Jensen-Olson Arboretum in Juneau. Photo by Klas Stolpe.A Tlingit potato is shown in the gloved hand of Bill Ehlers, assistant gardener at the Jensen-Olson Arboretum in Juneau. Photo by Klas Stolpe.Check out this story that ran in the Juneau Empire about a recently discovered indigenous potato with an ancient history.

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Question about greenhouses

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From a reader who would really appreciate some feedback:

I’m thinking about building a greenhouse/potting shed and wonder if anyone has any ideas to share. I want a structure I can realistically heat in early March. I’m more interested in using it to start annual and perennial plants from seed with artificial light, than I am in using it for tomatoes or other warm season plants. I have halogen and sodium lights that I will use early in the spring, so I am thinking a combination shed/greenhouse will be more appropriate than a single-purpose greenhouse.

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A fungus among us

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Oyster mushrooms are grown commercially in Alaska. Fran Durner photo.Oyster mushrooms are grown commercially in Alaska. Fran Durner photo.Think growing peonies as a cash crop in Alaska is the only hot new entry in the Alaska agricultural economy? Think again. A group of rhubarb growers is convinced that rhubarb is to Alaska as apples are to Washington state. And a lone farmer in Nikiski has been growing gourmet oyster mushrooms year-round since 2005.

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2009 Farm Family Of the Year Announced

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Carol Kenley and daughter Rachel, 18, at the Wednesday South Anchorage Farmers market. Fran Durner/ADNCarol Kenley and daughter Rachel, 18, at the Wednesday South Anchorage Farmers market. Fran Durner/ADNA press release from the Alaska Division of Agriculture today named the the Oberg-Kenley Family of Palmer as the 2009 Farm Family of the Year. The Palmer family will be honored at the Alaska State Fair Board of Director’s reception on opening day of the Fair, Thursday August 27th, 2009.

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Mat-Su Farm Tour Part 2

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Carol Kenley in her garden. Fran Durner photo.Carol Kenley in her garden. Fran Durner photo.We took the round about scenic way into Kenley's Alaskan Vegetables and Flowers near Palmer. If you can picture a sleek white tour bus, the kind cruise ship passengers travel on when they are on land, trying to negotiate gravel off-road driveways and farm fields, that was us.

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Don't Forget: Recycle your plastic pots on Saturday

ONE DAY ONLY
Saturday, August 8 - From 10am to 5pm

Be good to the earth: Recycle your plastic pots and pick up a compost bin at the same time.

Sort your pots, trays and cell packs into these categories.Sort your pots, trays and cell packs into these categories.CATEGORY 1: #2 HDPE pots

CATEGORY 2: #5 PP, #6PS and #7 (Other) pots, cells packs and trays

* Rinse or remove all soil
* Remove metal hangers
* Stack pots to save space
* Pre-sort pots before arriving (there will be 2 bins at the event)

At the Alaska Botanical Garden parking lot off Campbell Airstrip Road, one block South of Tudor. No pre or post event drop off, please.

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Mat-Su Farm Tour

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Ben VanderWeele shows off some fresh picked beets and greens headed to the Saturday Market. Fran Durner photo.Ben VanderWeele shows off some fresh picked beets and greens headed to the Saturday Market. Fran Durner photo. Just about two Fridays ago, I boarded a bus in Muldoon with 50-some other people who paid $45 each for a day of guided tours of several farms and agricultural businesses in the Mat-Su Valley. The day was orgainzed by the Mat-Su Farm Bureau, with support from the Alaska Division of Agriculture. The Mat-Su Farm Bureau, a chapter of the American Farm Bureau, is headed by farmer Arthur Keyes who started the South Anchorage Farmer's Market.

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Off the grid in tomato heaven

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Darrell Misner explains his system of growing tomatoes to Kathy Wartinbee and Rosemary Kimball. Fran Durner photo.Darrell Misner explains his system of growing tomatoes to Kathy Wartinbee and Rosemary Kimball. Fran Durner photo. I'm lucky to have good friends in other towns who are eager to share their horticultural knowledge and great finds with me when I visit. Early last summer when I visited the Kenai Peninsula, Rosemary Kimball and Kathy Wartinbee escorted me on a greenhouse and nursery tour. (There are many, each is different and they are all good.) This year, Rosemary wanted to bring us both to visit a garden at a home off the grid in the Clam Gulch area.

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Homer Garden Tour

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A garden of plant specimens, including some transplanted from Nome, against a backdrop of Kachemak Bay. Fran Durner photoA garden of plant specimens, including some transplanted from Nome, against a backdrop of Kachemak Bay. Fran Durner photo View Homer Gardens Gallery

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The Alaska State Fair opens this month - look for record breaking vegetables! Photo by Bob Hallinen/ADNThe Alaska State Fair opens this month - look for record breaking vegetables! Photo by Bob Hallinen/ADNONGOING

Through August 30, 1-2:30pm. DAILY NATURE WALKS on the RODAK NATURE TRAIL. Join professional naturalists, 7 days a week, for a ¾ mile walk on the Rodak Nature Trail at the Eagle River Nature Center to learn more about the history, flora and fauna of the Eagle River Valley. These hikes are free to the public. Participants should sign up at the front desk 10 minutes prior to the start time. Parking is $5 for non-members, but the walk is free. These walks are not intended for organized groups. For group walks, please contact naturalist@ernc.org

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Did you go on the garden tour this weekend? Tell us what you thought!

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Echinacia and geranium together in the Kestner garden. Fran Durner/ADNEchinacia and geranium together in the Kestner garden. Fran Durner/ADNThere were ten gardens on the tour on Sunday and I only got to see seven of them.

What did you think? Were you inspired? Did you learn something new? Did you have a favorite?

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Homer gardener wins second national landscape design award

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The Stream Hill Park garden looking south. Photo courtesy Brenda Adams.The Stream Hill Park garden looking south. Photo courtesy Brenda Adams.Brenda Adams of Homer has won a national award for a garden she designed in Homer.

Garden designer Brenda Adams at Stream Hill Park during the garden tour in Homer last year. Fran Durner photo.Garden designer Brenda Adams at Stream Hill Park during the garden tour in Homer last year. Fran Durner photo.The Perennial Plant Association announced its 2009 Landscape Design Awards at a national symposium in St. Louis last week and awarded Adams a Merit Award, her second in three years, for the 6,000-square-foot entry garden at Stream Hill Park development, about a mile and a half out East End Road.

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2009 Anchorage Garden Tour: Larson Garden

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The 2009 Anchorage Garden Tour is on Sunday, July 26, from noon to 5pm. A state flag planted in lobelia at the entrance to the Larson "homestead." Fran Durner/ADNA state flag planted in lobelia at the entrance to the Larson "homestead." Fran Durner/ADN Click here for a map and addresses of the tour.

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2009 Anchorage Garden Tour: Fouse Garden

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The 2009 Anchorage Garden Tour is on Sunday, July 26, from noon to 5pm. Old metal chairs and a trellis decorate a bed in the Fouse garden. Fran Durner/ADNOld metal chairs and a trellis decorate a bed in the Fouse garden. Fran Durner/ADN Click here for a map and addresses of the tour.

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Vandals on the loose

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Muddy tracks left at the garden on N Street. Fran Durner/ADNMuddy tracks left at the garden on N Street. Fran Durner/ADNSometime over last weekend someone tried to take a wheeled tour of downtown gardens - literally - by driving right into them.

The  hedge surrounding the Centennial Rose Garden. Fran Durner/ADNThe hedge surrounding the Centennial Rose Garden. Fran Durner/ADNThe vandal or vandals drove onto the Park Strip and into the rugosa hedge that surrounds the Centennial Rose Garden, badly damaging, if not killing, several bushes.

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2009 Anchorage Garden Tour: Gramercy garden

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The 2009 Anchorage Garden Tour is on Sunday, July 26, from noon to 5pm.

Video: A tour of the Therese Gramercy garden.

Therese Gramercy designed her garden to be viewed from above. She took out all the grass in favor of rock paths and garden beds. Fran Durner/ADNTherese Gramercy designed her garden to be viewed from above. She took out all the grass in favor of rock paths and garden beds. Fran Durner/ADNTherese Gramercy put three summers of hard work into her garden to get it just right and now she is leaving. After the garden tour, she'll be going on the road to promote a childrens book she wrote with hopes to eventually settle in Seattle. The new owner of her home is excited to be showing off the garden with Therese on Sunday.

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