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

2009 Anchorage Garden Tour: Khajinova garden

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

Video: A tour of Alla Khajinova's garden

Alla Khajinova uses hostas to border the front lawn area. Fran Durner/ADNAlla Khajinova uses hostas to border the front lawn area. Fran Durner/ADNWhen Alla Khajinova was living in her native Ukraine, she belonged to the local garden club and planted a garden around her dacha. After coming to Alaska to be near one of her daughters, she naturally gravitated in the same direction.

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2009 Anchorage Garden Tour: Kestner Garden

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

Video: A tour of Sue Kestner's garden

Sue Kestner's garden takes advantage of a gentle slope in full sun. Fran Durner/ADNSue Kestner's garden takes advantage of a gentle slope in full sun. Fran Durner/ADNAt the Kestner garden, with a bluff setting overlooking the inlet, it's hard to tear your eyes away from scanning the horizon or looking for wildlife in the Coastal Refuge below. When you finally turn your back, you are rewarded with a view of a curving stone path up a gentle slope and a mixed border of perennials in full bloom.

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Willow Garden Tour

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Verna Pratt and Kathy Zwick at Les Brake's garden. Fran Durner photo.Verna Pratt and Kathy Zwick at Les Brake's garden. Fran Durner photo.Willow is only a pleasant hour and a half drive from Anchorage, and most years, we Anchorage gardeners venture north in a sort of pilgrimage to pay homage to Les Brake and his extraordinary garden.

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2009 Anchorage Garden Tour: Garvin garden

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Video: A Tour of the Garvin Garden
The garden of Richard and Patricia Garvin has a distinctly Asian theme, with a torii gate that frames the entrance, a Japanese teahouse, stone lanterns, statues of Buddha and several water features. Fran Durner/ADNThe garden of Richard and Patricia Garvin has a distinctly Asian theme, with a torii gate that frames the entrance, a Japanese teahouse, stone lanterns, statues of Buddha and several water features. Fran Durner/ADNThe 2009 Anchorage Garden Tour, organized by the Anchorage Garden Club is coming up on Sunday, July 26. The club has it easy: All they have to do is persuade a few gardeners who have lovely yards to open them to the public on one afternoon in the summer. And then, for the next few weeks, the gardeners get to work up a sweat and their nails to the nibs making sure their beds will be in tiptop shape for the tour.

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Coming to a road near you!

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Image courtesy Carol Lambert.Image courtesy Carol Lambert.Picture this: A plain white van drives across the intersection in front of you while you are stopped at a light. You hardly notice it at all, it is so nondescript and the roads hold dozens of these indistinguishable vans. Now think of that same van gleaming with side panels of luscious giant-sized vegetables arranged as a still life, brightly painted in saturated colors. The design looks something like an old fashioned seed packet with pea tendril curlicues framing the corners. Your eyes follow it across the intersection, straining to read the print before it fades out of view - Glacier Valley Farm CSA, Community Suppported Agriculture based in Alaska.

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Meet Your Alaska Farmers

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Onions at the Farmers' Markets. Photo by Fran DurnerOnions at the Farmers' Markets. Photo by Fran DurnerHave you ever been interested in seeing where the local food you eat comes from? The Mat-Su Farm Bureau and the Alaska Division of Agriculture are sponsoring a tour of local farms on Friday, July 24, 2009.

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Cayenne pepper keeps cats out of the garden

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CC loves to sit here and watch the world go by. Photo by Fran DurnerCC loves to sit here and watch the world go by. Photo by Fran DurnerHelpful Hint of the Week:

My neighbor's cat likes to park herself behind the Iris pseudacorus and use it as a blind from which to observe the garden without being seen herself. Happily for her, that's the only thing she does when she is visiting so I actually like to see her. Some cats are not so well-mannered and are not as welcome in the garden. Here's some advice from a reader:

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This and that

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Arugula flowers are good to eat! Photo by Fran Durner.Arugula flowers are good to eat! Photo by Fran Durner.Another lovely bluebird kind of week. I will never complain about too much sun or heat....even if it means plants are bolting, I have to water more often and wear tons of sunblock. I'd forgotten that one good thing about arugula bolting is you get to see and eat their pretty flowers. They have the same nutty, spicey flavor as the greens but add variety to the salad bowl.

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Compost bins available again

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Has anyone produced compost with their bin yet? How did it go? Please let us know.

If you missed the opportunity to buy a composting bin during the Muni-sponsored Dirt Day in May, another 1,000 bins have arrived and are available at the same price of $50. Information is available on the Anchorage Soil & Water Conservation District website, including a pre-order form that must be sent in with your check before pick-up.

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Really good news!

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All plastic pots and cell packs will be accepted this year for recycling. Photo by Fran DurnerAll plastic pots and cell packs will be accepted this year for recycling. Photo by Fran DurnerThere will be a plastic pot recycling event again this year on Saturday, August 8, and this time they will ACCEPT ALL PLASTIC POTS and CELL PACKS!

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What's Blooming Now?

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I'm watching to see if the tanacetum I moved to a sunnier spot will need to be staked this year. So far they look pretty sturdy. Fran Durner photo.I'm watching to see if the tanacetum I moved to a sunnier spot will need to be staked this year. So far they look pretty sturdy. Fran Durner photo.Has anyone spotted a slug yet? I haven't, nor have I observed any damage from them either. (Knock on wood.) I'm sure they are out there but the warm weather and the dry soils may be holding them off, keeping them way down in the soil where it's still moist and cool. They can stay there too!

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Watch for upcoming insects classes

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Beneficial Insects and Spiders of Alaska is available in very limited quantities from the Cooperative Extension Service.Beneficial Insects and Spiders of Alaska is available in very limited quantities from the Cooperative Extension Service.Pam Compton, IPM technician for the Cooperative Extension Service in Mat-Su, recently gave a class on beneficial insects at the CES office in Anchorage. It was the first of three presentations on insects to be offered this summer by the CES.

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Homer Public Library lawn will stay wild

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The unmanicured lawn at the new Homer Public Library. Photo by Naomi Klouda/Homer TribuneThe unmanicured lawn at the new Homer Public Library. Photo by Naomi Klouda/Homer TribuneThere is an article in the Homer Tribune this week about the new public library in Homer that mentions something very interesting: the lawn around it will be deliberately left unmowed, unfertilized, unweeded and unwatered.

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July Garden Calendar

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Late blooming tulips at a business near the Park Strip at the end of June. Fran Durner photoLate blooming tulips at a business near the Park Strip at the end of June. Fran Durner photo
ONGOING

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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Q&A: Jane Baldwin on Primulas

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Master Gardener Jane Baldwin set up a primula information display at the Alaska Botanical Garden and Art Fair recently. Fran Durner/ADNMaster Gardener Jane Baldwin set up a primula information display at the Alaska Botanical Garden and Art Fair recently. Fran Durner/ADN

View Jane Baldwin Primula Video

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Book Review: The Backyard Homestead

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The Backyard Homestead, edited by Carleen Madigan (Storey Publishing, paperback, $18.95)By Cheryl Chapman

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The Morton Arboretum Tour

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Another in an occasional series on Outside gardens.

Part of the 16 miles of hiking trails at the Morton Arboretum. Photo courtesy Morton ArboretumPart of the 16 miles of hiking trails at the Morton Arboretum. Photo courtesy Morton ArboretumPress Release: Morton Arboretum Open House Promises To Be An Eye Opener With Behind-the-Scenes Look

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Cut and come again salad days

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This row of sheared Heirloom Cutting Mix lettuce will hopefully grow back for another harvest. Fran Durner photoThis row of sheared Heirloom Cutting Mix lettuce will hopefully grow back for another harvest. Fran Durner photo

In mid-May, I planted a row each of Heirloom Cutting Mix lettuces (Speckled Troutback, Blush Butter Cos, Red Ruffled Oak, Green Devil's Tongue, and Sucrine) Paris Market Mix (equal parts Rouge Grenobloise, Royal Oakleaf, Cimarron, Sucrine, Blonde Batavia and Red Salad Bowl lettuces with a tad of aromatic chervil, arugula, chicory and endive) and a full row of Italian arugula. So far the arugula has not bolted.

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What's Blooming Now?

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The lilac in full bloom. Photo by Fran DurnerThe lilac in full bloom. Photo by Fran DurnerI look forward to the third week of June every year, not just because of the long days but because, reliably, my lilac tree will begin to bloom.

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Got Slime Mold?

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It appears out of nowhere, like a ninja dressed head to toe in black, and creeps down the path silently, oozing up in the gravelled crevices between the flagstones I have placed so carefully.

At first it looks as if something snuck into the yard while my back was turned and plotzed! But in actuality, I'm being slimed again.

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