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

Additional garden events this week

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A garden on last year's garden tour. Fran Durner/ADNA garden on last year's garden tour. Fran Durner/ADNAre you proud of your garden? The Anchorage Garden Club is looking for a few good gardens for this year's Anchorage Garden Tour, traditionally held on the third Sunday in July, when Anchorage gardens are at their peak. Please call Marge Olson at 333-5868 if you have a garden you would like to show off!

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ABG Art Fair This Weekend

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Cindy Shake helps Duke Russell set his "Dog Table" in a bed in the garden on Thursday, June 18, 2009 in  preparation for the 12th Annual Garden Fair & Garden Art Show at the Alaska Botanical Garden. Fran Durner/ADNCindy Shake helps Duke Russell set his "Dog Table" in a bed in the garden on Thursday, June 18, 2009 in preparation for the 12th Annual Garden Fair & Garden Art Show at the Alaska Botanical Garden. Fran Durner/ADNTonight is the Alaska Botanical Garden's annual fundraising gala (5:30-8:30, $50/$100) with music, food, drink and tours of the garden. It's also a preview of this weekend's Garden Art Show featuring some of Alaska's best known artists who have created pieces just for the outdoors.

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June is the month to view wildflowers

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The wild Iris setosa at Eklutna Flats are in full bloom. Fran Durner/ADNThe wild Iris setosa at Eklutna Flats are in full bloom. Fran Durner/ADNI took a drive to Eklutna Flats yesterday just to view the football-sized fields of wild Iris setosa in bloom along the highway. June is the best month to view wildflowers along the highways north and south of Anchorage. The Eklutna iris range in color from a deep royal purple to the palest of lavender. At one time, a white iris could be found among them but they have all but disappeared.

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Don't Be a Pinhead

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This X-ray shows a 2-inch metal pin that was shot from a garden tiller into the brain of Chris Clear, a 19-year-old from Penrose, Colo. The X-ray was taken in Canon City, Colo., in late April 2008 after the freak accident, which, despite a trip to the emergency room on the day it happened, went undetected for 48 hours. AP Photo/The GazetteThis X-ray shows a 2-inch metal pin that was shot from a garden tiller into the brain of Chris Clear, a 19-year-old from Penrose, Colo. The X-ray was taken in Canon City, Colo., in late April 2008 after the freak accident, which, despite a trip to the emergency room on the day it happened, went undetected for 48 hours. AP Photo/The GazetteView Healthy Gardening Video Part 1

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So many books, so little time...

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The stack of review books on my floor is not getting any smaller, and though the days may be longer, the number of things that MUST be done never seems to dwindle.

However, I am committed to getting more garden book reviews out there for you!

The All-New Illustrated Guide to Gardening edited by Fern Marshall Bradley and Trevor Cole. (Readers Digest, $35)

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Farmers Markets Are Open

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Customer Carol Bryner, left, is waited on by Monica Seldovitsch and her son Leo, 6, at Anchorage Farmers Market Saturday at 15th Avenue and Cordova Street. Vitali and Monica Seldovitsch established their Palmer farm in 1984. Erik Hill/ADNCustomer Carol Bryner, left, is waited on by Monica Seldovitsch and her son Leo, 6, at Anchorage Farmers Market Saturday at 15th Avenue and Cordova Street. Vitali and Monica Seldovitsch established their Palmer farm in 1984. Erik Hill/ADNThe Farmers Markets are open and growers are bringing in their early produce as well as flowers, plants and trees. Fresh fish and locally made cheeses can be bought. Fresh bread from a variety of local artisanal bakeries is available as well.

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Are you visiting Outside gardens this summer?

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A pictorial visit to the Missouri Botanical Garden
The Victorian District at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, Mo. AP Photo/Missouri Botanical Garden, Josh MonkenThe Victorian District at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, Mo. AP Photo/Missouri Botanical Garden, Josh MonkenLast year, the thought of traveling outside Alaska during the summer was a no-brainer. This year, it's a different story.

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How hot is your greenhouse?

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Photo by Fran Durner.Photo by Fran Durner.I have a question from a reader about what is the best temperature to set a greenhouse with thermostatically controlled ventilation. He grows tomatoes and peppers and basil and recently the electricity went out at his place and the greenhouse was way up over 100 degrees. He's not sure how much heat the plants can take. I don't have a greenhouse so I thought I'd throw this question out and gather the info.

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Wild Salmon on Parade

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Flora Fish Flowington by Patricia Glatter. Photo by Chris Arend.Flora Fish Flowington by Patricia Glatter. Photo by Chris Arend.
The annual Wild Salmon on Parade outdoor sculpture exhibit is about to spawn on downtown streets.

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Protection from cutworms

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Plastic rings cut from milk jugs help protect plants. Photo by Fran Durner.Plastic rings cut from milk jugs help protect plants. Photo by Fran Durner.I thought I'd pass this along: I use old milk jugs cut into rings to protect cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and any other plant that is susceptible to cutworms. I sink the ring about halfway into the soil to protect the stems of the plants.

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What's Blooming Now?

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Rain is good, rain is good....I kept saying that as I got ready for work this morning. But oh! How the garden and flowers have responded to all the sun we've been having!

Here's a look at some of my favorite blooms in the garden right now.

What's blooming in yours?
Muscari armeniacum or grape hyacinths have a wonderful blue-purple color. Photo by Fran DurnerMuscari armeniacum or grape hyacinths have a wonderful blue-purple color. Photo by Fran Durner
A striped flower version of a Primula auricula. Photo by Fran DurnerA striped flower version of a Primula auricula. Photo by Fran Durner

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Newsprint is safe to use in the garden

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I've heard questions lately regarding the inks in newsprint and if they are safe to use in the garden.

For many years now most newspapers, including the Anchorage Daily News, have been using nontoxic soy-based inks. They are safe to use in compost and safe to use as a base layer if you are starting a new garden bed and wish to smother the grass or weeds.

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Garden bugs are appearing

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Look for the characteristic J-hook shape to identify a sawfly larva. Photo by Fran DurnerLook for the characteristic J-hook shape to identify a sawfly larva. Photo by Fran Durner
View "Bugs of Summer" video

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June Garden Calendar

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Summer is finally on the way. Fran Durner photoSummer is finally on the way. Fran Durner photo

ONGOING

June 1 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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Kill slugs NOW!

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Search and destroy slug eggs now! Photo by Fran Durner.Search and destroy slug eggs now! Photo by Fran Durner.The Talk Dirt blogette is currently spending time in her own garden and from now until June will only sporadically post dispatches.

View video on hardening-off plants

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Straw bale gardening

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Flowers and veggies are interplanted in the top of a straw bale. Photo by Fran DurnerFlowers and veggies are interplanted in the top of a straw bale. Photo by Fran DurnerSay you want to grow your food but you don't have a raised bed or a lot of yard or a lot of time and money. Or say you just want to try something new. One alternative that was developed several years ago by the Garden Writers Association at the Seattle Flower & Garden Show in Seattle was to grow your plants in a straw bale.

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Making a copper trellis

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This copper trellis was made from start to finish in one hour! Photo by Fran DurnerThis copper trellis was made from start to finish in one hour! Photo by Fran DurnerI remember seeing a high copper trellis and arbor with blue alpine clematis growing on it at Annie Nevaldine's garden years ago. It looked so classy and, I thought, must have cost an arm and a leg. Annie says it was built on-site and it fit in perfectly.

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Master Gardener Workshop

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Anchorage Master Gardeners president Beth Schlabaugh introduces Rose Marie Nichols McGee. Photo by Fran Durner.Anchorage Master Gardeners president Beth Schlabaugh introduces Rose Marie Nichols McGee. Photo by Fran Durner.I'm at the Master Gardener workshop Hands-on Harvest and we got started this morning with keynote speaker Rose Marie Nichols McGee of Nichols Garden Nursery in Oregon speaking about growing edible gardens in containers. Just about anything edible will grow in containers, as she demonstrated with her photos. Rose Marie suggested we could start seeds of a green called mache "as soon as the weather begins to turn for you - in February." "Dont laugh, don't laugh," she pleaded as the room erupted. "Mache can use a good chill, and soon you will have a very expensive salad to eat."

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Spring has definitely sprung

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Photo by Fran DurnerPhoto by Fran DurnerIt's so nice to see old friends making their way up toward the sun as the piles of leaf mulch are pushed aside. The Arabis were the first to flower although I can see buds forming on the Scilla and Fritillaria meleagris. The Primula pubescens 'Freedom' that bloomed on Mother's Day last year looks like it is going to repeat that feat. What a gift!

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If the glove fits

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Both Foxgloves Works, left, and Youngstown gloves are comfortable work gloves. Fran Durner photoBoth Foxgloves Works, left, and Youngstown gloves are comfortable work gloves. Fran Durner photoI'd be willing to bet you've got piles of mismatched work and garden gloves tossed here and there. I've got purple surgical gloves for transplanting, different colors of nitrile gloves for mixing dirt and planting, several pairs of heavy leather, and cloth and leather gloves for heavy garden work and for moving rock and rubber gloves for when I water. I think I've found a new pair of gloves that will do the work of all but the very thin surgical gloves.

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