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Gardening From Alaska
by Jeff Lowenfels
by Jeff Lowenfels


Jeff is the Past President of the Garden Writers of America, a columnist with the Anchorage Daily News, Host Alaska Gardens and Supporter of Plant a Row.

August 18, 2002

My good friend Ed Hume is in town. He will be speaking tonight from 6 to 7 down at the Sullivan arena at the Home Show and I have the honor of introducing him. He’ll speak tomorrow and Sunday as well. From one garden writer about another, be sure and catch Ed’s talks. He is terrific.

For those of you who don’t know Ed Hume, he gardens in the Seattle area, and long has starred as the Northwest’s most popular television star, nonetheless TV garden star. His program, Gardening in America, started in 1965 and now reaches over 5O million homes, here and in Japan. I can only imagine how this honest-to-goodness-gentlemen gardener translates into Japanese. Iron Chef in reverse!

Ed also writes a weekly newspaper column, has a weekly radio show, takes groups to fantastic gardens around the world, is the author of several books and sells seeds designed for short season and cool climates like ours.

Yeah, that’s the guy. Ed Hume. His seeds are sold here and you’ve seen his handsome, smiling face on the racks. In fact, he has a summer home in Southeast, so he is practically an Alaskan and you really can put your trust in his seeds.

What most people don’t know is that Ed Hume donates thousands and thousands of packets of valuable vegetable seeds to his customers if they only agree to use the produce grown to feed the hungry at a food bank or soup kitchen. Ed Hume pushes the Plant A Row For The Hungry program everywhere he goes and in every way he can.

In fact, thanks to Ed Hume (and other Garden Writers Association members), The Plant A Row For The Hungry Program, started right here in Anchorage mind you, provided over 1. 4 million pounds of fresh producing and over 4 million meals last year.

This year the totals should be higher. Surely the need is even greater. From Anchorage to North America, Plant A Row For The Hungry is now helping to feed people in 48 states and all across Canada.. The only states missing are South Dakota and Nevada.

How is it done? It is so simple and easy. Gardeners just like you take extra, fresh produce from their gardens to places like Bean’s Cafe or the Alaska Food Bank And if you happen to have flowers, they are appreciated as well. That is all there is to it. What could be easier?

So, won’t you join Ed Hume and me in helping this year? Your garden donations will help feed some of the 30 million Americans, mostly children, who go to bed hungry each night in America. That is right: 30 million.

Of course, now is the time to harvest stuff here in Southcentral so you shouldn’t have any problem gathering extra garden produce. Beside the potential for a killing frost any day now, vegetables and herbs won’t taste any better than if they are picked this weekend.

Broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, cauliflower? Don’t wait until the slugs get them. (Do see the important USDA discovery re slugs in the calendar). The only kale plants that should be not be harvested until after a hard frost or three are Brussels sprouts. Snap peas, Swiss chard and beets should be ready. Carrots can go a bit longer, but lettuces and herbs are at their peak if not a bit beyond. Onions can be thinned, garlic picked and dried and some cilantro harvested and the rest allowed to develop seedpods.

Don’t forget fruits, especially raspberries. They are ripe when they can be pulled from their caps, probably now. Blueberries are ready as are currents and gooseberries assuming your plants had enough leaves this year to support their development. (Compost tea foliar spray seemed to do the trick in our yard).

Potatoes should be flowering. That means you can take a few “new” or young potatoes. Leave the rest until after a frost and they will be sweater and, of course, bigger. Keep hilling them with leaves.

Herbs. Get them harvested. Remember parsley is a biennial and will produce again the second year only.

And don’t forget those flowers. Sweat peas will continue to bloom if you pick off flowers ( and enjoy them) so the plants don’t form seed pods. Cut back spent snapdragon flowers and if it stays frost free, you will get a second buzz of buds. Cut back spent delphiniums. Cut off peony seed pods. Dead head pelargoniums, Shasta daisies ( to contain them) and any flowering perennials that you already know to be invasive if you don’t stop seed formation.

But most important, please donate something from your garden. Let me know how many pounds you drop off. My email is at the end of this column. I keep track and send it in to headquarters. I just heard from the garden columnist who writes for the San Jose Mercury News. Her readers have donated 110,000 pounds of produce so far and the season is not nearly finished.

Jeff’s Alaska Garden Calendar for the week

Scientific gardening sites of the week: If you want to see a horror picture, check out the columbine sawfly at work, a real chainsaw massacre.

Canadian Thistle alert. Hey, if you see a strange but beautiful plant with prickly leaves set out in a growing rosette and a pink prickly flower, it could be a Canadian thistle. DANGER. Get rid of it asap. Canadian thistle root system.

Slugs, THIS JUST IN FROM THE USDA: Coffee grinds kill slugs! It takes two days, but if sprinkled around plants the slugs eat it and then something bad happens to their brains. Wow, and coffee grains are good for the soil!

Perennials: Look for sales at all nurseries. Now is a great time to buy them and plant them. It is also a great time to move those that need a different location or dividing.

Compost teas: Get a few more applications in before the temperatures drop below 50 degrees and the microbes go to sleep on you. When you buy tea, make sure you ask to see tests. If you can’t get them, don’t buy the tea. You wouldn’t buy drinking water without testing, don’t buy compost tea without seeing the test results from BBC labs or Soilfoodweb, Inc.


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