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G is for Growing Gardens in #Alaska – Container Gardening #AtoZChallenge

G is for Gardens of Ginormous Delight in Alaska!

G-001Gardening in Alaska is magical, large and in charge veggies and fruits grow in our never ending sunlight here in the land of the Midnight Sun. We produce the most obnoxiously large zucchini and pumpkins… cabbage lettuce heads etc. It is really magical.

My mini corn stocks were as large as regular and the tomato plants were crazy my first year! My herb pot of basil I brought up from Arizona was a large bush about 2 feet across became dangerously close to a shrub of 6 feet! I was giving handfuls of basil away to my neighbors! But when we moved to the cabin I didn’t have my huge garden anymore and so I went back to gardening in containers, just like my mom raised me to do in the Pacific NW.

Container gardens are something I flourish in. I enjoy them as you can move them around your yard or if they need to be in sunlight or if they need special types of dirt, such as certain herbs, and tomatoes and lettuce.. They all need different blends of earth. Draping tarps over the top of delicate plants during the monsoon rains (yes the interior of Alaska is an Arctic desert). There are other reasons such as moose who cannot get certain buckets up on your porch.. that is unless he is a moose like mine (read about my basil eating, hostage taking moose over at Erica Lucke Dean’s site)! Container gardening is ideal anywhere. I did it when I live in Texas and it was lovely. You need to find out what the best mix for potting soil down there, but we will discuss soil later.

strawberriesAt first I used expensive containers I bought from the garden center, my garden was gorgeous. Then… winter happened and I did not have a garage to move them into or a basement and half of them were destroyed by the cold. Plus I wanted to expand it so I bought 5 gallon buckets, left over plastic gallon containers and larger Rubbermaid™ tubs. Everything grows amazing in Alaska, all you have to do is mix the dirt right. My secret ingredient always was adding ash to the mix especially since I wanted to make sure the roots would stay moist but not sodden and never dry out on top of that.

Whatever you use make sure to get containers that you can drill/poke holes into the bottom for drainage, if the containers don’t already have them.  Make the holes about 1/2″-1″ on the bottom of the container. I grab the cordless drill and a thick drill. On the side of the bucket no more than an inch from the bottom of the bucket drill anywhere from 10-20 holes. Good drainage is a must for any container gardens. Especially when you are doing potatoes because they can start rotting and I do those in 30 gallon garbage cans!

Back to the soil though. You CANNOT use regular garden soil in containers.  It is way too dense and prohibits proper drainage.  You need to splurge and get the potting soil mix, or make your own (which is what I do. The basic recipe is easy-peasy.  Mix one part each of the peat moss, vermiculite, and compost. I also add 4 cups of ash from a wood stove, this really tends to be a plus with everything I grow.  Unless you have chickens like I did the first year, you are going to want to choose some kind of fertilizer, either organic or store bought. If you do not have your own compost you can even check locally to see if you can find some. Many neighborhoods have gardening co-ops so check around!

GardeningIt’s easiest if you just grab a bucket and throw one bucket of each ingredient into your mixing container (I use a large Rubbermaid so I can close the lid but many use a wheelbarrow).  Add a little water and stir it around with gloved hands or a shovel. Start filling your containers, but pay attention if you are using a commercial fertilizer, fill your pots half way, add a scoop of fertilizer and mix it in.  Fill your container the rest of the way, repeat the fertilizer step, and and my secret ingredient. 4 cups of ash from a wood stove. I take my shovel or spade and mix all these ingredients in! BAM, you’re done! If the soil is for tomatoes or peppers, I make sure to add some egg shells, and some “moose nuggets” as it will help with the growth and drainage

Fill the containers till you have about 2 inches from the top. You want to make sure you have 2 inches as it will give you space if you need to add extra soil later in the summer as the plants will absorb quite a bit of the nutrients.  Leave the buckets alone for a couple days in the weather so everything can settle.

photo credit http://www.alaskamastergardeners.org/

photo credit alaskamastergardeners.org Anchorage, AK

Do this will all your buckets and however much soil you have. Leave out for two days in the weather so the lime in the soil can perforate the bucket and the plastic as well as whatever was in the buckets to begin with can transfer their properties and not kill the plant. After the two days, plant no more than two plants of your choice in each bucket. If you have a lot of seedlings…. You will need a lot of buckets!

Water normally, check the soil once a week (as it will settle) and add soil as needed or if needed and make sure to follow the directions via the seed packets. I use seedlings for some things but mostly I just start in the buckets as is. Mainly because I am lazy but also I learned that in Alaska? It grows FAST! But you may want to do a bit of research. My sweet peas and green beans grow like crazy all up the side of my cabin! Check out some of the famous grown stuff from all over Alaska. We do everything rather BIG here!

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The best types of container plants are lettuce, spinach, kohlrabi, herbs of all kinds, broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and you can go on and see. If you are going to do carrots and potatoes you are going to want to do them the tub or garbage can. Check this video out to really get a good idea!

G-is-for-Gardening

6 Comments

  1. Hello, my friend. Just skimmed your article and found it very delightful. The veggies are enormous and beautiful! I didn’t see anything about insects. Are you bothered with those…you know, like mosquitoes or beetles that attack plants or you?
    Thanks for the really interesting post! Best regards to you! Ruby

    • Mosquitoes do not bother plants and the way to avoid creating places where mosquitoes breed to go after you. Sure we have insects but nothing like the lower-48. I do not like using insecticide but I truthfully have never had a insect problem. For the same reason (the water) You have to watch over watering things like cabbage and lettuce because of root maggots. BUT I have yet to have problems with them.

  2. Thank you for posting this! I’ve tried gardening in the past with mixed success, but I think I want to try container gardening this year after reading your post!

  3. I cannot imagine living in Alaska, much less trying to garden there. This is awesome.

    • Gardening in Alaska is SO EASY because of our sun! We cannot lay seedlings in the ground and have to watch for late frost which is why most of us do not lay out our buckets till Spring is almost over (which lasts about two weeks LOL) I usually plant as soon as the large misquotes start flying! Usually right around Memorial day.

  4. These are great tips! We try and try to have a garden here, but we are never truly successful. I am going to try to listen especially to the tip about letting the soil settle before planting! Visiting from #AtoZChallenge 🙂

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