by Mary Hinckley, An Alaska Master Gardener in Tok, Alaska


Last summer my husband, Snooks, built  me a greenhouse. He had the green thumb but he
said the greenhouse was for me. It was beautiful and I was touched, but I was
no gardener. I’d spent a lot of time dodging gardening responsibilities for
fear of killing something beautiful. I was willing to learn, however, and at a
friend’s suggestion I enrolled in the Alaska Master Gardener Online course.  The class fit perfectly into my schedule and
gave me the confidence to partner with Snooks in gardening and caring for our
successful, innovative greenhouse. Now that I can productively play in the dirt,
Snooks can spend much of his time as the innovator and this year our greenhouse
is off to a grand start.

At the end of last summer Snooks insulated the walls of the
greenhouse to retain heat. Early this spring he and a friend insulated the
dome. We’d started our tomatoes very early and they were getting big and needed
a place to go.

By April 11, everything was in place for us to experiment
with an insulated greenhouse and row cover. We planted 4 tomato plants that
day, covered them with the row cover and crossed our fingers. The next day
found the tomatoes still alive so we decided to move in more tomatoes. As well,
zucchini, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, and some peppers
found a new home in the greenhouse, joining the garlic I’d also planted the day
before.  All the plants except the garlic
were protected with row cover at night and allowed to soak up the sun during
the day. Though the temperature in the greenhouse never got below 34Ëš, the
row cover always added at least another 15Ëš. It was quite a thrill for us to
have a working greenhouse while snow covered the ground outside.

We folded up the row cover after about a week and a half and
exchanged it for a milk-house heater that we only turn on at night. It keeps
the chill off and it’s a good thing because so far this year there have only
been a few nights that the outside temperature here haven’t dipped below
freezing. On a sunny day the greenhouse temperature gets so high that a door
must be left open for fresh, cool air.
The plants are thriving. The zucchini and peppers are in
bloom and we see our first cucumber. The garlic is over a foot high and we’ve
added lettuce, radishes, mustard, beans and Swiss chard. We’ve moved in more
tomatoes and Snooks made clever supports that double as topsy-turvy hangers. We’ve
enjoyed our first tomatoes and been able to share a couple with friends.

This is fun. Today gardening is a part of me and The Master
Gardener Online class helped me move beyond my fear to a place of wonder and
awe. I’ve found that as I nurture plants, they nurture me more.

About Heidi Rader

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