Planning a garden is the first step to gardening success. Like many things in life, I learned this the hard way. The first time I had my own space in Alaska for a garden, I just tilled up some ground, threw in some seeds and hoped for the best. Some things worked great and others failed miserably. Many people I talked to have discovered same way I did that gardening techniques used and varieties grown in the lower 48 states don’t necessarily work in Alaska. Also, our state is so large with so many different climates, the varieties and methods of growing in one area often don’t work in other areas of Alaska. Due to the time and effort it takes to cultivate and tend a garden this kind of trial and error can not only be expensive but it can lead to frustration and discouragement.
Planning doesn’t guarantee results it does give you a better chance of your hard work paying off in beautiful blooms and tasty, healthy food. Below are some planning resources I have found helpful and some are often overlooked.
An excellent and often overlooked resource is other local gardeners, elders, and homesteaders–Find a local group of people in your area that have gardens, whether flower or vegetable, you admire and ask as many questions about their gardening successes and failures as they will allow you. These people are a wealth of knowledge and are often an overlooked valuable resource.
There’s a Moose in My Garden by Brenda Adams. Mrs. Adams is an award winning Master gardener who lives in Homer, Alaska. Her book outlines the planning and planting process while helping you think through what you want to achieve with your garden. This book has great tips for Alaskan gardening covering site evaluation, design, light and maintenance and is great for novice gardeners as well as professionals. It is well written and has stunning photos as well. According to Mrs. Adam’s Facebook page the book is available in 2015 at the following Alaska nurseries: Forget Me Not in Indian, The Plant Kingdom in Fairbanks, The Green Connection and Alaska Garden and Pet in Anchorage, and Alaska Hardy in Homer. It is also available online at Amazon.com.
The Alaska Gardener’s Handbook by Lenore Hedla. This book has a section for all types of gardening including flowers, vegetables, fruits and trees as well as lawns and ground cover. The book has suggested varieties which have been grow successfully in Alaska. There is information on soil conditions plants typically like, whether they need a greenhouse or if they typically do well outside sown into the ground. There are also practical suggestions for row covers, weeding, as well as information on insects and pests. This book is also available at Amazon.com.
Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte. This is a general gardening book about companion planting for a successful garden. It includes information on flowers and vegetables as well as general gardening tips for composting, crop rotation and planting to improve your soil. The book also offers tips on using plants for insect and pest control as well as for enhancing flavors vegetables. Additionally, it gives information on what plants not to grow near one another. This book is also available at Amazon.com
These are just a few of the planning resources available. Check your local area for garden clubs, master gardeners, farmers markets and high tunnel grower groups. Also, don’t forget about the cooperative extension website and the publications that can be found there.
Cheers and happy planting!