Gardening When You Don’t Have a Garden

I really struggled to find a topic for this blog post. I wanted it to be something personal and relevant to my own gardening experiences. And that’s when I realized why it was so difficult for me to find a topic: I don’t have a garden and I am not a gardener. Not in the traditional sense.

I live in an apartment in south-central Anchorage and my only slices of “land” are my east-facing deck and the counter space in my kitchen. I also travel extensively for work during the field season which can start as early as April and last into November. So, I am often at the mercy of friends and paid “plant sitters” to watch after my photosynthetic babies while I’m away on the job. I often wonder why I even try having so many year-round indoor plants and a container garden in the Summer. The truth is, I LOVE PLANTS. I always have

There are two excellent alternatives for gardening if you don’t own/rent a home with a yard for garden space and/or if you have limited time commitments to tending a garden. The two topics I would like to discuss in this blog are:

1. Container gardening and limited space gardening, and
2. Community gardening plots

Container Gardening and Limited Space Gardening in Alaska
Let’s face it. In 2017 you can pretty much look up anything on an internet search engine (e.g. Google) and find answers to questions on a broad variety of gardening topics including container gardening in Alaska. One thing to keep in mind is to start with reputable sources with researched references and tested cultivar/varieties, containers, and methods. The UAF Container Gardening Guide provides excellent instruction on container types, soil and how to amend soil, and has an excellent table with container friendly varieties of all the popular vegetables as well as minimum container requirements and growing tips. The link is provided below. In my opinion this is the best place to start if you are considering starting a container garden this upcoming season. After you have a handle on the basics you can enjoy a variety of blogs and websites with tips for container gardening in Alaska. Be advised that most of them are geared towards Anchorage, Southeast and Fairbanks and may not be suitable for your specific climate and conditions.

I start my herb garden on the deck early each Summer, usually early June. I typically plant basil, parsley, cilantro, thyme, dill and fennel. I try to get all my herbs from a local greenhouse if I don’t start them myself indoors under a grow light in very early Spring. I have struggled with a Pine Squirrel who LOVES to dig in my pots. And, of course I struggled this Summer with the dark, cold, rainy days. My basil did not survive but most other plants did just fine. I often mix in some pots of annual flowers for a pop of color amongst the green herbs! I haven’t yet tried any container vegetables mostly because I am in the field for work during stretches of the growing season and I don’t want my friends to water my plants to have to commit to too much. Maybe this will change one day…….but for now I do the best with what I have!

I am also a very big fan of the MiracleGro AeroGarden ® which allows one to grow a fabulous herb garden indoors year-round! I transition to this set up in the late Fall and early Winter when the outdoor gardening season ends. It’s amazing to be able to have fresh herbs during the winter in such a carefree easy set up.

Community Gardening
One option for folks who don’t have the space in their own immediate household but who have the time commitment for gardening could consider renting a community garden plot through the Municipality of Anchorage (MOA) Parks and Recreation Department, or, through one of their managing community teaming partners. The MOA Parks and Recreation Department directly manages three community garden plots within the MOA and works with managing community teaming partners to provide additional community gardening space at select locations in Anchorage.

Registration for a new garden plot or for renewal of a garden plot begins in March of each calendar year and these slots fill up fast! More information can be found at the link below.

So, what does a community plot get you? The size of the plot may vary by locations but in general will be approximately 10’ x 20’. The cost is approximately $25 for the season. The hours of access are generally from 6am to 11pm and so are accessible to most people’s schedules. There is access to water onsite and most plots should be planted by mid-June or they may be considered abandoned. Other amenities vary by site and may include porta-potties on site and regular monitoring by the MOA Parks and Recreation staff.

The MOA is currently trying to gauge the interest and demand for community garden plots within the municipality and have an on-going online survey which can be viewed and filled out at the link below. The results of this survey will help the MOA determine the demand and need for expanded community gardening services and access to plots.

I encourage you to take the survey if you have previously occupied a community garden plot, if you have signed up for a community garden plot but were denied due to excessive demand, or if you are just generally interested in the status of the community garden situation in Anchorage. It would be great if community gardens could move to a more neighborhood based model rather than the half dozen locations scattered around the city. This might happen if there is enough demand for neighborhood community garden plots.

As a gardener without a garden, I want to offer one last thought: Do not let the lack of access to dirt in a backyard, or, a busy work schedule keep you from experiencing the joy and wonders of gardening!

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One thought on “Gardening When You Don’t Have a Garden”

  1. Nice container garden you got there. You’re absolutely right, if someone is really into gardening, there’s nothing to stop him or her from pursuing this hobby. Container gardening is one great option as you’ve mentioned in your blog. On the other hand, community gardening offers so much more, because you can actually help in reducing food shortage aside from enjoying the wonders of gardening. It’s good to know that community garden initiatives are being done in Anchorage. We also have one here in Tacoma, Washington State. Hopefully, more communities and organizations will do the same.

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