Alaska Gardening Guide, Volume 1, by Ann D. Roberts

Over the summer I visited a friend’s house for the first time. As we stood in her backyard talking, I marveled at her beautiful lush lawn, raised garden beds exposing an abundance of vegetables, greenhouse, and chickens. We discussed the garden for a period of time and I informed her that I intended on working towards establishing a hearty garden at my new homestead. My friend asked me if I had the Alaska “gardening bible.” I did not have any books at that time on gardening in Alaska. Seeing that I have only lived in Alaska for a handful of years and had not ever had a garden in Alaska, I figured a book that was specific to this region would be of great assistance. My friend handed me a gigantic green book. On the cover was an outdated photo of a woman posing behind a gigantic cabbage. The Alaska Gardening Guide, Volume 1, Alaska Vegetables for Northern Climates, has provided a plethora of information for me.

The book is a comprehensive guide that covers many different subjects related to gardening. Helpful to Interior Alaska are sections on Subarctic Gardening, Coping with Cold Soil, Selecting Seed-Annual Vegetables for Alaska, Pick Perennials for Hardiness, Charts and Helps for the Gardener (including topics such as seed sources for northern varieties and storage tables for Alaska vegetables), and Alaska Cooperative Extension Recommended Variety Lists for Interior Alaska (which can also be found online with many other publications).

For a gardener new to Interior Alaska, this book provides information that helps a person familiarize himself or herself to the differences a gardener in Alaska may face rather than a gardener in the Lower 48. Chapter 1 Subarctic Gardening begins with describing the focus of the book as “…to focus on how gardening in Alaska is different—what special knowledge is needed to succeed here, what new techniques will help meet some of Alaska’s unique growing challenges.” p. 15. There is a lot of helpful information in this book and I use it often as a resource.

Personally, I found the book to be helpful in understanding how raised garden beds are helpful, taking into account the shorter growing season and long periods of daylight in the summer, what to expect from the soil content in interior Alaska, composting components, when to transplant, plant pests that may be encountered, common Alaska weeds and many other useful information for Alaska gardening from planning a garden at the beginning to ending a garden and cleaning preparing it for winter. I also learned about planting from seeds at the beginning to ending the plant with proper storage. There is also a chapter that discusses in detail various plants and provides Alaska specific information on Soil and Site, Sowing, Cultivation, Challenges, and Harvesting.  One of my favorite tips from the book is that just because “Alaska” appears in the name of a variety of a plant, does not necessarily mean the plant is meant to be grown in Alaska. p. 210. Tricky!

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