Summer Start-up

May 30, 2017
Chokecherry Blossoms

Chokecherry blossoms

A waft of the heavenly scent of chokecherry trees.  The smell of freshly cut grass.  Early blooms of floral rose, stock and petunia scents abound at greenhouses.  Yes, yet another reason Alaskans live here:  summer is upon us!  On this, the eve of the last day of our three day Memorial Day weekend, our outdoor activity lists expands.

Will this be the year to try a peony in the yard?  (Particularly since the discovery that they grow very well, and have a prolonged season here in Alaska?) Or maybe this is the year to train to run in a 3, 5 or 10 k run?  How about the long awaited trip to McCarthy and the Kennecott Mine?

What to plant in the garden?  Did I do too many potatoes last year?  Maybe I will try more broccoli and stagger the planting and harvesting.  But zucchini!  How will I ever keep up if I get as many as last year?  Decisions, decisions!

Camping; Is the tent gear ready?  Or should we just travel with the camper on the pick-up…(a little less work, but..)  Which weekend will I go?  If we time it right, we could go fishing too.  We could maybe slip out before the fair starts.

The fair!  Which recipe should I enter in the culinary division?  Did I finish that cross stitch?  Hey, I did those starts for cosmos from seeds–I could enter that this year for the flower show.

Remember that building project; we must lift that rental unit up before it sinks any farther in the permafrost.  I wonder if I can get some day labor to help with that project before the snow flies.

Even with the expanded hours of daylight that make us run 18 hour days, it is still difficult to get done all the things that we can only pack in during our short three months of summer.

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Silently Waiting

March 24, 2017

Beneath all the feet of snow (several this year) lies the good soil for planting. Gardeners are gearing up–already, despite the -15 below temperatures at night–doing everything from purchasing seeds to signing up for classes. Several greenhouses have a great line-up of classes starting this month: drip irrigation, composting,  and dinnerplate dahlias.

planter vs snow

planter in greenhouse-amidst the snow

Some of the excitement is clearly due to eager anticipation of the long sunny days of summer warmth.  Another factor for some is geared toward healthy eating; yet another impetus is sustainable living off the land.  You don’t have to be a trained gardener to get things to grow in the summer here; check out the Tanana Valley Fair in the fall, and see the myriad of monster vegetables that some of the school aged children grow as proof!
Yes, we do grow things big in Alaska.  But you must remember that we have a very short growing season.  Rule of thumb is that you do not put out any plants before June 1, and plan on harvesting prior to September 1.  I have lived here for over 50 years, and vividly remember gambling by planting my 150 foot driveway with zinnias  because it had been so nice and warm that May.  Sadly, I lost them all, as there was an unanticipated frost that killed them all.  I didn’t plant zinnias again for almost ten years.  This year I’m determined to start more from seed and I’ve already picked up several varieties of seeds from one of the local greenhouses so I can get a jump start on my floral fix.

Pink flowers in yrad

Pink flowers in barrel

Silent now; but soon, the sounds of lawn mowers will replace snow-blowers, and boat motors on the river instead of snow machines.  Soon…with every drip off the icicles hanging from the roof.

 


Is It Spring Yet?

May 15, 2013

IMG_0219Usually a balmy 70 degree temperature is what you would find as you roll into Fairbanks in mid-May . The trees would be green with fresh growth, flowers would be placed in pots throughout the city (even if they did come back inside at night in the rare event of frost at night). On the hills a beautiful green glow of promised spring would be evident.
No so this record breaking year. This morning’s Fairbanks Daily News Miner pronounced that not since 1964 has the record cold been broken: it was 21 degrees early yesterday morning, and not much warmer today at still below freezing, 28 right now. While not unusual to see piles of dirty snow in shaded areas around town, they still remain in even larger portions in abundance. I watched as my son got into his car this morning, with his telltale frosty breath still visible at 6:40 a.m.
I know summer will come. It’s just that it is taking too long. The starkness of the birch that have not yet budded is rather haunting, like a deserted and forgotten frozen north. Yes, the sun is bright and daylight began at 4:26 this morning, and won’t set until 11:10 tonight. But do you know that they are predicting SNOW on Friday, with a 50% chance of precipitation? How are we supposed to justify buying flowers in greenhouses when survival chances are against the odds with this kind of weather!
I do remember snow on May 15th, followed precisely four months later with a September 15th dusting; but it didn’t stay around either time. The concern I have this year, is that if it did snow, it might just stick around a little longer….
My housekeeper gifted me with beautiful tomato and zucchini plant starts that are guarded inside on my kitchen windowsills. I dare not place them in the greenhouse, where normally they belong. Even with the passive solar design, it is just too cold.
My advice, as usual, is that you definitely need layers when you come to Fairbanks. Only this time, the layers you might bring should be ones that keep you warm at just above freezing.