Gardentalk Gardening tips and information from KTOO in Juneau
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Gardening tips and information from KTOO in Juneau

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Garden Talk: Planting dreams of spring

Daffodils bloom in a North Douglas flower bed lined with seaweed mulch. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO) https://media.ktoo.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/GTALK-S1E22.mp3 Now is the time to get flower bulbs in the ground before it freezes. For an impressive display of blooms in the spring, plant a lot of them. Master Gardener Ed Buyarski recommends planting flower bulbs such as crocuses, daffodils, and tulips in a location with good drainage. They don't need to be in full sun all year long, just in the spring. "So we can plant them at the edge underneath deciduous trees, which will leaf out in late May and June," Buyarski says. Buyarski plants bulbs by the bucketful in the fall. He digs large six-inch deep holes or trenches that wind around his raised beds, scratches in fertilizer, and places bulbs in groups of five to ten. "The mantra is pointy-end up," he says. Buyarski suggests packing them in and planning for just one season of blooms. "With tulips, we're often treating them like annuals, just because the second year they don't come back very well. And the third year just leaves." he says. "You can plant them just about touching, four- or five-hundred bulbs, a spectacular show of color." Bulbs bloom in the middle of the Douglas roundabout earlier this spring. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO) If the goal is a spring cutting garden, productivity of bulbs can be extended by strategically planting mid-season and late-season blooming daffodils and tulips varieties in the fall. "You can have six weeks of cut flowers from that little patch of ground in front of your house." Buyarski says. After the daffodil and tulip bulbs are in the ground, he covers them up halfway. "So now you've got a three-inch-deep hole," he says. "You can plant some short bulbs, like crocus and snowdrops and Blue Scylla." Although spring is half a year away, planting bulbs now is not only easier before the ground freezes, it also gives gardeners something to look forward to. "You know, at this time we're dreaming. We're hoping and we're planning all this stuff for six months from now." Buyarski says. "And you know, we gardeners are an optimistic bunch."

Garden Talk: The hunt for winter chanterelles

Dave Gregovich, Wildlife Habitat Analyst for ADF&G and local mushroom enthusiast (photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO) https://media.ktoo.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/GTALK-S1E21.mp3 Dave Gregovich, Wildlife Habitat Analyst for the Department of Fish and Game, is a mushroom enthusiast on the hunt for winter chanterelles. He starts the search in a forest near the North Douglas highway, and looks for areas with hemlock trees and blueberries. "It's not a super specialized mushroom," Gregovich said. "In most places where you have old growth forest, you have at least a few winter chanterelles." Edible mushrooms found in Southeast Alaska can be foraged throughout the fall and into early winter, but winter chanterelles have very distinct characteristics that make them especially easy to identify, especially for beginners. Winter chanterelles (right) have ridges under the cap, rather than the sharp gills found on other mushroom species (left) (photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO) "A lot of mushrooms have these really sharp blade-like gills on the underside of the cap. But winter chanterelles have these kind of ridges on the bottom of the cap." Gregovich said. "And they are shaped like a funnel. They've got a hole in the top, and it funnels down to a hollow stem." Winter chanterelles are small, so it takes quite a few for a meal. And their texture can be pretty wet when you bring them home. But they are really good to eat, Gregovich said. Winter chanterelles have a funnel-shaped cap, with a hole in the center and hollow stem (photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO) "What I like to do is put them under a fan for an hour or so, no heat," he said. "And the other thing you can do is you can dry-sauté them. Before you add any oil or butter, put them in the pan just dry and let some of the water kind of evaporate from the mushrooms." In the temperate rainforest of Southeast Alaska, mushrooms almost always have plenty of moisture and good growing conditions in their environment. "But one thing that is the case, you really don't see most of these mushrooms until kind of the start of August, mid-August, and then they really start to pop." Gregovich said. "A couple of species, including the winter chanterelle, can be around in November or even December." There are hundreds of species of mushrooms around Juneau. But Gregovich advises the average forager stick to the four that are easiest to identify: winter chanterelles, golden chanterelles, porcinis (aka King boletes), and chicken-of-the-woods. "So you can just stick with those four kinds, and you can get out and find something that's easy to identify and good to eat," he said.

Garden Talk: The hunt for winter chanterelles

Garden Talk: Dividing perennials at Jensen-Olson Arboretum

Ginger Hudson displays a digging fork, her preferred tool for removing plants from the ground without cutting their roots (photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO) https://media.ktoo.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/GTALK-S1E20.mp3 Early fall is a great time to dig up, divide, and transplant perennials. Plants can better adapt to new locations when the weather is cool and they are finished blooming. At the Jensen-Olson Arboretum, horticulturist and manager Ginger Hudson demonstrated how to divide Japanese sedge, or Carex morrowii, that she found creeping into a walkway. She removed it from the ground using her preferred tool — a digging fork. "If you use a shovel — that's a big knife. You're just going to cut a lot of roots," Hudson said. "So a digging fork leaves as many roots intact as possible." Hudson used her fingers to loosen the large mass of soil, roots and greenery. At times she needed clippers to release the plants from each other, but she was careful not to cut away too much. "You want a healthy mass of roots with the plants that you transplant," she said. "You want large feeder roots, you want little thin hairy roots coming off those bigger roots." Plant clump of primula florindae being divided (Photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO) Some other perennials that can be divided this time of year are Primula florindae and Primula denticulata, popular varieties that grow well in Southeast Alaska. "Because they like living here so well, they really reproduce well," Hudson said. "They spread by plant clumps, which is vegetative. They also reseed themselves." Hudson says Juneau is renowned for being a great habitat for primulas, and the arboretum has a nationally recognized collection. But they have thick, entangled root systems that take some patience to divide. Hudson works the clumps apart slowly with her fingers, then cuts away dead and damaged parts of the sections she separated. "This year I have an extra step to add in, and that's I'm going to be trimming foliage," she said. "Because the slugs have really done a number on them, and they're not pretty." A newly divided and trimmed primula florindae plant (photo with Sheli DeLaney/KTOO) Hudson says early fall is an ideal time of year to divide and transplant Primula florindae because their roots can get established before winter. Plus, primula are likely to lose their blooms if they are transplanted while flowering. "The plant is then is going to spend energy trying to get reestablished trying to get its roots eating again. And so it's not going to be able to feed the flowers," she said.

Garden Talk: Dividing perennials at Jensen-Olson Arboretum

Garden Talk: Late-blooming perennials at the Jensen-Olson Arboretum

A chalkboard sign at the entrance lists what's in bloom at the Jensen-Olson Arboretum. (Photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO) https://media.ktoo.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/GTALK-S1E19.mp3 At the Jensen-Olson Arboretum — a source of inspiration for gardeners of Southeast Alaska — late-season flowering perennials are in bloom. "And one of our favorites is the Primula florindae, which blooms in mid-to-late summer and sometimes will go on until frost," manager and horticulturist Ginger Hudson said. "They love the cool moist temperatures — they love to be cold over winter." Yellow is the standard color for Primula florindae flowers. But when planted alongside a primula of a different color, the flowers can bloom in a variety of shades. "There are some oranges and they will cross with each other," Hudson said, "So we have one that's a kind of a mango color. And even one that's a deeper mustard yellow." A buttery-yellow variety of primula florindae in bloom at the Jensen-Olson Arboretum (photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO) Not only does the Primula florindae bloom longer than other primula and attract pollinators, it's also easy to propagate. "This variety of primula spreads easily in the garden, Hudson said. "Not only by clumps expanding, but also seeds being carried away and washing away in our rains." Monarda, also known as bee balm, is another late-blooming perennial that produces copious amounts of flowers. "Really red" variety of bee balm (monarda) in bloom at the Jensen-Olson Arboretum. (Photo courtesy of Sheli DeLaney/KTOO) "We have two different kinds of bee balm growing here at the arboretum, a pink shade and a deep, deep fire-engine red shade," Hudson said. "You want to plant them in the best sun possible to get the maximum amount of blooms." As the name suggests, bee balm attracts pollinators as well — primarily, bees. Ginger Hudson, manager and horticulturalist at the Jensen-Olson Arboretum, inspects a patch of bee balm. (Photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO) "We have a lot of bumblebees here even in Southeast Alaska and they love these, as well as lots of other little flies and late season butterflies," Hudson said. "But mostly you'll see bumblebees." Phlox and hostas are two other perennials that are still in bloom this time of year, and Hudson says she's even seen hummingbirds visiting the hosta flowers. While attracting pollinators, the flowers and foliage are also entertaining through the autumn. "And makes you think, well, summer's not really over because look at this big head of flowers that just keeps on going," Hudson said.

Garden Talk: Late-blooming perennials at the Jensen-Olson Arboretum

Garden Talk: What grows well in Juneau greenhouses

Master gardener Ed Buyarski grows corn inside a greenhouse. (Photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO) https://media.ktoo.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/GTALK-S1E18.mp3 Greenhouses expand the possibilities of what can be grown in cool, wet climates. Certain cucumber and tomato varieties do particularly well in Southeast Alaska. Growing cucumber plants vertically can increase air circulation and reduce mold and mildew (photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO) Master gardener Ed Buyarski uses some of his greenhouse space to experiment with dry-weather crops, such as corn. While his corn is tall, it's not quite maturing. "The corn has reached the ceiling, but it's gonna be a while before we get any of that," he said. The rest of the space is dedicated to tomatoes and cucumbers. Buyarski selects varieties that are adapted to growing in a greenhouse, such as the Manny cucumber. "Manny, I've grown for two or three years now," Buyarski said. "They're tasty. They're smooth-skinned slicing cucumbers — they're considered a European-style cucumber." Inside the greenhouse, Buyarski has staked the cucumber plants to grow vertically instead of flat on the ground. "Cucumbers tend to get mold and mildew on them pretty easily, unfortunately," he said. "I've got them strung up in the hopes of getting good air circulation in between the plants." A cluster of ripening, greenhouse-grown Siberian tomatoes (photos by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO) Sungold, Siberian, and Glacier are examples of tomato varieties that consistently produce good harvests. The plants were started indoors from seed in April and transferred to the greenhouse in mid-May. The green tomatoes just started to show colors in early August. And for gardeners without greenhouses, it's still possible to grow tomatoes in the rainforest. "Fourth of July is a short-growing tomato, determinate tomato, which could be grown in good-sized hanging baskets or in pots." Buyarski said.

Garden Talk: What grows well in Juneau greenhouses

Garden Talk: Creative solutions for controlling weeds — like eating them

A propane torch burning unwanted chickweed sprouts in a lettuce bed. (Photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO) https://media.ktoo.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/GTALK-S1E17.mp3 Taking a propane torch to the rows between crops is a quick, easy solution to controlling weeds in the garden. But many weeds can be harvested and eaten. White goosefoot (aka Lambsquarters) is an edible and nutritious garden weed closely related to spinach (Photo courtesy of Ed Buyarski/Ed's Edibles) Master gardener Ed Buyarski carefully burned away hundreds of tiny sprouts threatening his lettuce rows. "Like we see between two lettuce, there's about 50 chickweed plants, and it will steal the nutrients from them," he said. The torch eliminated hundreds of weedlings in a matter of minutes, along with any pests that may be in its path. "Slugs should beware," Buyarski said. Other weeds can end up on the dinner table. Lambsquarters, for example, is a close relative to spinach that can be tossed into salad or lightly sautéed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. "You can even layer it in something like a casserole." Buyarski said. "It's very tender, very mild, and it's terribly good for you. Not to mention, we're eating the weeds, so you get extra points for that." Chickweed (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Nu) Chickweed, if it escapes the torch, is also edible. It has a mild taste as well and is nutritious when eaten fresh. "We can eat a lot of these weeds, and I try to," Buyarksi said. And he introduces other people to them when he can. "Certainly, I subject friends to it, put in their salad."

Garden Talk: Creative solutions for controlling weeds — like eating them

Garden Talk: Air-drying garlic and herbs

Hardneck garlic bulbs hanging up to cure inside a greenhouse (Photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO) https://media.ktoo.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/GTALK-S1E16.mp3 After garlic is harvested, it can be cured by hanging in a warm, dry place with good air circulation for a few weeks. Master gardener Ed Buyarski says that he has garlic hanging in his greenhouses, his furnace room and his garage. "In fact, last week I bought a dehumidifier to go in my garage underneath the garlic, and I'm emptying it twice a day." Buyarksi says. "So I'm hoping that it will dry it better so it keeps better." Some of the garlic has been set aside to be eaten fresh rather than preserved. They show signs of the fungus disease botrytis. Buyarski recommends keeping them separate from unaffected garlic plants and giving them a quick rinse in a 10% bleach solution. Garlic bulbs with the tell-tale pink streaks of botrytis should be eaten fresh rather than preserved (Photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO) "We'll eat them, friends will eat them. But we will not use that for the replanting later on in late September and October." A couple of days of air-drying is all that's needed to preserve garden herbs, too, such as the oregano Buyarski grows in his greenhouse. "Dry it just on cookie sheets in the open. I don't bother to put it in a dehydrator." he recommends. "Because if you heat it then you lose some of the volatile oils." Buyarski has even experimented with drying garlic leaves. "That was quite a failure, that was in a dehydrator," he says. "Made the house smell wonderful. But the next morning when we went to taste the dried crunchy garlic leaves, there was no flavor left." For other herbs that lose flavor when dried, like basil and chives, or are too tender for the drying process, Buyarski suggests freezing them in a baggie or even in ice cubes.

Garden Talk: A tour of Táayi Hít, Tlingit and Haida's new greenhouse

Master Gardener Lindsey Pierce is surrounded by sunflowers as she looks up at the top of the dome in Táayi Hít, the "Garden House" at Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. (Photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO) https://media.ktoo.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/GTALK-S1E15.mp3 A year after completion, the greenhouse built by Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska has produced its share of successes and setbacks. "The name is Táayi Hít, which means 'garden house' in Lingít," says Lindsey Pierce, master gardener and environmental specialist at Tlingit and Haida. Also referred to as "the dome" because of its shape, the structure was assembled from a kit by local contractors last July. This year marks the second growing season for the greenhouse. Cer Scott, also a master gardener and environmental specialist, said he was new to indoor gardening and overwhelmed at first. For him, one of the first challenges was deciding what to grow. Cer Scott, Master Gardener and Environmental Specialist at Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska .(Photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO) "We're trying to decide, you know, should we grow things that are not as accessible at our stores?" Scott said. "Or should we grow things that people that are more, you know, wanted in the region, like cultural traditional foods. So we kind of did a mixture of both." One of the successes from this season included multiple crops of Swiss chard. "We had several harvests and made a nice big lunch for the staff," Scott said. A lot of it also went to Smokehouse Catering, the tribe's event company, who use produce from the dome in the meals they serve. Tomatoes also did well, but basil was an especially big hit. "It's one of those things that it's right next to the door, so when you walk in you get a waft of some fresh basil," Scott said. Ripe beefsteak tomato on the vine under the dome at Táayi Hít. (Photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO) They had a few setbacks however, like pests and heat. "We did have some cabbage here but we lost that unfortunately to some of the aphids," Scott explains. "Aphids took over those so we just ended up pulling them to kind of help combat that." And a long stretch of hot weather earlier in the summer threw off the timing of their broccoli. "While we were still trying to figure out the environment inside the greenhouse, as far as climate control, our broccoli ended up bolting. And flowering." Scott explained. "It's just their life cycle." "You can eat the flowers though," Pierce added. Lindsey Pierce, Master Gardener and Environmental Specialist at Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, holds out edible broccoli flowers from a plant that bolted. (Photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO) Scott and Pierce both completed the Alaska Master Gardener Program, and they agree that they have learned a lot in just two growing seasons under the dome. "Last July is when it started. And it's just been a ride ever since." says Pierce. Garden Talk Got gardening questions? Ask away...(Required) Your Name(Required) Your Email(Required) Your Phone Number

Garden Talk: A tour of Táayi Hít, Tlingit and Haida's new greenhouse

Garden Talk: Thinning carrots and planting more peas

Pea plants with alder bough trellis (photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO) https://media.ktoo.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/GTALK-S1E14.mp3 Peas planted this spring are ready to be picked, but it's not too late to start a second crop. And carrots due for harvest this fall likely need some thinning. With both plants, the shoots, tips and leaves are edible and delicious in salads and sauces. Master gardener Ed Buyarski's crop of peas was planted outdoors from seed in early May, then covered with agricultural fabric to protect the sprouts. "We're standing in front of my pea patch with all these alder sticks coming up out of it, which are my low-budget pea trellis," he said. "The peas are blooming and very quickly. In fact, I noticed there are some little tiny peas I'm looking forward to eating." Buyarksi prefers the varieties with edible pods, like snow peas or snap peas. "In my youth I planted and harvested and shelled peas, which is tedious," he said. "Tasty, but tedious." Ed Buyarski holds out a pea shoot with pods and flowers (photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO) In addition to the pea pods, the shoots, tips, leaves and even flowers can be eaten. "Of course if you eat the flowers, you don't get peas," Buyarski said. Peas are cold-hardy and can be planted even as late as mid-July for a fall harvest. Which is just in time for the carrots to come out of the ground. "Our regular harvest for carrots for storage is usually after the first frost, so late September, October. I've harvested them into November," he said. "It's best to do it before the ground freezes because it's a lot more convenient that way to get the carrots out of the ground." Garden box with carrots, ready for a mid-summer thinning. The carrots need a few more months but their tops are edible now. (Photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO) Buyarksi recommends direct-sowing carrots in late April if conditions allow, then covering the bed with plastic sheeting over hoops while the weather warms up. They will need to be thinned to about an inch apart as they grow. Whatever gets pulled while thinning carrots can be set aside for salads and sauces. As with peas, the leaves and shoots of carrot plants are edible, too. When Buyarski finds himself short on basil or other greens, he'll chop up carrot tops, pea shoots or kale to make pesto and chimichurri. He says that every batch is different.

Garden Talk: Thinning carrots and planting more peas

Garden Talk: Botrytis in the soil can take a toll on garlic harvests

Ed Buyarksi points out a garlic plant infected with botrytis. (Photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO) https://media.ktoo.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/GTALK-S1E13.mp3 Starting now through mid-August, garlic plants will be ready to harvest. But master gardener Ed Buyarski says gardeners should look out for botrytis, a fungus disease that can spread throughout crops. "It's mostly in the soil already, assuming that we've been gardening for a while — or even in the wild soil." he said. Buyarski pulled a garlic plant that was showing signs rot due to botrytis and pointed out pinkish-red streaks running down the base of the stalk to the bulb. "Not a good thing this time of year," he said. A garlic bulb with the telltale red streaks of a botrytis infection on the skin. (Photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO) Buyarski said each leaf of the garlic plant's stalk corresponds to a layer of protective skin over the bulb. "If they're rotting, they don't protect it," he said. He peeled away layers of red-streaked skins from the stalk to reveal the bulb and its cloves. Those are healthy and can be eaten fresh, but they are too small to be saved for curing. A garlic bulb with botrytis-infected skins peeled away. (Photo by Sheli DeLaney/KTOO) Botrytis is very common and attacks plants when conditions are right, such as too much moisture or not enough air circulation. Buyarski said that having good drainage and air flow in beds and greenhouses will help reduce the fungus, and that gardeners should set aside affected plants to prevent more contamination. "When I am harvesting the garlic a month from now, six weeks from now, I will sort out any of these that I am suspicious of, if I see that red streak going down into the bulb," he said. Email Sheli Delaney if you have questions for Garden Talk.

Garden Talk: Botrytis in the soil can take a toll on garlic harvests