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by Heidi Rader UAF Cooperative Extension Service and Tanana Chiefs Conference

Photo by Heidi Rader

Why Grow Your Own Vegetables?  Home-grown veggies are more delicious and healthier for you than store bought, because they are fresher  Working in the garden makes for fun and relaxing exercise, which is good for your body and mind  Organic veggies are free from pesticides, and some studies* show they are more nutritious  By growing close to home, you save the fuel that would otherwise be used to ship veggies all the way from California and beyond, reducing the amount of greenhouse gasses in the air  Having a garden can be cheaper than buying veggies at the store, if you know what you’re doing!  You can grow delicious and unique varieties that are hard to find, like this Italian romanesco Photos by Heidi Rader

*See the links in this lesson for more info

But is it Really Economical? There’s no doubt that gardening can get expensive, but you can keep your costs down by:

1. Making (and sticking to!) a budget 2. Using local sources of nutrients, like compost, fish waste and manure 3. Planning your garden carefully, so you have veggies to eat every week of the summer and don’t have to buy as much 4. Canning, freezing or drying garden produce to eat during the winter* 5. Learning about seed saving

*Free publications on food preservation are available from UAF CES. See the links in this lesson.

Think Before You Plant! 

Decide which kinds of plants you want to grow

Wait- is this even a good spot for a garden?

Mmm, I want veggies!

All annuals, all perennials or a mixture?

Find a good garden site

Select a few basic tools

Prepare your soil

Plan out planting times for each different species 

Direct seeding: after the soil warms up

Transplants: start early inside

Heidi Rader plans her garden while roasting a Hotdog. Photo by Chris Cannon

A Poor Site Competition for light

Competition for nutrients

Photo by Heidi Rader

What Makes a Good Site?  Full sun

 More hours of light means more photosynthesis…  …which means more


 A well-drained soil will:

 Warm up earlier in the spring  Help plants develop big, healthy root systems

 Choose a site that can be fenced to protect your vegetables from moose  Reasonably level is best, but avoid low land where cold air settles in the spring and fall  Plant close to a water source! If you always have to haul heavy buckets long distances, you’re less likely to water well

By Kathy Garrison Kellogg, used by permission.

Photo by Chris Cannon

Raised Beds: A Solution for Cold Soils and Poor Drainage

3. Water drains down… 4. Temperature rises!

Step 1: Fill with: 2. These help create macropores

A. Potting soil or B. a mix of: • 1/3 top soil • 1/3 sand or coarse perlite • 1/3 compost or bark mulch

Building a Raised Bed 1. Gather Materials

Best Materials - Stone - Cinderblocks - Brick - Untreated wood

Plywood or 2x12 boards for the sides.

Step 1:

Use corner posts, like these, or stakes.

Do not use (Toxic) - Treated railroad ties - Treated wood

2. Decide on a Size Choose a sunny spot. Depth: min. 12 to 18 in. Width: 36 to 48 in.

Till soil 6 to 8 inches before building raised bed to promote root growth

Step 2:

Length: as long as you want! Photos by Heidi Rader

Building a Raised Bed Step 3:

3. Build Your Bed! Do not nail corners! Ends of boards may split!

Secure sides with nails or stakes, and line sides (not bottom!) with a waterproof material.

Step 4:

Photos by Heidi Rader

Fill Frame With good quality lightweight soil Add a generous amount of compost to allow for proper drainage

4. Add Soil Peat moss, manure and compost add organic matter, which holds nutrients and water.

Then just plant, fertilize... and watch it GROW !!!

Photo by Heidi Rader

Careful Planning = Good Results  Space: are you working with a 5x5 foot square or 3 acres of empty field?  Time: do you have hours of time each week, or barely a spare moment?  Budget: decide up front how much you can afford to spend on a garden  Family preferences: plant things your family loves to eat! If no one loves Brussels sprouts, skip them!  Produce use: will you mostly eat your veggies fresh? Do you have a pressure canner, a food drier, or space to build a root cellar?  Amounts: check seed catalogs for estimated yields, and then adjust your plantings to account for Alaska’s colder temperatures

Son, it’s time we told you. There are some people in this world who just don’t like Brussels sprouts.

Planning Can Be Fun!  The most important thing is to be creative! If you plan a garden you love, you will be more likely to put in the work it takes to make it great  To get more produce from a small area, use succession planting*  You can also try companion planting* to produce more  Rotate crops every season** - In small gardens, crop rotation helps manage soil fertility. Follow crops that are heavy N feeders (like corn tomatoes) with light feeders like greens and N-leavers like peas and beans - In larger gardens, it can also help control insect pests and soil-borne plant diseases. Wait at least three years before putting the same plant family back in the same spot *See the links in Lesson 1 for more information **See the links in this lesson for more information

What if I Only Have a Small Space? Check out the optional files in Lesson 1 to learn about growing vegetables in Mini-Gardens, and use yield tables and spacing charts (Chapter 7 in this lesson) to see if your favorites fit in tiny spaces Need LOTS of space!

Need moderate space

Good for small spaces

Corn Bush Bean Broccoli Cucumber Brussels sprout Melon Cauliflower Potato Cabbage Pumpkin Tomato Kale Pepper (unless Bulb Onion trellised) Winter Squash Zucchini

Basil Beet Carrot Chard Greens Green Onion Lettuce Pea Spinach Radish Turnip

Photo by Maggi Rader

What can you grow in 10 square feet? 

10 lbs. zucchini

5 lbs. potatoes

1 broccoli

1 cabbage

12 turnips

3 heads of lettuce

12 carrots

5 lbs. of snap beans

= about 50 lbs. of vegetables worth $300*

*Estimated Photos of Kale, beans, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, and zucchini by Heidi Rader. Others from ClipArt.

Positioning Crops in a Garden

Less shadows = more light

Shadows = less light

In general, place taller plants toward the north and west, shorter plants to the south and east Photo by Kara Cox, UAF CES

What’s Happening Here?

Cabbage is being outcompeted for sunlight by the taller species planted on the right side.

Photo by Heidi Rader

Conclusion? Crops should have been reversed! Lesson: desirable crop species can act as competitors to other desired plants when placed in the wrong spot in a garden

Photos courtesy of Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Good Garden Tools Make Your Work Easier:  Shovel/spade for moving earth  Hoe for removing weeds (specialized hoes are available from Johnny’s Seeds and others. See the links in this lesson)  Rake  Trowel for digging transplant holes  Other  Broadfork to loosen soil  Bulb planter with a stick on the end

 Rototillers help prepare a “fine seed bed,” where seeds have good contact with soil particles and moisture, but they also damage soil structure, increasing compaction over time

Photo by Kendra Calhoun, UAF CES

To Till, or Not to Till...

The early bird doesn’t always get the worm: if you till when it’s still too cold and wet, you will fail to improve the seed bed while increasing soil compaction Photo by Heidi Rader

Working soil in the fall can help control weeds, but will make winter erosion worse unless you mulch well Some cover crops must be tilled in the spring

Soil Improvement: Remember to Add Organic Matter!

Improves water holding ability, aeration and nutrition of site

Photos by Heidi Rader

Products such as Peat moss, Vermiculite, and Manure can be of value in problem soils as well.

Seed Bed Preparation Fine, loose soil has better contact with the seed, giving it more moisture and better access to nutrients. Optimum planting depth for vegetables is 3 times the width of the seed.

Small-seeded plants need to be planted shallow, because small seeds contain less energy to help the new plant reach the surface. Check Chapter 7 for planting depth and spacing of specific crops.

Photos by Heidi Rader

A Gardener’s Work is Never Done! After planting: 


Fertilize again at mid-season

Remove weeds before they make seed

Harvest the fruits of your labor!

Extend your season using row covers and hoop houses

Photo by Heidi Rader

Heidi Rader harvests vegetables for a Student Shared Agriculture Project at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Estimated Water Requirements Per Season Crop



14 – 17


16 – 20


12 – 16

Sweet corn

20 – 24


22 – 25


25 – 30


20 – 25


10 – 15


22 – 26+

←Total water needed from rainfall and irrigation. If it’s raining a lot, irrigate less, but if the summer is dry, irrigate more!

The Rule of Thumb is: 1 inch per week

This system is using gravity for the pressure and rain from the roof!

Drip (or Trickle) Irrigation and Soaker Hoses: What and Why? What: Plastic hoses with small holes that let water drip out Why: 1. Allows you to put your watering on a timer, so you can leave for the weekend and not worry about your garden 2. Drops are slow and gentle, rather than rough and flying like a sprinkler, which preserves soil structure Disadvantage: Having water nearby all the time can keep your vegetables from developing a big, strong root system Solution? Set your timer to water for several hours just once every two or three days

Photo by Heidi Rader

See the optional files in this lesson for more information!

Fertilization Needs: Heavy Feeders (fertilize at least twice):

Medium Feeders

Light Feeders Soil Builders




Snap bean














Swiss chard




One way to arrange a crop rotation is so that light feeders and soil builders follow heavy feeders, which saves you from applying a full dose of fertilizer to every plot every year. Photos by Heidi Rader

Fertilization After Planting: Side Dressing Side dressing is a

good way to apply granular fertilizers after you have already planted. Simply use a large spoon to sprinkle it onto the soil near the stem (imagine the roots reaching out underground several inches from the base of the plant), and water in!

Fertigation with Drip Systems

Venturi siphon Dissolved fertilizer is carried by the water directly to the plants’ roots, so it is less likely to feed the weeds. Only works well with chemical fertilizers, because organic ones can block the holes in the hose.

Base Solution: 2 cups of complete fertilizer in one gallon of water

Much Ado About Mulch  Protects the roots of perennials from the winter cold  Increases moisture retention  Reduces weeds!  Nutrient addition (organic mulches add mostly carbon)  Nutrient retention (both plastic and organic mulches prevent erosion)  Reduces soil compaction  Reduces dirt on produce Photos by Heidi Rader

Organic Mulches:  Compost - Stable and weed-suppressing

 Sawdust and shavings - High C, low N

 Shredded leaves  Straw and Hay

Photo courtesy of Norm Klopfenstein,NRCS

- Watch for weeds!

 Lawn clippings - Good N source but can form a suffocating mat, so mix with other materials

 Newspaper and cardboard - Don’t use glossy because it contains kaolin clay, and will not break down as well Clipart

Plastic Mulches  Can be laid by hand or by tractor  Burying the edges in the soil holds it in place  Only works for transplants!  Must be thrown away at the end of the season  Many different colors and kinds:  Clear plastic warms the soil but aids weeds  IRT (infrared transmitting) plastic warms the soil and

discourages weed growth

 SRM (selective reflective mulch) can help plants get more light

Photos by Heidi Rader

Drip Irrigation + Plastic Mulch + Transplants + Organic Matter =

an Excellent Vegetable Gardening System! Photos by Heidi Rader

A Yummy Challenge: Asparagus!  Asparagus is a frond-like perennial than can live up to 25 years, if it is well cared for  Plant two-year-old plants and be patient: the first harvest is in the spring of the 4th year after planting  Fertilize with triple super phosphate

Photo by Heidi Rader

 Choose a protected place, and mulch to protect the roots from cold- overwintering is the challenge!  Harvest by gently hand-snapping spears that are 7 to 9 inches long and have tight tips. Don’t use a knife, because you might damage the crown Cllipart

Now for the best part...

Harvest in time ! Quality drops as some vegetables start to go to seed; for instance, lettuce turns bitter, and radishes and turnips get tough and woody. Photo by Heidi Rader

Store it if you must, but eat it if you can! Canning or root cellaring may not get you quite as many nutrients as eating veggies fresh, and some, like these beautiful peppers, are much less appetizing when they are preserved.

Photos by Heidi Rader

Peas, beans, raspberries and strawberries should be picked at least every third day Photos by Heidi Rader

Too Late To Pick!

Can you name this common condition of lettuce? It:  Precedes flowering,  Involves excessive stem elongation,  Results in poor heading,  Produces bitter, unmarketable lettuce, and...  Can be caused by long hours of daylight, high temperatures and other kinds of stress! Hint: If you’re stumped, review the PowerPoint from Lesson 1 to find out

Photo by Heidi Rader

These lettuces, however, are just right!

Photos by Heidi Rader

This cabbage is growing so fast it’s splitting, a common problem for giant vegetable growers

Brassicas (or cole crops) like

cabbage, kale, cauliflower and broccoli love our cool summers and long hours of daylight. In fact, Alaska is famous for it!

Photos by Heidi Rader

Broccoli and kohlrabi are two more Brassicas that do well in Alaska Photos by Heidi Rader,

It’s easy to over-plant zucchini and squash. If you get too much, pick them smaller, try blanching and freezing, or make zucchini bread. A small zucchini can also be called by its French name: courgette. If you forget to pick them they become marrows, vegetable monsters many feet long! They’re still edible- try cutting the marrow lengthwise, scooping out and roasting the seeds just like you would for a Halloween pumpkin, and baking the rest with a yummy stuffing. What a delicious garden accident!

Photos by Heidi Rader

What if you really have too much? UAF Cooperative Extension offers many workshops and free publications on canning, freezing, drying, storing and cooking fresh vegetables, berries and meats. See the links in this lesson for contact information

Canning salmon and making jam in Fort Yukon with UAF CES and TCC Agriculture, July 2008 Photo by Heidi Rader

Photo by Heidi Rader

Photo courtesy of UAF CES

Some of My Favorite Garden Books: 1 . The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Polan 2. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

2. Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening by Louise Riotte

3. Four- Season Harvest: Organic vegetables from your home garden all year long by Elliot Coleman

Photos by Heidi Rader

This material is based upon work supported by the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under Award No. 2006-41580-03456. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author (s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service programs are available to all, without regard to race, color, age, sex, creed, national origin, or disability and in accordance with all applicable federal laws. Provided in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Peter Pinney, Interim Director, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Alaska Fairbanks. The University of Alaska Fairbanks is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and educational institution. To simplify information, trade names of products have been used. No endorsement of named products by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service is intended, nor is criticism implied of similar products that are not mentioned. RESOURCES: Carrot image. "Garden Tillers." Troy Bilt. Tro-Bilt Products, 2009. Web. 14 Aug. 2009. < category2_10001_14102_54971_54970_54970_-1>. Image Gallery. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, n.d. Web. 12 Aug. 2009. < graphics/photos/>. Image Gallery. United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, n.d. Web. 12 Aug. 2009. <>. NRCS Photo Gallery. United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, n.d. Web. 12 Aug. 2009. <>. "Shop." Johnny's Selected Seeds. Johnny's, 2009. Web. 14 Aug. 2009. <>.

Modified and expanded by Kara Cox, Agriculture and Horticulture Assistant for University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service and Tanana Chiefs Conference

Contact Heidi Rader: 122 First Avenue, Suite 600 Fairbanks, Alaska 99701 Phone: 1-800-478-6822 ext. 3477

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington DC. Web. 12 Aug. 2009 Zlesak, David C. "Starting Stem Cuttings to Keep Tender Perennial Favorites through the Winter." Yard and Garden Line News. University of Minnesota Extension, 1 Oct. 2006. Web. 14 Aug. 2009. < yardandgarden/YGLNews/YGLNews-Oct0106.html

Photo by Heidi Rader

Growing Vegetables in Alaska  

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