Monday, April 18, 2016

2015 Recap....getting ready for 2016

I am hoping to get more time this year to do up keep on this blog! But before we get started on this years gardening adventure I thought I would need to at least gather together thoughts on what happened last year.

I had absolutely no idea what it was going to look like last year.  I had no one to call or email to ask what to expect and how to organize everything.  Though some amazing people threw me some info to chew on they never really fit our situation completely. So rather than hmm and haw...and bite my nails....I just JUMPED right in.  As you can imagine we had some amazing successes and some mini failures and some major failures.

Mostly I realized right off the bat that that all of a sudden there was just me doing....everything.  And it's kind of funny because there is a part of me that loves organization and tending to tiny details and I absolutely LOVE calendars and lists and if it has to do with gardening I love it even more. But I found myself having WAY too many things to accomplish and very little time.  At one point I timed how long it took me to put together a grow box with soil and fertilizer and plants by fast as I could...and it took me one hour.  And I had ordered 40 boxes.  As you can imagine I did not get them done! So this year we are starting early and I am looking for funding to pay some local young people to help me this year.  What made it worse was we had some crazy weather that delayed us by a few weeks. Normal spring was rudely interrupted by harsh and freezing stretches of cold and snow.  We lost a good amount of our heat loving baby plants that I had set out in our tiny homemade greenhouse.  Despite the small electric heater we placed in there.

Our students did not get to take home a planter box and that really bums me out! So this year I am going to try and plan for smaller take home projects.  I plan to get a few small one gallon pots and plant some container friendly peas and a couple lettuce plants.  Hopefully they work well as edible window plants.

We did get 18 boxes out though to 5 families.  And we built two homemade greenhouses.  They all performed beautifully! The greenhouses made a huge difference in how the boxes performed.  The greens were much larger and healthier. I also realized that we would need to do home visits or post specific info videos for our situation, focusing on basics like how to do cut and come again harvesting and how to tell what is going on with plants if something goes wrong and what that might look like. And especially how to cook and eat all the different plants!  I'm sure I can even create a little dvd eventually! something that can be mailed to other villages.  Luckily I have a equipment to these things so keep on a look out for our little instructional videos!

I am so proud of what our residents have done last year, they dove right in with me and that takes some guts!  Part of the barricade of creating a 'grow some of your food' system is having community buy in.  And it made me so incredibly happy and hopeful and joyous that there are a few that are all for it.  It is a lot of work with very little resources so I would like to recognize the amazingness of those first residents that decided to jump in with me!

It was especially heartwarming to me personally since my grandmother who introduced me to gardening and who taught me the names of all of her flowers that she grew, passed away last year in the late Fall and in a way this adventure of mine was a tribute to the positive affect she has had on my life.  My grieving process is to do something that echoes positively in this world, so that some of the love that they represented to me manifests itself.  I think it would tickle her to know that she might be the reason that gardening is getting a foothold in the arctic.  I'm hoping ot name our high tunnel after her: Jewell.  Seems fitting!

So I conclude the 2015 growing year with a better plan for this growing year.  And the next post will go into more detail of what 2016 will look like.

We are still in need of donations and well wishes!

We are looking for any books that you might need to find a home for that might have anything and everything to do with gardening here.  I am trying to build a knowledge resource for the future, a mini-library for gardening.  Do not worry about sending doubles as I can easily hand out duplicates to our resident gardeners.  Topics include: northern gardening, composting, soil building, food preservation methods, fermentation of veggies, companion planting, greenhouse and high tunnel growing, native plants and flora, native bugs, care of plants...etc.

We are also looking for donations of old and new tools that can be given out to our residents that would be useful in a greenhouse or high tunnel: shovels, mini shovels, trowels, hoes, gardening claws, reusable pots in all sizes, seeds, gloves, greenhouse plastic, water towers, thermometers, compost thermometers, fertilizers, and the like.

Monetary donations can be transferred via paypal to email address:

(emails can also be sent to that address, info and leads and inquiries are welcome! )

Our mailing address:

Gardens in The Arctic
c/o Rainey Hopson
PO Box 21106
Anaktuvuk Pass, AK, 99721

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Seed Varieties - A working list...Any suggestions?

Part of what I have been doing in my backyard for the last three years is testing varieties here in our Anaktuvuk Pass micro-climate.  I usually find a variety and adjust seed starting dates, sun/shade aspects, and other variables to see if they will grow and produce fruit here.  My goal is to find the best fits, taste, and to eventually begin producing my own seeds from plants that do well.  Of course its a LONG way to go!  But truth be told this is the most EXCITING part of gardening, the researching of the plants and the planning!

I thought I would share my list for this years garden. I usually grow a variety several times in different locations/circumstances to see if it can produce before tossing it out.  I have started first with varieties that are ...kinda....recommended for our area.  I say 'kinda' because I am referring to the UAF recommended list for interior Alaska (LINK for PDF)  And I'm pretty sure that we are not really interior....and are considered 'Arctic'.  But it's a good place to start!  I research other varieties all winter long and look over notes to find out whether or not I can better the circumstances for failed varieties. Keep in mind these are working lists....which means they change every year.

This year I'm VERY excited to add a few Cold hardy apple trees, a couple cherry trees and a couple of rose bushes to the backyard!  But I don't want to add them to the lists till I actually get my hands on them and see where in the list they end up.  

Here are the lists so far.  I know I forgot a few but I can track them down later.

These Plants Thrive in appropriate conditions......

(*) indicates varieties I will be growing this summer, these are purely based on our households own personal tastes and what we tend to eat more of.  All are yummy! 

*Lettuce: Romaine Paris Island Romaine
*Lettuce: Red romaine
Lettuce: Leaf, Salad Bowl 
Kale: Red Russian
*Kale: Dwarf Siberian
Kale: Dwarf Green Curled
Kale: Dwarf Blue Curled
Kale: Black Tuscany
*Turnip: White egg
Turnip:  Purple Top
Mustard: Tendergreen
*Mustard: Green Wave
*Mustard: Southern Giant Curled
*Radish: Early scarlet Globe
Radish: Champion
Radish: Crimson Giant
Radish: white icicle 
*Arugula: Rocket
*Squash: Early Prolific
Squash: Summer Caserta
Tomato: Early Tannana
*Tomato: Sub Arctic 25
*Peas: Early Frosty
Peas: Dwarf Grey Sugar
Peas: Green Arrow
Broccoli: Solstice
*Chard: Fordhook Giant
*Herb: Cilantro
*Chamomile: German
*Herb: Oregano vulgare
*Herb: Dill: bouquet
Tobacco: Gold dollar
*Marigolds: Sparky
Collards: Vates
*Herb: Basil: Large Leaf Italian
*Calendula: Almost any do well

Plants that are growing but I'm figuring out how to maximize crop or bring to full maturity for seed...

*Beets: Early wonder
Beets: Boltardy
Beets: Golden beet
*Cucumber: Mouse melon
Cucumber: Modern Early
*Ground Cherries: Aunt Molly's
Echinacea Purpurea
*Cabbage: Golden Acre
*Pepper: Hungarian Wax
*Carrots: Danvers 126
*Herb: Parsley: Triple Curled
*Corn: Sweet: Yukon Chief
*Squash: Winter: Gold Nugget
*Oats: hulless: sunshine
*Herb: Rosemary
*Herb: Sage
*Herb: Peppermint
*Herb: Dill: Fernleaf
*Herb: Lemon Balm
Green Beans: Provider
*Strawberry: Everbearing: Quinault
Sugar beets
Onions: Stuttgarter (from sets and from seed)
Potato: kennebec
*Potato: Yukon gold
Onion: Bunching Evergreen
*Brussel Sprout: Roodnerf

Plants in the 'experiment' or 'new' pile......not all will be grown this summer, some were grown previous summers and failed because I did something wrong.

*Runner beans: sunset
*Runner beans: Scarlet
*Lavender: Munstead Strain 
*Endive: Frisee
*Millet: German Foxtail
*Kale: Marrow Stem (growing as chicken feed)
*Lettuce: Tom Thumb
*Lettuce: Rouge d'hiver
*Squash: Cream of the crop
Squash: Cocozella Di Napoli
Squash: Black beauty zucchini
*Watermelon: Black Tail Mountain
*Calendula: Pink Suprise
*Calendula: Pacific Beauty
*Herb: Basil: Emily
*Herb: Chives: Chinese
Herb: Parsley: Giganic d'Italia
*Nasturtium: Alaska mix
*Nasturtium: Milkmaid
*Nasturtium: Jewel Mix
*Nasturtium: Cherry Rose
*Sunflower: Yellow Pygmy
*Muskmelon: Minnesota Midget
*Pepper: Kind of the North
*Pepper: Hot Thai
*Cauliflower: Early Snowball
Squash: Uchiki Kur
*Onion: Crystal White Wax
*Beet: Borealis Blend
*Broccoli: Packman Hybrid
Pepper: New Ace Hybrid
*Cucumber H-19 Little leaf
*Peas: Oregon Sugar Pod
*Parsnip: Hollow Crown
*Herb: Dill: Dukat
*Quinoa: Organic read head
Sunflower: Black Russian
*Corn: Painted Mountain
*Herb: Borage
*Cabbage: Napa Chinese
*Cabbage: Chinese tender gold
*Brocolli: Chinese Noble Jade
*Celery: Kintsai leaf
*Chard: Barese
*Beet: Red Mangel (for chicken food)
*Red Garnet Amaranth
Cabbage: Early red acre
Walla walla onions

Plants that I KNOW do not work!  I should have known before trying them but...couldn't help myself!

Spinach...they bolt. Every. Time.
Soy....They need darkness...and my 'artificial' darkness didn't cut it.  But I love edamame

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Growing season has started!

The 2015 growing season has officially started! 

I made my way to the high school early this morning where the students had their first taste at becoming arctic gardeners!  We started 20 tomato plants (subarctic - 25) , 6 pepper plants (New ace hybrid) and 6 rosemary plants. The seeds were started in 'black gold' seedling soil and placed on a heat mat to jump start the germination process. 

I talked a bit about the how our tiny seeds decide that they are ready to grow (signaled by moisture and heat!) and about the first bits to come out of the seed and what they do.  We also talked about how they will need to be kept moist and warm till they develop there first true leaves and then we will be putting them under the grow lights.   In two weeks we will be starting our next set of plants!  By the time we put plants outside around June 1st (our last frost date) we should have about 150 plants total. 

I will be stopping by next week to see how they are doing!

Some photos.....

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

We have reached our goal!

We have reached our financial goal!

ASRC has generously donated the remainder of the money needed to purchase all of the items we will need for this summers first ever Anaktuvuk pass Gardens in the arctic project!

Now that the worries of the financing the project are eased I have begun planning the gardens and working out the schedule for the seedlings.  Which is trickier than you would think! The school closes on the end of May and our last frost date is June 1st so it will be a tight fit. 

I plan to have a couple fo small greenhouses in the back to house the baby plants where I can also monitor the hardening off process and give them a good start.

I did stop by the school last week and talked to the kids about composting.  They have a small bin going that will be invaluable to this summers plants!  They also chose what they which veggies they wanted to grow this summer at home. 

A pic of me talking to the class....with my cutest baby distracting them in the back...

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Cooking Greens Recipes....input needed!

Our families here in Anaktuvuk Pass will receive a brief pamphlet on what to expect from their gardens, harvesting, and how to care for their plants of course...but I really wanted to include a few recipes on how to get started eating their fresh goodies!

Cooking greens are not familiar at all to most of us here in the 'Vill' so I thought I would start with them.  These will include plants like swiss chard, kale, and turnip greens, all super nutritious and yummy! 

What are your favorite recipes including these special ingredients?  Please comment below! **

I will try and include as many as possible, plus the families can come here and look for their favorites when they need to! Keep in mind that we don't have access to many of the additional ingredients that you would normally find at your local big grocery store so any info on how to find them and order them will be appreciated!

Here is my go-to recipe, that is quick and adjustable:

Easy Pan fried greens:

Ingredients: A handful of greens per person, garlic, onion, butter (or bacon grease!), pepper.

Wash the greens in cold water and strain water.  I then take a paper towel and dab as much of the water off as possible.  I chop them up a bit so they are not more than a few inches long.  Remember that they SHRINK after cooking, pile it on.
Heat the pan to about med-hi
Add butter or bacon grease till hot
add onions and garlic and cook till onion becomes slightly transparent
add greens and cook for about 5-10 mins.  Till tender and no longer crisp.  This is a personal preference, some people like theirs a bit more cooked.  If you do cook them longer you can add a bit of broth so they don't burn. 

Please feel free to add tips and tricks and any and all info about these greens! Any notes about what TYPE to grow are also wonderful as we will be testing variations in my garden every year. 

**Your comments  will have to be approved by me after submitting them, I do this to prevent spamming!

Baby swiss chard enjoying the cool arctic weather

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The beginning ....

This project actually started years a curiosity more than anything.  I moved to Anaktuvuk Pass in 2009, amazed at the epic and abundant landscape.  The move sparked in me a love of nature and adventure.  I heard through talking with family here that you could grow vegetables here... the arctic?!  So I began a long journey to see if that was possible.....beginning with my own backyard vegetable garden.

I found out some interesting stuff as we went along.  Mostly how not to do stuff..but when it worked really worked!

The next step was to spread the gardens...and the knowledge.

I have started this blog to document our journey, and give a place for everyone ask questions or make comments.   Our plan is that this is only the begining, and we look foward to many years of gardening goodness!

From our Go Fund Me page:

10,000 Years ago my people, the Inupiaq Eskimo of Northern Alaska,  hunted the Mammoth - kiligvuk.  Once he was gone we moved on to other game, relying on the land and the environment to provide for our bellies and our souls.  Our greatest ability has always been to adapt and thrive despite changes.  And now climate change, oil development, and unhealthy foods are threatening our health and our core beliefs.  The animals are changing and moving, the plants are changing and moving, our world is modernizing we look for and explore other opportunities to grow as healthy people while keeping our Inupiaq core values.

Alaska imports about 90% of it's food.  And very little of the healthy stuff makes it to the rural villages, making it hard to  develop good eating habits.  What vegetables and fruits make it are usually heavy priced (no road system means everything is flown in on tiny planes) are usually less nutrient dense than fresher fruits and vegetables found in the 'lower 48', and there is less variety available because they have to travel so far.  This leads to poor diets, even when we lean heavily on traditional subsistance foods. 

I am raising money to buy small ,easy to use, re-usable and portable garden systems to supplement our diets here in the village of Anaktuvuk Pass, Ak .   I am hoping that the experience will encourage healthier food choices and healthier life choices.

What will your donation pay for?
Each unit costs about $117 and it includes a sturdy water saving planter box system, soil, organic fertilizer, a frost cover, and seeds.  Some money will pay for seed starting supplies.  Great thought has gone into it to make sure it is extremely user friendly and easy for beginners.  Our goal is for it to be a successful experience to encourage people to take part in healthier choices.   Each unit is re-usable. 

Can you grow veggies and fruits in the ARCTIC?!
Believe it or not yes! In the past few years our environment warmed up enough so that our Hardiness zone went from a 1a to a 2b.... which means our winters are now milder, our summers longer.   I have had a family garden in the back of my house here in Anaktuvuk Pass for the last three years and I plan to use what knowledge to help each family with their garden boxes.  I will personally monitor the gardens and will encourage the owners to call if they have questions! They will be given instructions on how to get the most use out of them.  The also get to choose what plants they want to grow.

Some tomatoes that were grown outside in my backyard!

What plants are you going to grow?
Potatoes, romaine and leaf lettuce, kale, chard, peas, cabbage, tomatoes, turnips, mustard, arugula, summer squash, herbs, edible flowers, and a few others! Usually I grow a couple different varieties of each type of plant.  All plants and varieties have been personally tested in my backyard to make sure they thrive in our environment. 

Testing this variety of carrot for size and sweetness.

Who will get the boxes in the village?
15 of the boxes are going to students at the local high school that will be growing our seedlings for us till school is over that they can take home for the summer.  15 boxes will go to five families in the village who have volunteered and shown interest, with preference to those household that have children.

If you would like to mail a donation or well wishes you can mail them here:

Gardens in the Arctic
c/o Rainey Hopson
PO Box 21106
Anaktuvuk Pass, AK, 99721

You can visit the page directly Here: (GARDENS IN THE ARCTIC)