Daily Sitka Sentinel

Let's Grow Sitka: It's Time to Spring

    Chicks, greenhouses and slugs are all part of the program in the Let’s Grow Sitka 2012 Garden Expo.
    The event is noon to 3 p.m. Sunday at the ANB Hall. Admission is free.
    Juneau master gardener and landscape designer David Lendrum will be the guest speaker at 3:15 p.m. Sunday on the topic “New Vegetable Varieties, Small Fruits and Ornamentals for Southeast Alaska.” {mosimage}
    The event is organized by the Sitka Local Foods Network, which was formed following an initiative at the 2008 Sitka Health Summit to start a farmers market here.
    “The focus is getting people ready to start growing,” said Linda Wilson, vice president of the Local Foods Network. “Right now, it seems cold, and everything’s cold. But this is when you’re starting seeds and planting your garden.”
    She noted some seeds need to be started four to six weeks before the end of the frost, beginning indoors.
    Wilson referred to the event as “sort of a pre-farmers market.” The Sitka Local Foods Network organizes the farmers markets during the summer months.
    At this Sunday’s event, there will be a seed swap, for gardeners to trade seeds. Gardeners can learn secrets to starting seeds indoors and learn which varieties grow best in Sitka. Olson said she has good success with broccoli, potatoes and lettuce, for example, but could use tips on carrots.
    In all there are 25 tables with displays, items for sale and information to share. One vendor is having a baby chick sale, another features herbal tea and information on growing medicinal herbs. Wilson said beginners and seasoned gardeners would enjoy Florence Welsh’s free booklet on the secrets of gardening in Sitka, and Adam Chinalski will bring in an 8-foot green house for the public to tour.
    Local businesses participating in the event include White’s, True Value and Garden Ventures, which will have items for sale. Sitka Spruce Caterings will have a lunch of tamales for sale.
    And for fun, Wilson plans to hide three fake slugs around the ANB Hall. Each comes with a door prize.
    Wilson said the expo is a good time to start getting excited about the upcoming gardening season, to plan your garden, and to solve problems and challenges from previous summers.
    “It’s very challenging here,” Wilson said. “We want to get all the resources together in one place, and get those questions answered.”
    One of the displays will feature a map of the location of fruit trees in town, to further the effort of increasing the availability of locally grown foods. Wilson has planted cherry and apple trees, and enjoyed her first harvest of cherries this year – a total of three.
    “They tasted wonderful,” Wilson said.
    But Wilson has high hopes to much bigger yields, similar to those enjoyed by Nancy Gustavson who was famous for her cherry jam from her own trees.
    Wilson said she is particularly pleased the foods network secured Lendrum as this year’s guest speaker.
    Lendrum will provide insight into some new and unusual varieties that do well in the Southeast Alaska climate. Those include spicy oriental vegetables, such as Chinese celery and a cross between parsley and celery, called parcelery.
    Lendrum is the landscape superintendent for the University of Alaska Southeast, the Southeast representative on the statewide invasive species organization, and served two years as president of the Southeast Alaska Master Gardener Association.
    Wilson got involved with the Sitka Local Foods Network because she was volunteering at the St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, and heard about the goal to start a farmers market. She is now vice president of the Local Foods Networks board, which recently received nonprofit status.
    “The goal of the organization is to increase the availability of consumption of local foods of all kinds, including seafoods,” she said. “Increased production of vegetables and fruits is the main focus but we support all kinds of things.” The organization is funded by donations and a small grant from the city.

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