How hardy do your plants need to be?

Alaska Hardiness The USDA has been publishing Plant Hardiness Zone maps for a while now and the one on the left is for Alaska (click to enlarge). Typing in the zip code for our campus garden (99775) the plant hardiness zone is determined to be 2a : -50 to -45 (F). So that numbers gives us the coldest temperatures for the region which is useful for perennials but not necessarily for annuals. Most seed packets have the information printed on the back and also tell one when to plant the seeds based on the zone. Problem is that starting your seeds following those recommendations does not take the last spring frost in the area into consideration (article here). So here we are getting some help from NOAA who compiles data to determine the average last spring frost with accompanying probabilities. And for Fairbanks (at the College Observatory on campus), the date at which the probability is 10 or less that the temperature drops below 32F is June 7. (The date at the airport in Fairbanks is March 23, quite a bit earlier.) Unfortunately, that information is a bit old as the averages are calculated from data between 1981 and 2005. And since the climate has been changing, this date should be taken with a grain of salt but gives a ballpark to go by.

Square Foot Gardening

SquareFootGardenThis technique is useful for limited space in your garden and more intensive than planting in rows. The layout of the garden is done in a grid of 1-foot by 1-foot squares (examples here). That gives us here at the UAF Community Garden 48 squares in our 12′ x 4′ planting boxes.

 

The spacing for different plants can be found here and more info on different vegetables here. Or check out the visual graphic below:

squarefootgarden

Other things to consider: space can be further maximized by putting root vegetable next to leafy vegetable as one needs more space underground and the other above ground (you might also want to consider plant compatibility). Furthermore, once a crop matures and gets harvested, another can be planted in its place later in the season. Here is a list of vegetable varieties that do well in Alaska. And maybe you want to consider some flowers as well?!

And finally here is a pdf with more info on organic square-foot-gardening.

Peonies – edible flowers for your garden

Peonies

“Pliny the Elder, writing in the 1st century BC … describes 20 illnesses that the peony will cure, including jaundice, nightmares, liver disease and stomach ache. This all-powerful plant was even dedicated to Paeon, Greek physician to the gods, and its potency gave rise to the theory that the plant was positively dangerous. Pliny recorded that peonies should only be dug up at night. If you dug them up in the day, a woodpecker would come and peck out your eyes. …” (In praise of peonies, a perfect plant)

Peonie research at the UAF Georgeson Botanical Garden:

“There are now 35 peony growers statewide with more than 500 roots in the ground, and more than 150 people are working toward that goal. Most are members of the Alaska Peony Growers Association.”

“Peonies thrive in sunny locations and well-drained soils, tolerating a wide range of soil types. Best growth is in soil with a pH range of 6.5 to 7.5, deep and rich in organic matter. They are hardy from zone 8 to zone 2, with some exceptions…” (from uri.edu factsheet) –just the right conditions at the UAF Community Garden!