I have dove in and now I am raising money to put garden boxes into household here in Anaktuvuk Pass Alaska! You can donate to our cause here: GARDENS IN THE ARCTIC. I tried including as much info as possible but feel free to ask questions! Please feel free to copy the address and email it to friends and family and to share via facebook!
I am also
pursuing funding beyond the requested $4,000 simply because I will need
more boxes than planned...which is super awesome because more families
are interested than I thought would be! And I really want to do set ups
that are big enough for the families to be able to get good nutrition
out of them all summer long. I really appreciate any type of funding
leads but keep in mind that our window is short....We start our first
seedling inside the school mid-April and our plants have to be outside
by June 1st...and I am NOT a non-profit....just simply a person that
believes that this will work. And I am fully committed to making it
Though I am doing this here only in Anaktuvuk
Pass, I have been getting tons of questions about other people in other
arctic villages that want to start small gardens. So I thought I would
post a primer on what types of things I using and where I am getting
stuff. Keep in mind that I have a few constraints.... This is beginner
friendly, which is why I am going with a set up that is not homemade.
Later on if someone is interested on going beyond these small boxes I
will be happy to help! This set up is for extremely short and cool
growth periods....ours here in AKP is 60 days. So the plants that I am
pointing out to you are specific to that type of gardening. This is not
the cheap way to do it. But the most expensive bits are re-usable.
To green house or no?
you live on the coast in the arctic I would suggest building a basic
greenhouse. At most all you need is to frame out with 2 x 4's a lean-to
on the SOUTH side of a building (or just where you get the most
sunlight and the least amount of the cold winds). Buy some heavy
plastic and staple that on there. leave a flap so that you can get in
there ...and viola. A greenhouse. I have bought cheap plastic off
amazon.com before (heavy duty construction sheeting works), but all you
need is something that will cut the wind, hold in heat, and let in
light. The coast has tons more wind in the summer than us inland, not
to mention salt and fog. That thin layer of plastic will move your
garden south in temperature by 100 miles. I have also seen some of
these quick greenhouses with two layers of plastic (with a gap of air in
between) and those are neat because you actually moved your garden 200
miles instead of 100. Be aware that just because it's foggy and rainy
there is still sun rays making it to your plants!
Buy the thicker construction plastic and it will last longer. I got
two summers out of it. If you have money to spend you can look at the
plastic used for greenhouses that last way longer and are made for that
purpose. You can also use panels made from all sorts of stuff like
acrylic, plexi-glass, fiber glass etc.....
More tips: Add
rocks to the floor of your greenhouse to hold more warmth that will be
released at night... create some way to vent the air ( a flap that is
easy to leave open at both ends) just in case you get a freakishly hot
day which can kill young plants.
I have built my own but for beginners you can purchase these: EARTH BOX which you can also find on Amazon.com HERE and
if you have Prime you get the shipping free! The boxes are re-usable
and the next season you will only have to buy the covers and the
fertilizer and dolomite.
Tip: Buy the darker colored boxes or spray paint your boxes black so that they absorb more heat from the sun.
tundra is notoriously imbalanced in nutrients. For beginners I suggest
buying and importing soil. Have a relative ship some for you from the
city. Or buy potting soil online. You can also get this neat stuff
called coconut coir (click HERE)
that you add water to and it expands to make tons of soil...just be
aware that you have to add stuff to it like compost and fertilizer.
There is simply so much to LEARN about soil to be able to use tundra
that it usually freaks people out a bit. If you DO however want to
learn how to use soil from your tundra neighborhood then I am happy to
jabber with you! It is literally the ONE thing I obsess about with my
You will ALWAYS
need fertilizer. There are some things to know. Like organic or
chemical? Chemical fertilizers are usually funky colors like blue and
the type you mix with water like miracle grow, and organic fertilizer is
usually funky smelling and brownish. I always push for organic because
chemical fertilizers will essentially 'kill' your soil and make it very
hard to use in the future and you will have to buy and bring in new
soil. You also will be eating chemicals. The other thing to think
about is that you will have to put fertilizers in your soil before
planting....use a slow release type . It will make a big difference! I
use this HERE. Or something similar. I also make my own fertilizer but that is another topic to talk about off to the side!
always good to google for pictures of what happens to your plants if
you feed them TOO MUCH fertilizer. You can over feed them and kill
Many people don't think about
this much but when you live in a tiny arctic village you kind of have
to. Our drinking water is full of chemicals. We filter our water to
drink or bring home spring water when we can but for the garden I almost
ALWAYS use rain water. Never pour on super cold water as it will shock
your plants. If you know you are going to be using city water then
fill a bucket with water and let it sit over night next to your plants
and let the chlorine evaporate as much as possible. The earth boxes are
neat because you never have to actually pour water on the top! This
prevents problems with mold and such.
I am a bit of a seed hoarder! haha but be ready to BECOME one. Some good places to start are these to online place: BEST COOL SEEDS and FOUNDROOT
try stuff you never thought you would like or even if you don't know
how to use them. We found our that we LOVE kale (not the variety you
get at the grocery stores), chard, and arugula. Try plants for the heck
of it and you might be surprised. I like to have a few boxes of
'fresh' cut greens like romaine lettuce (two types), mustard (the leaves
are amazing in salads), a leaf lettuce, and green onions. A box or two
of 'cooking' greens like chard and kale and turnips (later you can eat
the roots but the greens are FANTASTIC). A few summer squash plants,
tomatoes, radish, peas, broccoli, and some boxes of plants I just want
to try...like corn, melons, edible flowers and such. Make SURE you
leave your greenhouse open for the bugs on the hot days so they can
pollinate your plants so they can produce fruits. OR you can learn how
to do it your self...I do it by hand for my squash. I still squeal when
I get surrounded by bees in the garden but I have gotten to the point
that I don't run anymore. lol You need pollinators for your plants to
make yummy things. Which is hilarious because I know that most Arctic
Alaska Natives are terrified of them!
Starts: Starts are
what people call baby plants that you can grow yourself inside or buy.
Some plants need more than 60 days to grow and 'starting' them inside
ahead of time is an option. I have a grow light and small pots and soil
inside that I use. I usually start around mid April with tomatoes and
peppers. Beginning of May I start flowers, herbs, melons and such.
Anything needing more time than the 60 days or so needs to get a head
start. If you are looking in catalogs the description will have 'days'
for each plant. It's a whole new world of planting though I will be
happy to jabber about it to anyone interested!
Extra things to get:
frost cover - Keep your eye on the weather forecast and if it drops
below 32 degrees run out there and cover your plants. You only need it
in the spring really while your plants are young.
- just to use for cutting plants or dead parts of plants. I also use
them to cut off leaves to eat from my lettuce plants.
Thermometers - for your greenhouse or an outside thermometer near your boxes temperature will become important!
- To show everyone your awesome plants! It also helps later on when
you want to remember details about your garden...modern digital photos
come with an imbedded date so it's nice to have!
place to keep your seeds dry and cool. A shoe box on a back shelf will
work. You can use them for a few years if you keep them in good shape
depending on variety.
Books - I have tons! On
everything from soil, to compost, to seed saving.....everyone should
invest in a few good ones. Let me know if you need suggestions!
This is not a full discussion on this topic but it's a good start. If you think I should at some stuff let me know!
I know there is tons of amazon links but
if your rural village it's one f the few cheaper places that will ship
to you. Feel free to add other places to get stuff in the comments
below! The more the merrier!