Vegetable Gardening - Indian Country Extension

Vegetable Gardening - Indian Country Extension

y Heidi Rader

UAF Cooperative

Extension Service

and Tanana Chiefs


Photo by Heidi Rader, UAF CES

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, UAF CES

*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

○ 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


• Direct seeding: after

the soil warms up

• Transplants: start

early inside

Wait- is this

even a good spot

for a garden?


I want


Photo by Chris Cannon

A Poor Site

Competition for light


for nutrients

What Makes a Good Site?

• Full sun

• More hours of light means

more photosynthesis…

• …which means more growth!

• 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


• 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

4. Temperature


3. Water



2. These

help create


Step 1: Fill with:

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

Plywood or 2x12

boards for the sides.

Use corner posts, like

these, or stakes.

Best Materials




- Untreated wood

Do not use (Toxic)

- Treated railroad ties

- Treated wood

Step 1:

2. Decide on a Size

Choose a sunny spot.

Depth: min. 12 to 18 in.

Width: 36 to 48 in.

Length: as long as you


Till soil

6 to 8 inches before

building raised bed

to promote root


Step 2:

Photos by Heidi Rader, UAF CES

Building a Raised Bed

Photos by Heidi Rader, UAF CES

Step 3:

Step 4:

Do not nail


Ends of boards

may split!

Fill Frame

With good quality

lightweight soil

Add a generous

amount of compost

to allow for proper


3. Build Your Bed!

Secure sides with nails

or stakes, and line sides

(not bottom!) with a

waterproof material.

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, UAF CES

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


• 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


- 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


**See the links in this lesson for more


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


of space!

Need moderate


Good for

small spaces









Winter Squash


Bush Bean


Brussels sprout





Bulb Onion






Green Onion






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


Photos of Kale, beans, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, and zucchini by Heidi

Rader, UAF CES. Others from ClipArt.


Positioning Crops in a Garden

Photo by Kara Cox, UAF CES

Less shadows

= more light

Shadows =

less light

In general, place taller plants toward the north

and west, shorter plants to the south and east


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

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

Photos courtesy of Johnny’s Selected Seeds

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


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

Photo by Heidi Rader

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

General Fertilizer


1 Cabbage

1 Broccoli

16 onions

1.With plenty of

water available,

use 3 lbs. (6 cups)

fertilizer per 100

ft.² of soil with

plenty of water

available or

16 Carrot

1 Lettuce head 10 Turnips

8 Pea Vines 1 Zucchini Plant

1 Foot 1 yard

Total area = 3 feet squared or a cubic yard

2.Without plenty of

water, use 2 lbs.

(4 cups) of

fertilizer per 100



granular garden

fertilizers are 10-

20-20, 10-20-10,

or 8-32-16 (for

new gardens, for

up to 3 years).

Correct seeding ensures good

growth, while over-seeding can

result in smaller, misshapen

vegetables. Some, like turnips,

may not even produce a round

root if planted too close, while

carrots tend to wrap around

each other when crowded.

Result of competition from

adjoining vegetables

Photo courtesy of

Do I Direct Seed

Only after the

ground warms up!

In general, works well

for vegetables in which

the edible part is

either underground

(root crops like carrots

and radishes) or a seed

(grains and peas).

Exceptions include

onions, which have

fragile roots but can

be transplanted very

carefully, and corn,

which requires the

extra time growing

inside to mature in

Alaska (it’s usually

direct-seeded in the

Lower 48)

Photos by Heidi Rader, UAF CES

or Transplant?

Planted between

2 and 12 weeks before

the ground warms up;

transplanted when they

are 6-8” tall and have

2-4 true leaves (not

counting the cotyledons)

Works well for

vegetables in which the

edible part is the leaf,

flower or fruit, because

they benefit from extra

growing time and recover

well from root damage

Exceptions include fastgrowing

“baby” lettuces

and greens, planted to

be cut and regenerate

two or three times.

These do well when

direct seeded.

Getting Started, Starting Seeds!

Seeds to start indoors

Some plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, cabbage, and flowers,

to name a few, should be started indoors before you plant them in your

garden so that they will be ready to harvest before the frost hits in the



• Tomatoes

• Cucumbers

• Zucchini

• Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower


• Marigold

• Petunia

• Nasturtium

• Sunflower

• Lupine

• Zinnia

Seeds to plant directly in your

garden on or after June 1

Some varieties, especially root crops do not need to

be started indoors, but should be started directly in

your garden probably around June 1 or whenever the

ground is thawed and dried out. This includes turnips,

carrots, beets, and radishes. Peas and beans also do

well when planted directly in your garden when it is

thawed out. Spinach and lettuce grow so fast that

you don’t need to start them indoors.


• Carrots

• Turnips

• Radishes

• Beets



Bachelor Button

Sweet Pea

• Peas (Soak for 4 to 6 hours in warm water right

before planting so they’ll sprout faster)

• Beans (Soak for 4 to 6 hours in warm water right

before planting so they’ll sprout faster)

Why bother?

Save $$$! Seeds are

cheaper than buying

trans-plants. A packet

of seeds costs less than

six plants but can

produce more than 30

plants! Plus, when you

order plants in the bush

you have to pay for

shipping and they may

arrive damaged or worse

yet, DEAD!


Start seeds # of weeks

before setting out

Start date if you

plant on June 1

Cabbage 4-6 April 15 – May 1

Celery 10-12 March 1 -15

Cucumbers 3 (in big pots) May 5

Broccoli 4-6 April 15 – May 1

Lettuce 4-6 April 15 – May 1



8-12 March

Tomatoes 7-9 March 20 – April 1

Zucchini 3-4 (in Big Pots) May 1 - 10


seed starting Schedule

Calendula 7 April 1

Morning Glory 5-6 April 20 to 25

Pansy 8-9 April 1

Lobelia 9-10 March 25

Marigold 6 April 15

Zinnia 3 May 10


If I Transplant, Will It Thrive?

Yes, With Care

Probably NOT

Broccoli Eggplant Carrot

Cabbage Celery Bean

Cauliflower Squash Greens like Mustard

Kale Cucumber Turnip

Pepper Onion Pea

Tomato Melon Potato



Small and


roots are

likely if




These crops should always be

transplanted in Alaska, due to

cold temperatures and short


Photo by Heidi Rader, UAF CES


Can be planted 7 to 10 days earlier than direct seed


In Arctic Village,

Transplants are

necessary to grow

most vegetables and


Pinch out doubles of cabbage and broccoli, because they

will compete with each other and fail to form heads.

It’s okay to leave doubles or triples of onions, because

they will push each other apart as they grow.

Photo by Heidi Rader, UAF CES

Transplant Selection:

Pick stock plants that have well-formed root systems and are free

of insect and diseases. Leave problems at

the nursery!

Photo courtesy of David C. Zlesak, University

of Minnesota Extension

Make certain roots that extend through

media are white with abundant fuzzy tips

(root hairs), and don’t buy plants that are

root-bound because they may not recover

Transplant Shock and Starter Solutions

Expect the growth of your transplants to be delayed by a

week even under very good conditions, and water well

during this establishment period. They may look like

they’re not doing much, but they are busy expanding their

root systems into the new soil. Starter solutions help

transplants recover from shock and get back to growing!

Photo courtesy of Scott Bauer,


Base starter solution:

- 2 table spoons high P


-1 gallon water

-Mix thoroughly and

continue to do so

during use

- Apply one cup per


A Gardener’s Work is Never Done!

After planting:

• Water

• Fertilize again at


• Remove weeds

before they make


• Harvest the fruits

of your labor!

• Extend your season

using row covers

and hoop houses

Photos by Heidi Rader, UAF CES

Estimated Water Requirements Per Season

Crop Inches

Cabbage 14 – 17

Cantaloupe 16 – 20

Carrot 12 – 16

Sweet corn 20 – 24

Onion 22 – 25

Pepper 25 – 30

Potato 20 – 25

Spinach 10 – 15

Tomato 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!

Photo by Heidi Rader, UAF CES

Drip (or Trickle)

Irrigation and Soaker


What and Why?

What: Plastic hoses with small holes

that let water drip out


1. Allows you to put your watering on a

timer, so you can leave for the

weekend and not worry about your


2. Drops are slow and gentle, rather

than rough and flying like a

sprinkler, which preserves soil



Having water nearby all the time can

keep your vegetables from developing

a big, strong root system


Set your timer to water for several

hours just once every two or three


See the optional files in this lesson for

more information!

Fertilization Needs:

Heavy Feeders (fertilize

at least twice):

Medium Feeders Light Feeders Soil Builders

Broccoli Asparagus Carrot Snap bean

Cabbage Beet Onion Pea

Corn Cauliflower Pepper Clover

Cucumber Lettuce Potato

Squash Radish Swiss chard

Tomato Spinach Turnip

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, UAF CES

Fertilization After Planting: Side Dressing

Side dressing is a

good way to apply


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

Base Solution:

2 cups of complete

fertilizer in one

gallon of water

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.

Much Ado About Mulch

• Protects the roots of

perennials from the

winter cold

• Increases moisture


• 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, UAF CES

Organic Mulches:

• Compost

- Stable and weed-suppressing

• Sawdust and shavings

-High C, low N

• Shredded leaves

• Straw and Hay

- 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

Photo courtesy of Norm Klopfenstein,NRCS

Plastic Mulches

• Can be laid by hand or by


• 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, UAF CES

Drip Irrigation + Plastic Mulch + Transplants

+ Organic Matter =

an Excellent Vegetable Gardening


Photos by Heidi Rader, UAF CES

Season Extension: Tools and Methods to Increase

Temperatures and Prolong the Cropping Season

in Alaska

● Perforated plastic

High tunnels ●

● Plastic mulch

● Frost cloth

Combinations ●

Photos by Heidi Rader, UAF CES

Hoop Houses and High Tunnels

• Hoop house made out of

white spruce poles. (5 ft. x

10 ft. x 8 ft. about $50 to


• Hoop houses made out of

PVC pipe

• Large high tunnels made out

of Galvanized steel tubing.

(25 ft. x 50 ft. x 12 ft.

high & about $3,000 to


*Source: University of Kentucky

Photos by Heidi Rader, UAF CES

Benefits of High Tunnels and Hoop Houses:

Usually these structures are

heated only by the sun. The

temperature rises in the day and

falls at night, but it’s always

warmer inside than outside!

Benefits include:

• Season extension – you can

plant earlier in the spring and

harvest longer into the fall

• Higher yield and higher quality

produce, especially for crops

that have trouble in Alaska,

like tomatoes, peppers and

even cantaloupe!

• Protection from wind, rain,

hail, and frost

• With the right management,

they can decrease your weed,

pest and disease problems

Management of High Tunnels and Hoop Houses

• Manual ventilation –

when it gets hot out,

open the flaps or the

entire side, so your

vegetables won’t fry

• You might want to

install a temporary

heat source in the

case of an extreme

cold event

• Drip irrigation will

deliver the right

amount of water to

your vegetables, and

make less work for you

• Fertigation is useful

Photos by Heidi Rader, UAF CES

Hoop Culture/Floating Row Covers

(an extra 3 – 5 0 F of protection!)

Wire hoops

Remay floating

row cover

Photos by Heidi Rader, UAF CES

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 4 th year after planting

• Fertilize with triple super


• Choose a protected place, and

mulch to protect the roots from

cold- overwintering is the


• 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

Photo by Heidi Rader, UAF CES

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, UAF CES

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, UAF CES

Peas, beans, raspberries and

strawberries should be picked at

least every third day

Photos by Heidi Rader, UAF CES

Too Late To


Can you name this

common condition of

lettuce? It:

• Precedes flowering,

• Involves excessive

stem elongation,

• Results in poor


• Produces bitter,


lettuce, and...

• Can be caused by

long hours of

daylight, high

temperatures and

other kinds of


Hint: If you’re stumped, review the

PowerPoint from Lesson 1 to find out

Photo by Heidi Rader, UAF CES

These lettuces, however, are just right!

Photos by Heidi Rader, UAF CES

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, UAF CES

Broccoli and kohlrabi are two more Brassicas that do well in Alaska

Photos by Heidi Rader, UAF CES

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, UAF CES

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




making jam

in Fort

Yukon with


and TCC


July 2008

Photo by Heidi Rader, UAF CES

Photo by Heidi Rader, UAF CES

Photo courtesy of UAF CES

Some of Our Favorite

Garden Books:

1. The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Polan

2. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara


2. Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion

Planting for Successful Gardening by Louise


3. Four-Season Harvest: Organic vegetables from

your home garden all year long by Elliot


Photos by Heidi Rader, UAF CES

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



Carrot image.

"Garden Tillers." Troy Bilt. Tro-Bilt Products, 2009. Web. 14 Aug. 2009.


Image Gallery. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research

Service, n.d. Web. 12 Aug. 2009. .

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.


Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington DC. Web. 12 Aug.


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.

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