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Alaska Cooperative Extension Service releases master gardener manual

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Posted: Sunday, February 20, 2011 1:56 pm | Updated: 1:47 pm, Wed Dec 26, 2012.

FAIRBANKS - I mention the Alaska Cooperative Extension Service so often that some readers assume I work there. I don’t. However, I have graduated from many of their programs, such as the Master Gardener and Master Composter and Master Killer ones. (OK, Master Killers is not really called that. It is about using pesticides accurately and responsibly, but I have called it that for so long that I no longer remember the real name.) And with over 20 years of collecting their pamphlets and bulletins, and never having cleaned out my files, I probably have a more accurate history of their output than they do!

Well, this week I want to introduce you to the latest addition to my library: “Sustainable Gardening: The Alaska Master Gardener Manual.” Whether you have taken the Master Gardener class or not, I guarantee that every home gardener in the Interior will find this publication to be an invaluable tool.

I know, I know, nearly every book review makes similar promises, so I wish I could find a more original way to convince you to stop by the Cooperative Extension office and pick one up.

An adaptation of the Oregon-Washington Master Gardener Handbook, the Alaska version consists of 482 three-hole punched pages that fit a standard notebook.

I love the fact that I flip the pages without worrying about breaking the spine of a book. It also allows me to add other Cooperative Extension publications as I run across them, to personalize the book so it reflects my interests.

Here are the topics covered: Botany, plant identification, soils and fertilizers, plant propagation, pruning, composting, your yard and water quality, vegetable gardening, greenhouses and season extenders, annual and perennials, woody landscape plants, home orchards, berries, lawns, landscape design, houseplants, entomology, plant diseases, diagnosing plant problems, weed management, vertebrate pest management, pesticides and integrated pest management. As you open each of these sections, you will find a grayed box listing the topics in that chapter. If, for example, you are interested in raising vegetables, you will learn about the following in that chapter: Selecting a garden site, planning, equipment, preparing the soil, when to plant, seed starting, transplants, irrigation, fertilizing, weed control, intensive gardening, container gardening, fall gardening, extending the season, harvesting, cleanup, cover crops and herbs.

The raising vegetable section is only 36 pages long, so of course the topic is not exhaustively covered. But there is enough info to act as a starting place for newbies and a refresher for experienced Interior vegetable gardeners. At the end of the chapter there is a list of other resources, and I was pleased to see that the editors consulted and recommend not only UAF publications, but also the published works of local experts such as Eloise DeWitt (deceased, but fondly remembered by many longtime residents). Other chapters reference folks like Ann D. Roberts (living, and fondly thought of by anyone who has her most useful book, “Alaska Gardening Guide”).

What sections you will find most useful depends on your level of expertise and your interests. This really is a guide with something for everyone, so save up $40 and buy one.

Now, on to a topic so totally unrelated to the paragraphs above that I cannot think of a clever segue from that topic to this one: Hospice.

Our local hospice provides services, for free, to dying people and their families.

One of the major funding sources for them is their annual plant sale, which this year takes place on May 28.

They are looking for donations of vegetables and flowers, as well as perennials; clean and undamaged six packs are also most welcome. As you are ordering seeds, consider getting an extra packet and raising a flat of transplants for hospice. If you have overgrown rhubarb, raspberries or globe flowers, divide them and donate the excess to hospice. If you are too infirm to do the digging or don’t have the time or a vehicle to deliver things, hospice has volunteers who will dig and transport.

If you can’t contribute plants to the sale, then please consider buying some of your annuals or perennials at the sale. The sale is Saturday, May 28, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Hospice greenhouse, 20th Avenue and Turner Street. For additional information or scheduling pick up or delivery of annuals, perennials, houseplants and so on, call the Hospice office at 474-0311 or Judy Rae Smith, 455-6860.

Linden Staciokas has gardened in the Interior for more than two decades. Send gardening questions to her at


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