After weeks of almost totally clear sunny weather, although cold temperatures, we are into rain, wind, and clouds. Where it seems parts of the lower 48 are having a winter that doesn’t seem to want to stop, some of us here in Alaska are thinking we never really got a ‘normal’ winter.
All I see, besides a glorious mountain range covered in snow, is brown landscape and a few drifts of snow left from earlier this year. Our river is still frozen enough to travel on, as are most ponds and lakes. The ground is still mostly frozen although on warm days the top inch or so of soil turns to mud.
Despite all this cold we are seriously facing spring and it is approaching FAST!!
Around the first of March we installed some basic temperature monitors in one of the high tunnels, similar to a greenhouse but in our case without added heat or light. We wanted to start monitoring the soil and air temperatures now that the days are over ten hours of daylight. We put one sensor about 4” into the soil, having hit at least somewhat of a frost level at that point.
The second sensor was hung just over our heads. We also have a full weather station which gives us the normal weather information so we can match outside with inside of the structure.
Since moving to this area of Alaska a little less than 10 years ago the farmer/gardener in me has wanted, or maybe by this age it is actually a ‘need’ having lived with this frame of mind so long, to gather useful information on frost dates, weather patterns and soil makeup. Much of what has been learned so far has been with the use of low ‘hooped’ beds and making a fair amount of missteps.
Having the three separate high tunnel structures this year to work with means there is a lot to get planned out and working in short order. Usually by the middle of June all things ‘fishing’ have to take center stage. Being organized and ahead of schedule will be paramount to having things be successful, at least in my mind. (I am not going to discuss how it would be heaven to have a ‘wife’ about that time of year just to keep the day-to-day things running smoothly)
We set up the structures where we had gardened in the past, just expanding the area. The tunnels and the surrounding area get full sunshine, even in the winter. It is also pretty much sheltered from strong winds. This is a huge plus in our area.
Observing the monitors these past few weeks we have seen a slow but steady rise in the ground temperatures. About a week ago we saw the ground temperature pop above 40 degree, while days were still hovering in the 20’s & 30’s, and stay there well into the evening. The last few days the ground is staying in the high 30’s overnight when the temps, even inside the tunnels, drop into the low 30’s.
The greens I planted last fall, much too late I thought, have now sprouted. Rhubarb is showing through the dark soil. Spring is pushing itself forward.
Most of the tomato starts are up and we are awaiting the first ‘true’ leaves to show up, signaling the need to transplanted into the next sized pots. Peppers are slow to sprout this year. The first tray of cabbage and cauliflower starts has become a casualty. The kitty thought all the nice warm peat mixture needed to be aerated. He did not mess in it but did stir it up good enough to make a mess on the floor and get nice rich peat smell all in his coat!
Now to make all the plans are mapped out, supplies are on their way, and a schedule is mapped out! Hopefully all of this will lead to some success this summer.