Category: Horticulture and Gardening

The sun will rise today at 4:34 in the morning, and set 18 hours 38 minutes later at 11:15 this evening. We’re losing almost 7 minutes a day, now. The weather is still cool and wet; we might get back into the 70’s by midweek.

July probably won’t set a new record for precipitation, but it will be close. Right now we’re sitting on 5.78” for the month, and I think another .2” would push us over.

The lawn and garden are lush, and the weeds are thriving all too well. The squash aren’t doing as well as they would if it were a little warmer, but they have reached the harvestable stage. The delphiniums are getting indecently tall—two or three feet over the 7’ top of the lattice. I think I have three varieties of Maltese cross: the dark red I bought, a much smaller-flowered pink I started from seed, and a few volunteers that I think are hybrids: large like the reds, but a distinctly lighter color. I wish it would warm up and stop raining, though.

The sun rose this morning at 3:49, and will set 20 hours 15 minutes later, a minute after midnight tomorrow morning. It’s still rainy: 4.58” (well over twice the July normal) as of July 12, with more yesterday and even more predicted for next week. If this keeps up we could set a record for July as well as June.

The raised beds with herbs and mint are riotously green, and the mints especially are crowding each other out. The delphiniums were a little beaten down by all the rain, but they are now tied up. The tallest are close to 12’ high, and the flowers are just starting to open. I don’t actually grow peonies but they are one of the few commercial crops up here and are starting to show up at the Farmers’ Market. Seems that the blooming period here, in July, is at a time when there are very few parts of the world peonies are in bloom. Result? Several people are growing them for the international cut flower market.

My hair finally grew back from chemo to the point that I got a haircut. I thought all the curl would be cut off, but a little wave still remains. I’ve included some before and after shots, which you can compare with the ones last fall.

The sun rose today at 3:27 this morning, and will set 20 hours 57 minutes later at 12:22 tomorrow morning. We’re already losing 6 minutes a day. It’s downright hot by Alaska standards, well into the 80’s over the weekend.

The late June rain continued for the first two days of the month – and we did set a new record for June. At 3.36” we’re already above normal for July. The forecast for the next few days is cloudy, scattered showers and occasional thunderstorms, and high temperatures in the 70’s. Maybe I can hold out without air conditioning, but I’ve gone back to my Kansas habits: close the house up in the daytime and open the windows as soon as the temperature outdoors falls below the indoor temperature.

The garden loves it. I picked the first tiny zucchini yesterday, the day lilies are in full bloom, and the first tall columbines are opening. All of the photos were taken yesterday afternoon.

Unofficially, it started raining around midnight and has been raining (with some thunder) ever since. We’re on the way to setting another record for July. Having survived the 1967 Fairbanks flood, I’m keeping an eye on the flood advisories (which we’re under.)

Surprise! My first daylily of the year opened Monday.

Surprise! My first daylily of the year opened Monday.

P.S. 7:40 am: we had .01 ” precipitation early last night, which may well give us a new wettest June, and it’s still raining.

backyard 10-30 6-29-14The sun will rise this morning at 3:09, and set 21 hours 39 minutes later at 12:38 tomorrow morning. It’s gotten a good deal warmer and drier this weekend; it hit 80 yesterday. There is a chance of showers or thundershowers today, but compared with the past week it’s really nice out, if a little warm.

At least the rain is easing off. Our unofficial total for June so far is 3.55 inches, which would tie the record for the month. One good shower today, which is a distinct possibility, would give us a new record for June. As of midmorning, the forecasts are calling for thunderstorms this afternoon and rain likely after midnight.

The garden is growing well. The delphiniums range from shoulder high to tip-my-head-back-and-look-up, though they are only starting to bud. The white iris are blooming, and the daylilies will be open in a few days. The photo, by the way, was taken in available light at 10:30 yesterday evening.

Shade lovers: Non-stop begonia, lobelia, and impatiens

Shade lovers: Non-stop begonia, lobelia, and impatiens

As you’ve probably noticed by now, my raised beds are built of cement blocks with the holes oriented up and down and filled with topsoil. Very few plants actually survive our 50 below winters, so I buy annuals each summer, mostly in 6-packs, and plant them in the holes of the cement blocks.

Annuals bordering the lavenders and other herbs

Annuals bordering the lavenders and other herbs

Some are truly annuals, growing from seed, flowering, seeding and dying in a single season, regardless of climate. Some are in truth biennials or perennials in more clement climates, but are grown as annuals in Alaska.

Lantana. This is actually a perennial shrub, but I treat it as an annual.

Lantana. This is actually a perennial shrub, but I treat it as an annual.

In general the flowers I choose will keep blooming throughout the summer if they are deadheaded—the flowers cut off after they bloom but before they can form seeds. This keeps the plant thinking it has to keep on blooming to produce seed. (I must admit that this is something I frequently forget to do.)

Calibrachoa, Pansy and Petunia edging the squash bed.

Calibrachoa, Pansy and Petunia edging the squash bed.

A few plants are sterile hybrids, and these never need to be deadheaded—they just exist in a constant state of frustration.

Pansies. I love the colors these are available in today.

Pansies. I love the colors these are available in today, and the way the colors change as the flowers age..

Pansies are very popular in Alaska, and they will self-seed.

Portulaca (moss rose.) They like more sun than we've had this year, but they do like our long days.

Portulaca (moss rose.) They like more sun than we’ve had this year, but they do like our long days.

A sunshine favorite is portulaca, or moss rose. The last week or two have not been kind to these.


Lavenders are usually grown for the essential oil which for highest quality, as used in perfumery and cosmetics, is extracted from the buds and flowers. The leaf hairs also have some of these essential oils and may be used for sachets (often with flowers) or as a slightly sweet, floral flavor in cooking.

I’m afraid I grow them primarily for the shape, texture and color of the leaves, as in this climate I am lucky to see more than a few buds by first frost. As of late June ‘Goodwin’ is the only cultivar with a trace of buds.

I buy them in 3” pots and transplant them into a raised bed—they like it hot and dry, which does not exactly describe Interior Alaska in summer, even in Fairbanks. But they have a nice variety of appearances.

Mint, rosemary, basil and thyme are not the only culinary herbs I grow. There are others I use quite as much, if not more. They share the raised bed with the thyme, rosemary, and lavender. (The lavender will have to wait until Thursday, by when I hope that at least a few of the varieties are blooming.)

Fernleaf Dill

Fernleaf Dill

First of these is dill. I don’t do much canning or pickling (as in none) but the leaves are a wonderful addition to egg dishes, salads, and fish. On the rare occasions when I make borscht, I garnish with sour cream and sprinkle dill leaves on top. Since it is the leaves I’m after, I usually grow Fernleaf.

Curled-leaf Parsley

Curled-leaf Parsley

Parsley is another herb I enjoy fresh. It often gets mixed with cottage cheese and salads. Most years I have both curly-leaved and flat-leaved, but this year I’m just growing the curly-leaved.

Chives 7-20-14

Chives are one of the very few herbs to be perennial up here, and they also seed freely. Their lavender flowers are decorative in the perennial bed, and I have several clumps in the raised beds as well. I should probably get rid of some of them, but they are too good in cottage cheese and salads.

Tricolor Sage

Tricolor Sage

I grow tricolor sage as a culinary herb, but I don’t use much of it. Like thyme, it is often used with poultry. In addition, I like to keep a plant of pineapple sage around just for sniffing.

'Westacre Gold' Oregano

‘Westacre Gold’ Oregano

Oregano, for me, is the flavor and aroma of pizza. Not the modern fast-food pizza, but the pizza I remember growing up in New England. Once the zucchini starts bearing, I’ll slice it and cook it gently in olive oil with oregano and basil, then sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese.



Finally, I try to get at least one plant of chervil. Sometimes I don’t have to, as it self-seeds vigorously. These lacey leaves are wonderful in scrambled eggs and another addition to salads.

d. rose 6:22:14The sun will rise this morning at 2:59 and set 21 hours and 48 minutes later at 12:47 tomorrow morning. This near the solstice, the day length changes by less than a minute a day, and it is bright twilight all night.

Until the middle of last week we still had red flag warnings and high fire danger, but starting Wednesday we went into a rainy pattern. In fact, we are running at about twice normal rainfall for the month, and we’ve gone from fire weather advisories to local flood advisories virtually overnight. Highs for the next week are expected to be around 70, but with lots of scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms in the afternoons.

Zucchini 6:22:14All this rain has been great for the garden. The first domesticated rose has opened. I’m not sure what variety, but it transplants easily, suckers freely, and makes a nice hedge on the east side of the lawn. It is not a rugosa, which I bought it as, but looks more like a spinosissima. Lot of little tiny spines, and a pretty but small double shell-pink flower.

The green zucchini have female flowers, and are actually showing tiny squash. The yellows are a good deal behind them, but they are showing buds. (The black stuff is IRT plastic, which lets solar infrared through to warm the soil, but blocks visible light to stop weeds.) Unfortunately the weeds are enjoying the rain also; I’m going to have to spend a morning trying to get back ahead of them.



Basil does not grow as well in Alaska as do many other herbs, but I still manage to get a number of varieties each year. Why? Basil likes relatively dry, hot conditions, and Interior Alaska just doesn’t supply that, though the Fairbanks area is probably the best in Alaska.

In general the Thai basils are not my favorites—I just don’t care for the licorice taste. But most basils go very well with tomatoes and Italian dishes. Now that the first local tomatoes are showing up at the Farmers’ Market, my usual lunch of cottage cheese and fruit will change to cottage cheese and tomatoes, with basil, chives, dill, and parsley mixed into the cheese. Another use for basil will be when the zucchini is ready to pick. And, of course, basil is widely used in pesto.

Here are some of the basils I’m trying this year, along with a few I photographed at Basically Basil, which has a regular stall at the Farmers’ Market where they sell plants, herbal vinegars, and seasoning mixes.



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