A Quick and Dirty Guide to Raising Vegetables in Southcentral Alaska Step 4: Caring for Your Veggies

Care for your plants:

Plants are easy. They need sun. They need water. They need to be protected from weeds and pests.

Watering:

I’m not as good at this as many other gardeners, but most plants need at least an inch of water a week. They may require less or more depending on the weather. If it hasn’t rained in a while, I give them a good watering from a sprinkler. If we’ve gotten a good bit of rain in the last week, I don’t worry about it.

Pests:

Thankfully, we don’t have too many pests in Alaska. I’ve only waged war on two species: root maggots and slugs.

Root maggots love any sort of veggie that has a taproot.  A type of fly lays it’s eggs in or near the root, and the hatched maggots go to town on the root of the plant. Radishes, turnips, and rutabagas are especially susceptible. In fact, I stopped try to grow turnips and rutabagas a few years back because they were so full of maggots. I’ve never had them in my carrot though…

There’s not a whole lot you can do to control root maggots. Some people suggest using diatomaceous earth around plants and other people suggest floating row covers. I suggest prayer.

Slugs usually make an appearance in late summer when the weather gets a little more cool and wet. They love to destroy leafy crops (cabbage and broccoli and lettuce).

The best way to reduce you slug population is by using a beer trap. Bury some small open-top containers into the ground outside of your garden so that the top of the container is even with the dirt level. Fill it with cheap beer. They are attracted to the yeast, and end up drowning in the beer. Make sure you dump it out and refill after it rains.

Weeds:

Weeds are always an issue. Learn to love weeding. Ten or twenty minutes a day can be therapeutic and will keep your garden in pretty good shape. By weeding frequently, you reduce the chances that the weeds will go to seed and make your problems much worse.

My worst enemies are horsetail. Once they are in your garden, they are practically impossible to get rid of. They don’t have roots to speak of, but create runners underground. Any piece left in the garden can spawn a new plant. Try mulches of cardboard or newspaper to keep them out of your way.

Next Step: Harvest and Storage