Planning out our 2017 Alaskan garden

I've often told newer gardeners that the best thing to do is watch your yard, really watch it for a full season to get a good idea of where the sun is at any given time of the day, where the water collects and lays stagnant most often, which areas are drier, and so on.  
So, following my own advice, last year that is precisely what I did.  Now I found recently that when presented with a large amount of area to deal with you need to break it into manageable pieces, quadrants or areas.  So I've broken this down to the garden area, the side area, our pond area, our rabbit area and our bee area. 
Our morning sun comes over our house and hits the lilac tree, the raspberries and the raised beds on the left so this year I'll be putting more of the plants that don't do as well with afternoon sun over on the left.  Meanwhile, the plants that love the heat (summer squash, tomatoes, hot peppers) will all be pushed over to the right side where the sun shines from 3p to 6pm.


If you read my last post, you'll know we're adding honeybees to our mix (not drawing below since they will be in a quiet corner of our garden far away from the more actively used areas).  We are also adding a bit more raised beds as well as some extra perennials and fruit bearing bushes and trees.  

Peony needs to be planted, 3 new beds need to be built and we need to clear out some trees before the beehives are added nearby.

While in my Master Gardener class an instructor suggested using paper to draw all the permanent fixtures on, and then with tracing paper add any new additions to the garden to see what you think.  Me personally, I prefer using MS Paint as I can achieve some of the same great results.

The Peony towards the back near the compost bin is my newest idea for the main reason that I would love to have some sweet smelling flowers near that area.  Our lilac blooms in late May early June which will mean the Peony will follow shortly thereafter which will ensure me a lovely aroma around a not so lovely smelling area for at least a couple of months.  The challenge here will most definitely be the fact that the soil here is very dense and compact.  I will have to dig a nice sized hole and then mix a good amount of compost and manure in to give it the very best chance.
Next, the herb garden on the right.  Last year I discovered that I ran out of space FAST in the left raised bed for my herbs.  I enjoy growing both medicinal and culinary herbs and they do take up some room so we'll be adding another two cinder block tall raised bed and add compost and topsoil to that.
The two other raised beds in front will be pretty low into the ground but will be slightly more elevated than the grass.  These, like the herb gardens will be built most likely using the cinder blocks that we saved from our small space garden in Fairbanks.
In these I plan to plant a small area of horseradish (which I hope to keep in that small area.  Horseradish can become invasive sometimes so I will have to watch it closely) as well as some winter squash and possibly even some sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichokes)  I'm not certain what variety of squash yet I'm going to try there, possibly something smaller like acorn squash.
In the right newly built raised bed we plan to plant garlic which might be a challenge.  There are trees right along this area so it might or might not get enough sunlight.  We will have to try it out and see if we're successful.  If not something else that is perennial will go here since this bed will not be as elevated which will allow whatever is planted there to potentially overwinter a little more easily.  I have a feeling that regardless of the turnout here it will not be enough garlic to keep us going all throughout the winter so we'll most likely have to come up with other areas that we can plant more.
Next is our side area.
Early Spring in the yard
 This area doesn't need as much planting, it just needs clearing!  We have a lot of trees and the goal is to remove a lot of them while still maintaining the privacy they provide.
We have planted several rhubarb in one area and we hope they will continue to expand.  I use rhubarb in multiple canning projects, so it'll always find a use.  Next we purchased a couple of peony's from Chatanika Peonies, a local grower out here.  I really miss my huge peony bush from my Fairbanks house.  Every year since being back I make Peony jelly   It's delicious and boy do I miss it!
Last year one of the biggest additions we added in this area was two, 2nd year crabapples.  I hope the moose continue to ignore them, at least until such time as the trees are large enough to deal with their depredations.  Later I might graft other crabapples to fast growing apples and place those here as well but first we have to clear this area out some more.  As time goes on we will have to guard against frequent moose visits.  That will require tall fencing in the areas we plan to guard.

Below is what we have now and what is planned for this year.
Trees need to be cleared, a border around the rhubarb patch needs to be built and I intend to plant flowers that honeybees love.   This I'm sure will not just attract bees but other pollinators as well. 
This year we plan to grow lettuce and other greens in the raised bed in this area.  Last year this area got morning sunlight but no afternoon sunlight.  This renders it useless for any plant that loves heat or full afternoon sun.

Thankfully we don't have as much to do in the pond area.  The previous owners did such a great job landscaping this area that we can almost ignore this area other than I do want to plant some more ostrich ferns and I need to move the gooseberries that I mistakenly planted near the pond last year.  Other than clearing more trees and planting this area is done.
The pond, early in the season



Our rabbits this year will be getting newly built hutches (built by us) since the last hutch was built with scraps and two individuals who knew little to nothing of what we were doing.  Now that we've been doing this for almost a year we know what we want or what we would possibly like.  This is still a work in progress however so we might change to something similar to this idea over the next month or two.
The goal is to get it changed before summer.  In the same area as our rabbits we have also planted asparagus which would be a challenge if the rabbits accidentally ever got out.  I guess our rabbits would be eating well (not that they don't already since they get spoiled massively by all of us) but we'd be missing our fresh from the garden asparagus that year.  Last year we did notice that we had asparagus spears growing in late summer in the area so we're hoping it overwinters and comes back this spring.  Asparagus actually takes several years to grow before it will actually produce enough to eat so of course we won't see much coming from this until at least next year or the year following that, possibly.  That's if it survives our harsh Alaskan winters.

We have approximately two to three more months before the snow has completely melted and we can start plants like hardy red russian kale, broccoli, cauliflower or cabbage.  In the meantime we continue to collect seeds and over and over look over the snowy landscape that is currently our yard.  We have a lot of annual flowers to plant, a lot of perennials to plant, of lot of vegetable starts to buy and of course, rabbits to work with and of course, most of all, a couple thousand bees to work with.
It's going to be a lot of work with hopefully, a lot of accomplishments, lessons learned and a lot of food coming directly from our backyard.  One could never ask for more!

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