By Gerald L. Sudkamp
The following is a report of my garden and fruit growing activities for the last five (5) years at a lot I have near Wasilla. This report begins when I purchased a 2.8-acre lot located about 10 miles northwest of Wasilla on Pittman Road in the late fall of 1987. The lot runs southwest from Pittman Road at a slight downhill slope 600 to Island Lake, and borders Pittman Road and the lake by about 250 (rough estimates).
Starting from Pittman Road half the lot is a birch woods. Then there is a knoll (where I am building a house) and slope .that are cleared of trees leading to a meadow, then bog, then lake. You might say the lot is ½ woods ¼ knoll and slope, 1/8 meadow, and 1/8 bog. My fruit and garden efforts have been focused on the knoll and slope, which have good southern exposure.
A profile of the soil shows a thin topsoil that varies from loam to clay to sand then 8-4 of sand then hardpan glacial till. There is usually enough sand- mixed: with the topsoil to make it easy to work. However, it is not very fertile and needs a little fertilizer to get things to grow.
In the spring and summer of 1988, 1 cleared the knoll and slope area. This Involved pulling up knee- to chest-high birch trees. If I waited until after a good rain, the trees would pull up. root and all. That fall I transplanted the following as rooted cuttings, runners reproductions, etc., from my place in Muldoon to Island Lake: Latham raspberries. Quinalt strawberries, Pixwell gooseberries, Red Lake currants, Swedish Black currants, Saskatoon berry, rhubarb, mint chives, and a Dolgo crab tree. These were all proven hardy plants and did well: they are now well established.
In the spring of 1989, 1 purchased and planted the following apple trees from Bob Purvis one (1) State Fair, one (1) Glen Orchie, and one (1) Summer Red, all on either baccata or Antanovka rootstock. These grew well that summer and fall but the infamous winter of 1989-90 got the Glen Orchie and the other two (2) died back to the rootstock. I think that if they would have had more time to adjust to our Alaskan climate before such a cold winter, they might have done better.
In the spring of 1990, 1 planted a hedge of Nanking cherries (12 plants), a bed of Redcoat (Canadian) strawberries and some native American plums (6). The Nanking cherries are growing well, but have not blossomed or produced fruit.* I am impressed with the Redcoat strawberries-a June bearer. The berries are large, firm, sweet and good keepers. The plants are productive, vigorous and seem quite hardy—having gone through one winter without any protective cover. I decided to try the native American plums first If they didn’t do well, I would forget about trying cultivar plums. If they proved out I could use them for rootstock. Half of them did not survive the winter. The three (3) left continue to grow, but not vigorously.
In the spring of 1991, 1 planted two (2) elderberries (John’s and Adams), an asparagus bed from Doctor James’ starts, and some Fall Gold raspberries. The John’s elderberry started right off, but the Adams did not break dormancy until late summer. The asparagus (24 plants) was planted in a raised bed with a black plastic mulch to keep the weeds and horsetail down. They all survived and grew throughout the summer. The everbearing Fall Gold raspberries bore lightly in the fall. It will take a few more growing seasons to better evaluate the spring 1991 plantings.
(Editor’s note: Last month’s newsletter [December 1991] contained an article by Bob Purvis entitled “Inducing Bloom in Nanking Cherry”.)