Luke’s Journal: Clarification on plantings

As I read through my entry yesterday, I felt it wasn’t as clear as it should be.  Let me correct that.

The first part is about planting Okra up here in Alaska. It might sound strange to try to grow such a southern plant here in the great white, but it is grown as a winter crop down there and can handle colder temperatures than expected.

The other part is that I cheat.  I augment and amplify the natural heat of the sun to promote better growth of plants that are suited to this climate.

One way to do this is through cold frames.  Basically a mini greenhouse created by using a discarded window and building a box around it with timber.  I’ll throw a couple of these out before I start any planting to pre-heat the soil.  As this is going on, I’ll have a few seed germinating in an old egg container inside the house.  They do start out leggier than they normally would, but they seem to do ok.

The second part is to incorporate a heat wall.  Using the southern side of the house, I just painted the wall flat black and plant the Okra next to it.  The radiant heat from the sun not only helps heat the soil via the wall, it also heats the house better.

The last part is mulch.  Lots of it.  By having a good mulch pile you create a version of a heating blanket.  If you’ve ever stuck you hand in a large pile of leaves that has sat for a few days, you’ll feel the heat in the base of the pile.   The same theory works for the mulch at a greatly reduced capacity.  While keeping the soil and roots warmer, it doesn’t produce so much heat as to damage the root system.  A solid “peppering” of caribou manure also adds to the heat.  You must be careful though, too much manure will “cook” the young plants.

As for my unicorn, the peanut plants, it is my personal challenge that is akin to the fable of the lemon tree in the mountain.  I heard it once that a man over in Pakistan decided to try to grow a lemon tree in the mountains where he lived.  Knowing that the general area would kill the average lemon tree, he first looked for cultivars that could handle the coldest temperature for its species, he looked for a micro climate to support it.  He found a small spot that got full southern exposure, yet was protected by the wind.  The singular spot also directed the winds in a manner that blew away any snowfall or possible frost.  I’m not sure if it’s true, but its something to strive for.

Peanuts take 184 days to mature and the average growing season varies from 85 to 115 days tops.  That means I need to find a spot conducive to growing for an extra 100 days just to be safe.  That’s going to be hard to say the least.  But it makes for a great experiment.

One of our greatest gifts is to change the environment around us to make it more hospitable for things that are strangers to the land.  We mix, divert, move, and work until we can find that balance that is beneficial for all.

And that’s the real point of the challenge.  To work to make a place more welcome to outsiders.

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