Instant Organic Fertilizer for the Garden

Its still a little too cold here in Alaska to plant my tomatoes and peppers in the greenhouse. However, while I wait for spring to warm up a bit more, I now have time to give the soil in my greenhouse a nice boost. I’m going to use homemade instant organic fertilizer for an amazing harvest this fall.

Instant Organic Fertilizer for the Garden - IdlewildAlaska

I currently have two compost bins going. One I add to, one that is full and cooking everything down to that beautiful black gold. But I’m impatient and the soil in my greenhouse could really use a boost. When we first built the greenhouse two years ago, we bought soil by the cubic yard from a local company. The hubby shoveled it all into my metal raised beds and I filled it up with tomato plants and peppers. We’ve had a fairly decent harvest these past two years.

But much like in container gardening, the soil in the greenhouse has been giving up nutrients, without very much replenishment. So instead of adding to the compost bin, I’ll be adding a few things directly to my greenhouse soil.

READ NEXT: FREE ORGANIC FISH FERTILIZER FOR THE GARDEN 

Coffee Grounds

Almost every long-time gardener will tell you what a wonder coffee and coffee grounds are in the garden. Leftover coffee (I’ve heard of this phenomenon, but have yet to see it myself.) can be diluted with water and used to water acid loving plants. Used coffee grounds can be spread (not too thick!) around plants like mulch to help deter slugs and act as a slow-release nutrient. It does beautifully added to the compost pile. Read more on the science and uses of coffee in the garden HERE.

Coffee grounds for the garden - IdlewildAlaska

Egg Shells

Tomatoes are a calcium loving plant. A sure-fire cure for blossom end rot is to add more calcium. Egg shells are a perfect way to add this. Dry the egg shells (Some people do this in the oven after rinsing the shells. I just toss mine in a bowl. Thanks to Alaska’s very low humidity, they’re usually totally dry within 24 hours and I haven’t used any extra electricity.) Pulverize the shells. Depending on how many I have, I’ll either crush them with my mortar and pestle or use the food processor. Most of the time, I’ll feed these crushed shells back to my chickens. Chickens need the calcium to make egg shells – it’s a perfect circle. The shells can also be added to the compost pile. Supposedly crushed shells sprinkled around plants in the garden will also help deter slugs.

Egg shells for the garden - IdlewildAlaska

READ NEXT: ALASKAN COMPANION PLANTING

Banana Peels

Roses love bananas. But I only have wild Alaskan roses in my yard, which I figured they’re doing just fine on their own. I love dehydrated bananas, personally. All plants love potassium, so banana peels are a wonderful addition to the compost pile, which is where mine usually go. Either toss them in the bin whole or allow to dry a little and grind up in the food processor, which will help the breakdown process go much faster. Check out all the wonderful ways bananas are great for your garden HERE.

Banana peels for the garden - IdlewildAlaska

Instant Organic Fertilizer Recipe

Mix crushed egg shells, ground banana peels, and coffee grounds. Don’t worry too much about ratios, although you don’t want the coffee grounds to be in large clumps or overwhelm the other ingredients. Spread around the base of your plants, mix into your soil, or layer it under wood chips. Done!

 

We’ve been transitioning our garden to the Back to Eden gardening method for the past year, and I’m planing on adding wood chips to the raised beds in the greenhouse too. Before I add the chips this year, I’m going to add my instant organic fertilizer as a layer over the soil, and then place the wood chips on top. The tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers should love it!

READ NEXT: GARDENING GOD’S WAY

Remember, for this to be a truly organic fertilizer, your ingredients must be organic. The hubby and I drink organic coffee, my chickens are fed only organic feed so the eggs are organic, and I only ever buy organic bananas. Even if you don’t have these ingredients in the organic form, they’ll still be very good for your soil, but may add some unwanted pesticides, chemicals, etc.

Looking for more options of homemade fertilizer? Check out this chicken manure tea for seedlings or 5 Natural Fertilizer Recipes for Your Vegetable Garden. Got comfrey in your yard? Check this out! And who knew herbs were for more than cooking with! Also check out my Homemade Organic Fish Fertilizer for the garden too!

 


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Hardy Perennial Flowers for Alaska Part Two

Snapdragons, nasturtiums, marigolds, sweet peas, pansies, and so much more. Flowerbeds can be beautiful even in the short Alaskan growing season. But the cost of replacing annual flowers every spring adds up fast and can often push your garden over budget, not to mention all that replanting is a lot of work. I think I’ll just stick to hardy perennial flowers for Alaska. Check out the first part of my perennial list HERE.

Hardy Perennial Flowers for Alaska Part Two (And other zones too!) - IdlewildAlaska

Garden phlox (phlox paniculata), also known as a border phlox, can grow to a fairly good size, around 3′ tall and spread 1′ to 3′. Be sure to plant your seedlings 1′ to 2′ apart to give them lots of room to grow. They will do well in full or partial sun. Phlox prefers moist, well draining soil and will love lots of compost. Don’t forget to deadhead your flowers for more blooms. Grows in Zones 4-8. Bonus- it attracts butterflies!

Growing Phlox in Alaska - IdlewildAlaska

Comes in white, pink, and lavender.

READ NEXT: GROWING FRUIT IN ALASKA

 

Rock wall cress (arabis caucasica) is a great low-growing border plant, especially along the edge of a retaining wall. They do best in full sun and need good drainage. They do well on a hill or slope, even where other plants will not, because they are an alpine flower. Slightly acid soil is good. Water well when newly planted and then only when the soil is dry once established. Plant 15″ to 18″ apart, as it will fill in. Very good plant for a new gardener. Zones  4-7. Bonus- Both the flowers and leaves are edible, as rock cress is part of the mustard family!

Rockcress in Alaska - IdlewildAlaska

Blooms are pink or white.

If you’ve got a large blank wall or fence you want to have filled in, yellow clematis (clematis tangutica) is the way to go. This strong climber will grow quickly up a trellis and shower you in pretty yellow blossoms and then give you Dr. Seuss-like seed pods (they’re very cool). It does well in full sun to partial shade and prefers medium moisture. Zone 4-8.

Growing Yellow Clematis in Alaska - IdlewildAlaska

Dr. Seuss pods!

Dianthus (dianthus) is a nice filler plant for flower beds. These carnation-type flowers can be white, pink, magenta, or red. Deadheading keeps the blooms coming. Up to 20″ tall, these are good “middle of the flower bed” flowers. They are also good cutting flowers. Grow in full sun, getting at least six hours of sunlight, and prefer neutral to alkaline pH soil. It does not tolerate wet soil. Zone 3-9.

Dianthus in Alaska - IdlewildAlaska

So pretty.

Looking for some color to last the summer? Try blue oat grass (helictotrichon sempervirens). This steel blue foliage grows 24-36″ and looks good in formal and informal gardens alike. Not only is it good ground cover, but it helps with erosion control too. This grass is very low maintenance and grows well in beds and containers, provided it is in full sun. Read more HERE. Zone 4-9.

READ NEXT: HARDY PERENNIAL FLOWERS FOR ALASKA PART ONE

Creeping Jenny (lysimachia nummelaria) is a great ground cover or a trailing edge over a container or rock wall. It does well in full sun or shade with good drainage. Be sure to plant them at least 2′ apart, as it will fill in quickly. It does have an invasive nature, so be sure to keep an eye on it. Zone 2-10.

Growing Creeping Jenny in Alaska - IdlewildAlaska

Daylilies (hemerocallis) will steal the show in your flower bed. These big, brilliant blooms come in yellow, orange, or maroon and smell wonderfully. Extremely hardy, they’ll bloom year after year with hardly any attention. They do best in full sun with moist, well draining soil. Plant them 12″ to 18″ apart and mulch well. Zones 3-9.

Growing Daylilies in Alaska - IdlewildAlaska

Yarrow (achillea millefolium) is a wonderful choice for your garden; it even grows wild in south central Alaska. It is practically care free. It grows great in full sun and will survive in a variety of soils. It is both an edible and medicinal plant with many uses and benefits. Joybilee Farm has several articles on the many benefits of yarrow, including uses for high blood pressure and for coughs and fevers.  Tenth Acre Farm can show you five reasons to grow yarrow. It’s even good for your chickens! Zones 3-9.

Growing Yarrow in Alaska - IdlewildAlaska

Looking for more perennials? Be sure to check out Part One of Hardy Perennial Flowers for Alaska!

 


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Hardy Perennial Flowers for Alaska Part One

At the moment, the homestead is severely lacking in flower beds. There’s one still trying hang on, but it’s full of grass and has been for many years. I’d love to add more, but the main focus for the past couple years has been veggie production. Knowing that veggies will always be our main focus, I’m planning on cleaning out the existing flower bed and putting in more and filling them with hardy perennial flowers for Alaska.

Hardy Perennial Flowers for Alaska (And other zones too!) - IdlewildAlaska

And other garden zones too!

Perennial Flowers for Alaska (and other zones too!)

Columbine (Aquilegia) do amazingly well in Alaska, to the point that the red and yellow columbine grows wild here in south central. They become anywhere from 8″ to 30″ tall, and if you don’t deadhead the flowers, they will self seed. Columbine grows in Zones 3-9. They can be drought resistant flowers and do well in partial shade. They come in many colors, including yellow, red, purple, brown, pink, and white.

Columbine in Alaska - IdlewildAlaska

There are a couple choices for growing iris in Alaska. The Alaska wild iris (iris setosa) covers the sides of the Glenn Highway near Eklutna every summer in a beautiful shade of purple. Siberian iris (iris siberica) also does well and can be found in many flower gardens from Interior AK to the South East. These make excellent border plants with their tall, grass-like leaves throughout the summer. Iris should be planted about 2′ apart, with plenty of sun, with good drainage, although they thrive in moist conditions. (My parents have them lining the edge of their pond.) They do well in Zones 3-9.

Wild Alaskan Iris - IdlewildAlaska

One of my favorites!

READ NEXT: GROWING FRUIT IN ALASKA

 

Globeflower (troilus europeaus) do wonderfully here in south central. There is one in my flowerbed that was planted around 15 years ago. It is in the only flower bed I haven’t been able to get around to cleaning up yet and the grass has taken over, but the trolius stands strong. Its a tall flower, around 2′ tall when it blooms it’s bright orange and yellow flowers. It usually grows in wet, heavy soil and does well in partial shade, although mine is just about in full sun. Grows in zones 3-7. Be sure to deadhead the flowers for the possibility of more blooms.

Globe Flower (Trolius) - IdlewildAlaska

The one in my yard blooms almost all summer!

When I was little, my mom had delphiniums (delphinium) growing against our old garage. Every summer, the light purple and blue flowers would reach at least 6′ tall and sometimes up to 8′ tall. They were breathtaking. Delphiniums, also known as larkspur, grow well in Zones 3-7, preferring cool, moist climates. If you are in an area that receives a lot of rain, such as south east Alaska, be sure to plant these in full sun to avoid rot or fungal disease.

Delphinium in Alaska - IdlewildAlaska

I love the vibrant blue!

 

READ NEXT: CONTAINER PLANTING CORN AND BEANS

 

When you plant a peony (paeonia), you need to think carefully about where you plant it. These beautiful flowers will live up to 50 years and grow amazingly here in Alaska, to the point that there are Alaskan peony farms. They love full to partial sun and need to be in well drained soil. Transplanting is the hardest part of growing peonies, as they don’t like to be moved. I was thrilled to see mine coming back this spring, since we planted it just last year. They come in a variety of colors and grow in Zones 3-8.

Peony - IdlewildAlaska

The blossoms are huge!

I finally bought a bleeding heart (dicentra spectabilis) this year. I’ve wanted one for the longest time. My grandmother had one tucked away against the corner of her house and I just loved all the dripping blossoms. These large bush-like plants can do amazingly well for many years if in the right conditions. They are susceptible to rot, so against your house under the eves, is a great place for them. They do well in shade or partial-shade. My grandmother’s was planted on the East side of their home. Composting in the spring helps encourage more blossoms. These will grow in Zones 3-9.

Growing Bleeding Heart in Alaska - IdlewildAlaska

Such cool flowers.

If you have a tall area you need to fill, try Lavender Mist meadow rue (thalictrum rochebrunianum). This particular species grows over 6′ with fern-like leaves and lavender violet flowers. It does well in partial shade and needs to be moist, but not too wet. This is a Zone 3-8 perennial.

 

READ NEXT: HONEY I SHRUNK THE TOMATOES OR HOW TO PLANT TOMATOES

 

Any list of Alaskan flowers must include our State flower, Forget-Me-Not (myosotis). These delicate little blue flowers are technically biennials, but they do reseed themselves. My mother planted some in her yard for our wedding almost 6 years ago (!) and there are still some popping up. They do well near creeks and ponds, as they like a higher humidity and moisture. They do well in shady areas, but sometimes do well in full sun, but will require lots of watering.

Growing Forget Me Not in Alaska - IdlewildAlaska

Such pretty little flowers.

One of my favorite wild flowers in Alaska is monkshood (aconitum napellus), also known as wolfsbane. These tall hooded, purple flowers grow all over south central Alaska. It is quite easy to see where they got their name, looking just like a monk with his hood pulled low. They typically grow anywhere from 30″ to 60″ tall. I desperately want to put some in my flowerbeds, once I get them cleaned up and ready. (My focus has been more on growing veggies than flowers the past several years.) Like peonies, it does not like to be moved once established, so be sure to think out the location well. It prefers sun, but does well in partial shade too. Monkshood prefers moist soil, but well drained or the roots will drown. Grows in Zones 3-7. Warning, this is a poisonous plant. Many parts are toxic, including the sap, so be sure to wear gloves to avoid absorption through the skin. This isn’t a great plant around children or pets.

Growing Monkshood in Alaska - IdlewildAlaska

Beautiful, but dangerous.

 

READ NEXT: MUST HAVE GARDENING BOOKS FOR COLD CLIMATES

 

My (other) grandmother grew Himalayan blue poppies (meconopsis) in her yard. These stunning blue blossoms were gorgeous. They can be difficult to grow from seed, but supposedly using fresh seeds helps. Read more on starting them from seed HERE. They prefer partial shade and should be protected from high winds. Water well and be sure they’re in well draining soil. Poppies also like lots of rich, organic fertilizer. Zones 4-5.

Himalayan Blue Poppies in Alaska - IdlewildAlaska

Perennials are a great choice for every flower garden. They may cost more than annuals at first, but are well worth it in the long run. This isn’t the end of my list! Be sure to subscribe via your email so you don’t miss Part Two of Hardy Perennial Flowers for Alaska.

 


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