Imagine it is winter and you are cooking homemade spaghetti sauce to warm up your family. You need some fresh basil so you walk over to your in-house culinary herb garden and cut a few fragrant leaves for the simmering sauce. What could be better than culinary herbs fresh from the garden in winter in Fairbanks? Is this a pipe dream or could it be reality?
The answers are, indeed, nothing could be better, and yes, it can be a reality. On Tuesday, March 3, at the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel and Conference Center, there will be an afternoon workshop on setting up home-sized hydroponic gardens for vegetable and culinary herb production. You will have the opportunity to learn what kinds of materials and lights you will need and how to plant and care for your vegetables and culinary herbs.
Many of us would like to be able to get all of our produce locally year-round, but in actuality, this is a difficult thing to do. By using hydroponics, even in Fairbanks in deepest, darkest winter, we can grow our own vegetables and culinary herbs indoors.
Hydroponics is about growing plants without soil. There are systems that can be set up or created that will produce amazing amounts of vegetables and culinary herbs for your table. These systems take up little space and are not as high maintenance as you would expect. As with anything Alaskan, hydroponics is about creativity and doing it on your own terms.
The workshop is only $25 for an afternoon of learning valuable and practical skills you can use at home. You can find out more and register for it at http://bit.ly/sareconf. At that registration site, you will notice that the 11th Annual Alaska Sustainable Agriculture Conference will also be held the following two days at the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel and Conference Center.
The Alaska Sustainable Agriculture Conference will include a wide array of topics such as economics, food security, livestock, fruit, vegetables, sustainable practices, marketing and management.
Another worthwhile event is the Alaska State Master Gardeners Conference March 7 at Pike’s Waterfront Lodge. There will be a variety of excellent speakers addressing all aspects of gardening in Alaska. This conference will be fun and informative for anyone with a home garden or flower bed. You do not have to be a Master Gardener to attend and you will meet many people who are excited about and skilled at growing plants in Alaska. Information on talks and registration for this conference can be found at fairbanksmastergardeners.wordpress.com.
Spring is not that far away now and we are finally beginning to see the backside of winter. The lengthening days probably make all of us eager to start planting seeds in preparation for flower, vegetable and culinary herb gardens. These March conferences are perfectly timed to give you information you can use this spring and summer. We also hope you meet people who will inspire you to have your best growing season ever.
Growing plants and raising animals in Alaska has challenges and opportunities unlike almost anywhere else in the world. Come share what you know, learn from the experts and be part of the unique and wonderful community of Alaska growers.
Steven Seefeldt is the Tanana District agriculture and horticulture agent for the Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He can be reached at 907-474-2423 or firstname.lastname@example.org.