How Does Your Garden Grow…in Tok?

IMG_0893I used to have a brown thumb. I’m not really sure if my thumb was actually a brown one or if my brain just wasn’t tuned into plants, and therefore I forgot about them, and therefore they died. As I child, I had a vegetable garden and loved plucking fresh veggies from the vine. But looking back now, I realize that in the same way parents end up taking care of a child’s first pet, my folks took care of that garden to make those vegetables happen.

Fast forward to today. I have a beautiful yard here in Tok, and the woman who lived here before me had the greenest thumb. There is evidence of extraordinary plant-life and edible things all over now that the snow has melted. And I’m intimidated. No, I’m afraid. Very afraid. Because I just don’t think I can live up to any of it.

I got a call the other day from a lovely woman who asked about the greenhouse in my backyard.

“Yes, I have one. Did you need to use it? You’re welcome to it!” I offered, feeling very neighborly.

Awkward pause.

IMG_0894“Well, I was going to see if you’d like some tomato plants. I’ve started some, and you could put them in your greenhouse…”

I was at a loss. Me, tomato plants, greenhouse? I couldn’t make a connection. Yes, I saw that cute little greenhouse in the back yard but hadn’t even thought of using it. In fact, when my husband started cleaning it out, pulling last year’s dead things out of it, I asked him why he was doing it.

“So you can use it,” he replied, all proud in that “I’m checking things off my To-Do list” sort of way.

“But why? I don’t…want to use it,” I confessed. Using it meant doing stuff with plants that I just don’t know how to do and am not sure I have time to do or the memory to remember to do. Or the energy.

“What? I cleared out this whole garden for you! I thought you wanted a vegetable garden!” He was visibly dismayed.

“Honey, I think I want the IDEA of a vegetable garden. I want the fruits of the labor of a garden without the labor,” I explained, just figuring out the truth myself at that very moment. I explained how the fantasy of a vegetable garden has been with me since childhood but that my parents probably did all the hard work.

“I thought you wanted it,” he said, now thoroughly confused.

“Well, I did plant seeds!” I reassured him. “Although I can’t remember what I planted or where.”

And that was the truth. I spent several hours carefully digging holes and putting seeds into the ground then meant to write down what I was planting and where but after a few hours, I had completely forgotten. So now I have a Mystery Garden.

I’m also noticing that my garden beds are covered with a green something – probably a weed, maybe chickweed – that will most likely choke any of the great things I’ve planted putting all that effort (and it was effort as I strained, panted, sweated, and cursed) planting seeds. I’m completely paralyzed since I don’t know what it is or what to do about it.

Yes, I know, probably just pull it out. But look at the picture!! It is like a blanket already! Then again, I do love pulling weeds. I could pull weeds for hours. I find weed pulling to be a very zen activity, and my brain is in constant and desperate need of zen.So maybe I really do have it in me to do this gardening stuff.

P.S. We have those tomato plants plus a pepper plant I purchased from Patsy’s on Borealis. Hubby is “hardening up” the plants (a new term I learned last night while reading The Edible Garden), and they should be in the greenhouse in a few weeks).


Anyone know what that green stuff is and how best (without bad chemicals) to rid my garden of it? And if it is edible, how best to harvest and prepare it?

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  1. I fell into gardening the same way-a father in law who had high expectations and I felt like I had to “produce.” But it’s really just a trial and error kind of thing. There are some good books out there, just make sure you get the Alaska ones. The green stuff is likely chickweed. You either have to weed, or cover it with plastic so it dies (leave the plants peeking out!). And when the slugs start eating your lettuce, call me!

  2. Rachel

     /  May 28, 2009


    Mayor_of_Twtr here! Hey, so I have killed thousands of plants in my day. One thing I have learned from research is how best to keep weeds at bay. I did this the other day to my garden:

    Take one layer of newspaper and create a maze around your plants. Cover with 1-2 inches of bark mulch. This not only allows for an insulation of the ground (good for Alaska and if you plant any perennials), but keeps the weeds from popping up.

    Like Kathy stated, make sure you leave a ring around your plants to insure they get proper light and water.

    I’d like to try my hand at a greenhouse some day, but for now I am just trying to maintain flowers!

    You can see my garden pics at

    I plan to post more as they grow!

    Good luck!

  3. I try to garden but flowers are the only things I can get to bloom.

  4. Try tomatos first. They are pretty self caring plants… you just have to really make sure they are moist in the dirt. My friends in Nenana have potatos and onions that have done really well for them. But tomatos are a nice simple starter!

    Once you start it, you may really like tending to it. I think it’s pretty relaxing myself. 🙂

    Good luck to you!!

  5. Oh and the green stuff in the picture is some sort bad grass.. there is a name for it.. but basically it’s just a bad weed that chokes stuff out. We have the same stuff here and it’s a PAIN IN THE BACK SIDE to pull up.

  6. ED

     /  June 1, 2009

    So, what kind of veggies have you seen growing so far in Tok gardens?

  7. the solution to your “weeds” is called a hoe, as in tough row to hoe. you can mulch (here in WVA it takes about 6-7 sheets covered with hay or leaves or what ever. ) You should do great there what with plenty of sunshine. world records are set up your way. Greenhouse looks good us it.

  8. jordan hanson

     /  June 10, 2009

    Aliza – you’re too funny.

    I’m in the same boat. The house we bought in Eagle River came with a nice greenhouse.
    I just waited for Amanda to come over and plant everything for me. She does call and harass me about watering every day or so. That helps.

    Maybe we’ll arrange a Tok trip and she can plant for you too!

  9. Susan

     /  June 12, 2009

    What Fred said, only add an e to “us” and USE it! Yes, it is chickweed. It’s edible – feel free – just get it OUT of the garden no matter what. Relax and enjoy. The tomatoes want light and water and ventilation. Producing your own food is perfectly natural. You’re fine…


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