What is there to do gardening-wise during the dark months in Alaska? Well, as it happens, wintertime is a great time to join a club, specifically a garden club. These groups are a terrific resource not only for getting gardening information and improving your skills, but also for making great friends. There is one for just about every growing area in the state.
The Anchorage Garden Club (email@example.com) is the place to start if you live in the Anchorage area. This group has become a horticultural institution, providing both summer and winter relief for gardeners. It meets on the fourth Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. in the Pioneer Schoolhouse (437 E. Third Avenue). Meetings are free, but you should consider becoming a member -- the meager $15 fee helps keep this venerable and valuable institution thriving. It has been around for 60 or more years. Check out their website at www.alaskagardenclubs.org/anchorageclub.htm.
Those of you living in Homer should already be familiar with the Homer Garden Club. This one meets at 2 p.m. on the fourth Sunday of the month in the Bidarka Inn, but usually only from September through May. You can find their agenda at www.homergardenclub.org.
Of course, there is the Willow Garden Club. Many readers know of this club because they've visited Les Brakes' garden in the summer, which raises money for the Alaska Botanical Garden and the Willow Garden Club. This one meets third Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. in the Willow Community Center (firstname.lastname@example.org).
If you live in the Mat-Su area, there is the Valley Garden Club (www.valleygardenclub.com). Meetings begin at 10:30 a.m. on the first Thursday of the month in the First Baptist Church of Wasilla, located on the corner of Leatherleaf Loop and Bogard Road (enter the main driveway, then go left to the back of the building where handicap access is located).
The Central Peninsula has its own garden club, appropriately, The Central Peninsula Club (www.cenpengardenclub.org). This group is for gardeners who are in the Kasilof, Kenai, Nikiski, Soldotna, and Sterling areas of the Kenai peninsula. The Central Peninsula Garden Club meets on the second Tuesday the month from September through May, with occasional bonus meetings. The meets are usually held at 7 p.m. at the Cook Inlet Aquaculture building located on Kalifornsky Beach Road.
Up north, there is the Fairbanks Garden Club (alaskagardenclubs.webs.com/fairbanksclub.htm). It meets the third Wednesday of the month at noon in a member's home and has 10 a.m. garden tours during the summer.
Down south is the Juneau Garden Club. I don't have a website or email address for that, but if someone sends it to me I will include it in next week's calendar along with any other general garden club information I missed.
Finally, there is the Alaska Master Gardeners Organization (www.alaskamastergardeners.org/Alaska_Garden_Clubs.html). This is not technically a garden club, but I've been told members sure feel like part of a great hort club. You have to take a course and pass a test to become a "member." Run by the Cooperative Extension Service, this is a great way to spend time with gardeners and learn a lot about gardening Alaska. There is always a waiting list, so make sure to get on it.
All of these groups bring speakers to their members. They create an easy way to share information, and they usually have sales of gardening products. Plus, they are all a lot of fun. Don't wait.
INSPECT PLANTS: LOOK FOR SPIDER MITES AT AXILS OF STEMS, BRANCHES AND LEAVES.
PUT UP THOSE LIGHTS: EVERY ALASKA HOME SHOULD HAVE A GROW ROOM, IN MY HUMBLE OPINION, OR AT LEAST A SET OF LIGHTS TO HELP PLANTS OUT IN THE WINTER.
PLANT A ROW FOR THE HUNGRY ... AND READ: "TEAMING WITH MICROBES: THE ORGANIC GARDENER'S GUIDE TO THE SOILD FOOD WEB."