Summer Learning in Alaska

By: Pat Ryan, Alaska Botanical Garden

Overview and Early Summer

The Junior Master Gardener Program at the Alaska Botanical Garden is in its 12th year! We have an 8 week schedule here where the kids come once a week in the morning or afternoon. We have around 50 kids this year. Last year our JMG outdoor classroom had a huge makeover and now we have 30 garden boxes in addition to our 5 Square Foot Garden boxes, and 6 potato tubs.

June has seen some 80 plus degree temperatures so we are watering daily. We had a mild Winter with not much snow so it’s been pretty dry here and lots of forest fires. Even at 70 miles away we can smell smoke in Anchorage and we may see a little ash fall. Many fires are started by lightning strikes.

On June 27-28, our annual Garden and Art Fair had garden art, food and craft vendors, educational speakers and entertainers, as well as a children’s village. It was a blast!

Check out more photos here!



The summer isn’t over yet, but the summer project classes are coming to a close. The summer classes were based on the JMG format. I use the JMG handbook as a stepping stone. For our last classes, we will be harvesting some of our crops to taste. Mainly our harvest is intended to be shared through Plant a Row for the Hungry, a program of the Garden Writers Association.

I have not mentioned much on the system I use inside the JMG Plot. Our garden boxes are based on Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening book. When working with children, it is instant math in the garden.

Basically you start with a 4 x 4 foot raised box. You could use 2 x 6 inch lumber, but I like using 2 x 12 inch. That gives us plenty of depth for planting root crops. These raised beds warm up/thaw out sooner and can be covered to make a mini greenhouse to extend the gardening season on both ends.

I have made our boxes 4 x 5 feet, which leaves the original 4 x4 area intact but adds a vertical dimension for peas and beans to climb a trellis. You can see our gardens on site, or pick up a copy of Square Foot Gardening. Title Wave generally carries it. Here is my modification for a free-standing raised bed. The INSIDE measurements should be 4 feet and 1 x 4 feet in the smaller box.


























The Alaska State Fair – August 26-27th – Under exhibits tab, and flower section

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  • Few years ago my daughter participated in the The Junior Master Gardener Program and since then Alaska Botanical Garden is her most favorite place of all. It’s so good that the program has it’s development and even more children have the chance to learn more and more. My girl was the happiest kid in the world coming back and telling us what she has learned during the day. Greets!


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