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Garden Lifestyle

Plant a Beautiful Vegetable Garden

Now’s the time to start dreaming about the vegetable garden you want to grow next season.

  • Flowers and vegetables mix beautifully in the gardens near the Visitor Information Center in Palmer, Alaska
    Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey
  • The inviting entrance to the Palmer demonstration garden is covered in perennial Clematis tangutica or Russian Virgin's Bower. 
    Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey
  • The flower and vegetable beds are set off by lush grassy paths, perfect for ambling.
    Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey
  • This raised bed, overflowing with colorful annuals, is just one example of the creative design elements in the Palmer demonstration garden.
    Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey
  • Another design idea for a beautiful vegetable and flower garden is planting a circular bed and then surrounding it with semi-circular flower beds that make the space easy to maintain.
    Photo/Illustration: Jodi Torpey

One of the most beautifully delicious vegetable gardens I’ve seen is located in a place where gardeners take advantage of rich soil and endless sunshine in summer. The garden is designed to be as productive as a vegetable garden as it is showy with flowers.

Located on the grounds of the Palmer, Alaska, Visitor Information Center (and Palmer Museum of History and Art), this Zone 4 demonstration garden shows what’s possible to grow in short, intense summers.

A sign outside the garden gives credit to the Mat-Valley Ag Showcase with support from the Alaska Plant Materials Center, AK Farmers and Stockgrowers Association, the Palmer Chamber of Commerce, the University of Alaska Experimental Station and the Palmer Soil and Water Conservation District.

One of the best features of the garden is that all of the produce that’s grown there is donated to the Palmer Senior Center.

The garden has many design elements that vegetable gardeners in the Lower 48 can borrow for their own growing efforts. One of the most striking features is the garden beds are cleverly separated by wide, grassy paths. 

The paths lead visitors around and through the individual beds that look like someone with giant cookie-cutters pressed ovals, circles and semi-circles into the grass. Many of the beds mix together vegetables with colorful annual and perennial flowers. Raised beds, built in different shapes and sizes, also dot the landscape.

Some of the vegetables and small fruits that do exceptionally well in these gardens include cabbages, onions, rhubarb plants, raspberries, currants and crabapples. The soil composition and temperature are also ideal for producing potatoes, one of the top agricultural crops in the Mat-Su Valley.

In addition to the fruits, vegetables and flowering plants, the demonstration garden has a nice rock garden display. This display is filled with the kinds of alpine plants that grow well in the area.

Palmer is located about 45 miles from Anchorage and it has an interesting history. During the Depression the U.S. government resettled midwestern farm families here as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. In 1935 just over 200 families moved into this valley for a fresh start and to create a new agricultural community. The farmers and gardeners that live in and around Palmer today maintain strong ties to their rich agricultural heritage.

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