Documents: Gardening From: Gardening From Alaska:

So Much to Do, so little time
by Jeff Lowenfels
by Jeff Lowenfels


Jeff is the Past President of the Garden Writers of America, a columnist with the Anchorage Daily News, Host Alaska Gardens and Supporter of Plant a Row.

June 7, 2009

So much to do. So little time to do it! Ah, the joy of gardening and yard care in Alaska.

If you planted vegetables last week, hopefully you left some room to stretch out the harvest season. For starters, plant a few more seeds of carrots, beets, radish, lettuces this week and then next. Then, buy a few more vegetable starts and harden them off so you can plant them next weekend. Broccoli, cauliflower, and even potatoes are good candidates for this routine.

Don’t forget to plant one row in you garden for the hungry.

If you are going to plant any of wildflower mixes, you better do it this weekend. These mixes usually contain plants that we normally start indoors weeks before we transplant them outside. If you wait any longer, you will get great plants, but few blooms. Keep the soil moist for at least two weeks. Cover with clear plastic (a cut open dry cleaning bag works well and is cheap. Poke some air holes and hold down with rocks) and prevent people and animals from walking on them.

I generally don’t recommend dividing perennials until after they bloom. The season is too short to sacrifice them, however, now is the time to collect those perennials that seed to the point of developing into weeds or plain old self seeding annuals. You may or may not want to give these to neighbors, if so add the weed warning. Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis pallustris, M.sylvatica) Creeping buttercup, Ranunculus repens and several campanulas come to mind (C. persicifolia, for example) as potential pests as are chives, Shasta daisies, and even raspberries. Still, one gardener’s weed is another’s treasure. Either dig and pot them up or hoe them under.

Some plants in your gardens may already need staking. This ensures that they don’t break under the weight of rain or the push of heavy winds. Many peonies are up and high enough to consider staking or placing a wire frame around. Delphiniums, hollyhock and malva too, are getting tall enough to require a bit of support. Tall dahlias will benefit from support as well.

Vining plants also need support and should be attended to this weekend. Pea, be they snap peas, sweat peas or pod peas, scarlet runner beans, canary bird vine, clematis and hops all need a mesh fence of some sort from the moment you transplant them. These have tendrils that will cling to support hold the growing plant up. Don’t forget kiwi vines. These will have to be gently tied to supports.

Mulch flower and vegetable beds now to stop or at least slow down weeds and to allow beneficial microbes the opportunity to improve your soils by decaying mulch. Leaves from last fall are best for perennials and grass clippings, without seeds, are best for annuals. If you want to use wood chips and bark because they are neater looking, then very fine bark chips for annuals and larger, courser chips for perennials. The fine bark chips are easier for bacteria to decay and these produce the nitrates your annuals like. The large chips are preferred by fungi and these produce the ammonium that perennials like.

If you have not planted, but intend to so, you better not wait for the weekend, but rather get going today. Unfortunately the supply of annuals and vegetables starts dwindle fast after the Memorial Day weekend but it is not too late. Shop now. Don’t forget to harden off anything purchased from indoors.

Finally, you have to water. Nothing puts trees into stress than too little water and it will take more rain than we have had so far to satiate our trees. Stressed trees actually single bugs to attack. Your trees should get one to two inches of water a week this time of year. Water your lawns and under your trees to make up for what nature doesn’t deliver. And during the next two weeks in particular, make all the starts you set out get plenty of water so they can get established.

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