Lowenfels: As summer peaks gardeners have a lot on their minds

GardeningJuly 17, 2013 

I apologize for the more than usual jumping around from topic to topic this week. Sometimes it is just necessary to list out a bunch of things instead of concentrate on one topic and this happens to be one of those times.

First, keep those comments coming with regards to this year's losses. Lilacs, bleeding hearts, peonies and delphiniums seem to be the top losers, if you will. Monarda and mock orange have also been mentioned.

Next, do mark this date on your "to do" calendar and be sure to be around: Sunday, July 28. Forget fishing, hiking, boating or anything else. This is the day for the annual Anchorage Garden Club tour.

It's been almost 60 years since the first of these open-house, garden tours and every year Anchorage gardeners have been invited in to see some of the best gardens in Anchorage. Expert or amateur, there is always something to learn from someone else's garden and the other gardeners who you will encounter. The self-guided tour of yards runs from noon until 5 p.m., so if you did want to go out of town, you still can get back in time. You can find maps at local nurseries.

Next, I haven't used DEET since I saw what it did to a pair of eyeglasses which it melted. Wow, not on my skin or in my lungs! So it's either "tough it out" when the mosquitoes are thick or work on the side of the yard nearest the neighbor's CO2 machine. This year I am testing out a pair of battery operated gadgets that propel anti-mosquito, botanical scents into the air. Testing is a subjective thing, so before I tell you it works, why not join the testing yourself. You can read about the technology and check out places to buy if you are not into DEET at http://allclearmister.com. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment at teamingwithmicrobes.com.

It hasn't just been a banner mosquito year, it has been a banner year for tomatoes, as well. People have had amazingly great results, and some outdoors, but none as great as in the greenhouse. Now it is important to keep your plants growing at their maximum and feeding them what they need. Oh, oh, here I go again: This requires knowing what your soils lack in terms of the 14 mineral nutrients. Did you test your soils? Do it now so you can know, not guess, when it comes to fertilizing your plants next year.

You can't really just dump on fertilizers. You may end up changing the pH and the way the nutrients react with the soil, locking some up. While you wait for tests, how about a hit of kelp which is full of micronutrients.

Potatoes have also gone crazy in Southcentral. Ideal weather will do that. Make sure you hill yours up. This involves covering the plants so the tips show. Potatoes grow in the hilling material, away from light. Only six inches of leaf stalk needs to be uncovered. Use soil or leaves as hilling material. And this goes for those who are growing potatoes in containers. Fill them up and continue to mound even when you get to the top.

Next, they are back and they are going to bloom early, if you ask me: butter and eggs. Pull 'em above ground at the least, so they don't have an even chance of developing those lovely, yellow and orange snapdragon-like flowers (yes, now you know what I am writing about) that produce a zillion seeds. (Still in the dark? Check out the pictures at http://na.fs.fed.us/fhp/invasive_plants/weeds/butter-and-eggs.pdf.)

And, speaking of back, so are the yellow jackets. This is good as they eat aphids, which are starting to appear in greater numbers due to the warm days. Just make sure that you know where the hives are located and leave them alone if you can. If not, and if you must put a hive down, do it at night when all the occupants are inside. Otherwise you will have homeless hive members flying around and they won't be happy critters.

Finally, if you didn't lose peonies or delphiniums, for heaven's sake, treat them right so you can enjoy their flowers. This means you have to stake them. (Why don't folks listen?) You are lucky they survived the winter and spring. Don't risk losing them to the weight of rain or just the shear weight of beautiful flowers.

Jeff Lowenfels' bestselling books can be ordered at tinyurl.com/teamingwithmicrobes and tinyurl.com/teamingwithnutrients.

Garden calendar

SKAGWAY READERS: I LOOK FORWARD TO MEETING YOU AT THE 2013 SOUTHEAST ALASKA GARDEN CONFERENCE THIS WEEKEND. MORE INFORMATION AT SKAGWAYGARDENCLUB.WEEBLY.COM/PROGRAM-DESCRIPTIONS.HTML.

HARVEST: LOTS OF CAULIFLOWER IS EARLY THIS YEAR. IT DOESN'T GET BETTER OLDER. SAME WITH KOHLRABI, WHICH SHOULD BE HARVESTED AT HARD BASEBALL SIZE, NOT SOFTBALL BASEBALL SIZE.

DANDELIONS: KEEP AFTER THEM. PULL, SECOND OR FIRST APPLICATION OF ADIOS, CLOVE, WHATEVER IT TAKES. DO NOT LET THEM FLOWER. THAT IS THE ONLY WAY THEY CAN SPREAD.

ALASKA BOTANICAL GARDEN: THURSDAY EVENINGS, SECRET GARDEN SERIES. YOUR CHANCE TO VISIT SOME HIDDEN GARDENS AROUND ANCHORAGE. YOU CAN STILL GET TICKETS. CALL 770-3692

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