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This is no time to slack off in the garden

Jeff Lowenfels

There are lots of things to do out there. You probably don't need a list of chores from me, but just in case, here are some things you should consider.

One of the great things about gardening in Southcentral is that peonies do so well. So well, in fact, that all plants grown here must have support to keep their bodacious flowers from flopping on to the ground. Don't wait until that disaster strikes. Get your peonies staked up now before a good rain takes them down. Tomato cages are the easiest things to use, but they usually need to be set up earlier before the plants take off. This time of year, use some yarn or twine and tomato stakes to install support.

Delphiniums, too, will need support. You might as well take care of them now too. They will require taller stakes or some sort of "cage" for the exact same reason -- they grow so well and flowers are so large that the addition of the weight of rain will snap them off.

Both of these plants, incidentally, often end up with thrips here in Southcentral. Neem based products should help and are worth trying before flowers open. If you wait until the thrips hit, no matter if you kill them, their mouth parts will be stuck in petals and won't come off.

Next, take a bit of time to care for hanging basket and container plants so that they will continue to perform all season Many plants, petunias in particular have been bred to "self dead-head." But you will want to keep an eye on all your container plants and remove the flowers as soon as they start to fade so that the plants will continue to produce more.

In the vegetable garden, those beet seeds you planted were really seed pods. Each contained six or so individual seeds. They need to be divided now. Give each seedling left a couple of inches on either side. You can eat the pickings or even try and plant them elsewhere. What have you to lose?

Beets are not the only plants that will need thinning by now. Carrots, lettuces, radishes and just about everything else we can grow will not perform to your expectations unless they have enough room to grow. Thin them out. I know it is hard, very hard, but it is also very important.

By the same token, make some decisions about any plants still in cell packs or, as in my case, in small pots. Either grow those tomatoes in larger quarters or get rid of them. What are you waiting for? The days are already getting shorter.

Now is also the time to make some decisions about your lawn, if you want. Thatch is the big thing people worry about in the spring, but by now, with a greened up lawn, it probably is not an issue. If you do have a thick mat of undigested grass leaf stems (not blades), then you may need to thatch, either with a thatching rake or with a thatching machine. When you finish up, consider aeration and a thin application of compost. If you have been using non-organic lawn foods, stop.

Now is also a great time to spend an hour or two with a weed whacker. Neaten things up under and around trees and shrubs and along paths in gardens. If you have dog or moose urine spots, use the weed eater to clean it up. Place it in the center and cut back all the extra green grass at the outer edges, induced by the nitrogen in the urine. This will help "hide" the spot.

Speaking of those spots, now is the time to patch them up and otherwise plant lawns. There are products made specifically to fill in lawn holes, "hydro-seeding in a bag," so to speak. Easy, quick and no fuss, except for the watering required. (And make sure Fido is getting enough water this time of summer so the urine is not as acidic).

Finally, lilacs are in bloom. Cut flowers and enjoy them. If you don't have flowers, it is probably because moose are eating the buds (which form right after the flowers fade). Note that if you have flowers only on the tops of your plants, it is because you have moose browsing on the lower limbs during the fall and winter.

Jeff Lowenfels is a member of the Garden Writers Hall of Fame. You can reach him at teamingwithmicrobes.com and hear him (and call in) on the Garden Party from 10 a.m.-noon on Saturdays on KBYR, 700 AM.

Garden calendar

LEAF ROLLERS: LIGULARIA ARE GETTING HIT IN SOME PARTS OF TOWN. BT PRODUCTS AND NEEM PRODUCTS ARE THE SOLUTION, BUT ONLY WHILE THEY ARE EATING. ONCE ROLLING BEGINS, ITS OVER.

LIGHT HOUSE TEA FRIDAY: THIS ANNUAL, AFTERNOON EVENT IN EAGLE RIVER IS A MUST-DO FOR AREA GARDENERS AND BENEFITS THE ALASKA BOTANICAL GARDEN. YOU WILL NEED TICKETS. THERE ARE SOME LEFT AS OF THIS WRITING, BUT HURRY AND GO TO WWW.ALASKABG.ORG AND BUY TICKETS ON LINE.

WILLOW GARDEN TOUR AND LES BRAKE'S GARDEN: JULY 28-29. SAVE THE DATES.


Jeff Lowenfels
Gardening