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Pot recycling Saturday at botanical garden

Jeff Lowenfels

Let's get the mailbag emptied. Some people just don't like to call into the Garden Party on Saturday mornings (10 a.m. to noon on KBYR, 700 AM or I am easy to reach both there and at I am usually pretty good about giving timely answers too. Photographs, incidentally, help with identification of bugs and problems, so include them.

In any case, what better place to start than the annual ALPAR and ABG Plastic Pot Recycling Day at the Alaska Botanical Garden? I mentioned it in last week's calendar, but several readers must have missed it. Anyhow, this Saturday is THE DAY to recycle all those plastic pots, cell packs and trays. Alaskans use an inordinate number of these and being able to recycle them not only helps the environment, but also clears the sheds, garages, greenhouses and other spaces that are filled with them.

This year, ALL plastic pots, trays and cell packs are being accepted, but they must be divided into two groups. In the first group go the No. 2 HDPE plastic pots. The second group included everything else, including those that don't have numbers. They need to be at least shaken clean of soil, without hangers and stacked. The hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and they are strict. There is now on-site staff and surveillance, so don't think about dropping them off earlier or later. Enjoy the ever-expanding Alaska Botanical Garden while you are at it.

Oh, and if you just happen to need some pots, trays or cell packs, come on out to The Garden and get some. There should be plenty. Let's shoot for three tons, after last year's two.

Next, how do you know the potatoes are ready to harvest? The trigger is the presence of flowers. Once they appear, the tubers are ready. Here, however, many gardeners leave their crop and let it continue to grow. As the nights (and days) get cooler, the plant produces and stores sugars in the form of starch in the tubers. They will be "sweeter" if you wait to harvest. I like to go one or two frosts.

Finally, how to start lupines from seed collected along the highway is not only a question I got on the radio and from ADN readers, but also from my own wife. She collected seeds on a walk and wants to grow them here. I am cautious about planting self-spreading perennials, but maybe she wants to do it out by the road where they came from.

In any case, pick pods that are not open and then put them in a closed paper bag until they do. Keep the seeds until the last week of August and then roll them in a damp, paper towel that is put in a Ziplock bag and, finally, stored in the refrigerator for a week.

Meanwhile, fix the planting location. Get ride of competition by pulling weeds and grass. Dig up an area and shift the soil if you must and go down 12 to 18 inches. Each plant will send out a tap root and require room, so give it to each seed. Add a layer of an inch or two of compost and then lay the seeds down and cover with 1/2 inch of soil. Mulch after a few hard frosts.

Make sure to mark the area so you remember to keep it moist and weed free next spring. Lupines produce their own nitrogen so you don't need to fertilize them and, in fact, shouldn't as it will interrupt its natural cycle.

Keep those questions coming. I don't care how you do it, as long as you don't care either.

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

Garden calendar

Fall bulbs class: 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 8. Alaska bulb expert Robbie Frankevich will present a slide show and share ideas on enhancing the landscape -- before it snows. Free, but call to register, 276-6016.

Harvest and donate: Do not let things go to waste. Beans Cafe? Alaska Food Bank? A place of worship? A friend? Someone wants your extra food? Plant a Row for the Hungry and harvest it too.

Dandelions: Get this next flush of flowers.

Lawns: Great weather to be mowing in patterns. Send pictures to

Jeff Lowenfels