Jeff Lowenfels: Time for pest prevention

Jeff Lowenfels

Let me jump around a bit here. There's lots to cover and not enough space.

First, dandelions and chickweed: It is easy to get discouraged. Yes, we have lost the fight to eradicate dandelions. Now the job is to control them. Mow down flowers before they form seeds. Hand pick them if you don't have time to hand dig whole plants. Spray with ADIOS or BurnOut. These may not permanently kill dandelions, but they will stop them from flowering for a while.

Chickweed is easy to control by hand or hoe, but you have to get on it or else it becomes miniature Kudzu. Just do it now. Stop using high nitrogen fertilizer and start mulching around your plants.

Next, if you have been watering your lawn regularly and it looks yellow by mid-June, then you might actually need to feed it. Organic is the only way to go. Look for products with soybean, molasses, feather, fish and cotton meals. Applications of compost or compost tea will also help.

Avoid the high nitrogen fertilizers. They are not good for our water system and they make the lawn grow too fast. Who wants to mow more than we already do?

How is your compost pile? It's fine to have a static one, but you will get compost quicker if you let it heat up and then turn it once it cools down. You can cause a pile to heat by adding green material, i.e. grass clippings of which there is now no shortage. Yes, you can put dandelions in compost piles, but make sure they heat up enough.

Heat stops plants from growing -- well, high heat. And that is what you get when you don't open a vent or door in an outdoor greenhouse. Don't let it get over 90 degrees, thinking somehow that extra warmth will bring extra produce.

Leafrollers (tiny caterpillars) are dropping from trees, causing people to panic. There's not much you can do about them other than keeping your trees healthy so they can fight them off naturally. This means you must water trees. If you annually remove leaves from under your trees, you might even have to provide them with a bit of food. I like to mulch under them with leaves. As for fertilizers, unless you test your soil, it is hard to know what it lacks. In doubt, use a commercial, organic tree fertilizer.

Finally, there are a number of events each year that bring together large numbers of area gardeners and these are always special times. There is nothing quite like the energy of several hundred people who share the same passions, and I mean share in the truest sense of the word. The result is instant and constant fun and enjoyment that simply doesn't exist at other gatherings.

One such event will take place next Thursday at the ever-expanding Alaska Botanical Garden. Titled "A Mid-Summer Gala," this evening fundraiser will feature art from 20 local artists, including Marieke Heatwole, VRae, Isolde, Barbara and Dillon Miller, Heidi Banache and Rhonda Scott (placed throughout the garden's cultivated areas so you can get an idea of what they might look like in your yard). There will be a silent and live auction, live music, food, beer, wine and the star of the show, the gardens.

Best of all, of course, are the fellow gardeners you will meet and the information you will glean from them as you wander around the 110-acre Alaska Botanical Garden (located at the bottom of Stuckagain Heights near Far North Bicentennial Park). There are now six formal gardens to wander through, along with an annotated Nature Trail. The plants look terrific this week, so they will only be better next week when the event takes place.

It's a fundraiser, so you need to buy tickets. They are $100 (, but it is money that keeps the Botanical Garden growing. Current projects include building greenhouses, installing compostable toilets and, of course, maintaining a stunning collection of plants. I look forward to seeing you there.

Jeff Lowenfels is co-author of "Teaming With Microbes" and author of "Teaming With Nutrients." Contact him on his website at

Jeff's Alaska garden calendar

Water: One inch per week on lawns between you and Mother Nature. Try two inches for flower and vegetable gardens this time of year

Nurseries: Hurry while annuals last if you want to fill in empty spaces

Slugs: It's never too early to start looking and trapping with beer or yeast water