Anchorage yards and gardens took a beating this winter. Time to assess the damage.

These next few weeks present a crucial window. If you don’t do certain things now, you may lose opportunities for the season. And our yards took a huge beating this winter, much more so than normal. Usually, you can clean up and get right into the gardens. Not this year. There is a lot of assessing to do and repairs to make.

On the “do it before the window closes” side of things, the most important chore over the next three weeks is getting plants into the ground. This first requires buying what you did not grow for yourself. Now is the time, not only because indoor-grown stock will need a week to harden off outdoors, but also because there is a limited number of plants. This is where the early birds get the worms.

Note that nurseries and nursery departments are not only full of plants right now, but gardening hard goods as well. They will be close to running on empty in four weeks, so stock up on what you will need during the season by way of organic microbe foods, tomato stakes, trellises, labels, etc. And, if you want to plant a second crop in order to extend your season, make sure to get seeds for that now.

If you want to start a compost pile or need mulch, now is the time to look for those bags of leaves and yard debris sitting by the curb. You may have to run them over with a mower this year, but once folks clean up their yards, we lose the opportunity to so easily gather needed leaves.

Oh, and now is the time to check the base of your delphiniums to get ride of the delphinium defoliators — caterpillars — before they do their damage. Similarly, keep an eye on those gooseberry bushes as sawflies will soon emerge to eat the leaves.

While not in the gardening realm of things, you shouldn’t leave gravel and sand on your driveway. It needs to be cleaned up. Thankfully it can be swept or otherwise spread out on your lawn. It will work its way in and help maintain drainage and even provide a bit of nutrients.

On the cleanup side of things, lilacs in particular, but other shrubs as well as trees, really took a hit, smashed by heavy snow. You need to assess the damage. The top portion of snapped limbs need to be removed. The remaining portion may or may not grow back. Give these another couple of weeks or scratch the bark and look for green.


Any trunk or limb that is completely girdled is toast, but if the bark is only partially girdled the plant may make it. Do not apply goos and goop as they only help in spreading pathogens.

Bent lilac limbs are to be a big problem. Again, if a branch snapped, you need to remove at least the top broken part. I have a feeling so many lilacs were damaged because we don’t thin them out enough. The rule used to be to remove up to one-third of the old limbs of a mature bush every year. Who does that only to lose flowers?

The bending can be fixed by judicious staking and tying. And, yes, you could simply cut all the branches up around two or three feet by way of trying to rejuvenate a lilac.

Jeff’s Alaska Garden Calendar

Alaska Botanical Garden: Join. At least visit: 4601 Campbell Airstrip Road in Anchorage. This is a world-class garden now that deserves your attention. Lots of activities to participate in:

Hoses: Get your watering system set up. You should be able to get water to any part of your property. Invest in quick couplers. Consider a traveling tractor sprinkler to water your lawn.

Lawns: Clean up and water. Nothing else. NOTHING ELSE.

Jeff Lowenfels

Jeff Lowenfels has written a weekly gardening column for the ADN for more than 45 years. His columns won the 2022 gold medal at the Garden Communicators International conference. He is the author of a series of books on organic gardening available at Amazon and elsewhere. He co-hosts the "Teaming With Microbes" podcast.