Skip to main Content

Your garden chore this week? Do the neighborly thing and tidy up

  • Author: Jeff Lowenfels
    | Alaska gardening
  • Updated: June 7, 2018
  • Published June 7, 2018

We are into June. Hopefully, your seeds and starts are in the ground, baskets and other containers and are finally growing. If not, what are you waiting for? At this point, the number of growing days left in the summer season overrides weather concerns. Plant if you have not, or you will miss out.

By now your lawn has been mowed at least once and you are picking or cutting down dandelion flowers so they won't go to seed. What's next? Hopefully nothing. Water is what makes lawns green this time of year. There is no need to fertilize a lawn unless you are so brainwashed by the ads. If you want greener, add more water, and if that doesn't work, spread a couple of bags of granulated molasses and soy bean meal down.

Really thin lawns can be repaired by spreading out new seed, and even better, applying a ⅛ or ¼ inch layer of compost first. Aeration helps any lawn that is compacted and now is a great time to do these things. Why wait?

If your yard is like ours, it is surely time to neaten up a bit. This is the one activity that gives a yard a polished look. No matter the flowers and such, without a bit of nesting up, things just won't look right. So, the obvious will only be briefly stated: Pick up debris. We are not sourdoughs anymore. Get rid of the junk.

Next, cutting the (tall) grasses, wild roses and other weeds that are growing on the edges of your property, next to sheds and other outbuildings, along fences, around trees and underneath shrubs is key to the important (and neighborly) clean, kept-yard look. Get the dead stuff as well as that which is growing.

Unless you are dealing with cow parsnip, which can cause skin irritation, this clean-up is a chore best done with a weed eater. For years I ran hot and cold on weed eaters, but I now think it is a must-have garden tool more important than a rake. Get the biggest you can afford. Do wear eye protection as projectiles will be flying, and be very careful not to strip the bark off trees and shrubs.

If you haven't already, go around the yard and cut off dead limbs and branches. Things have greened up, so you don't have the excuse of not knowing what is dead and what is alive anymore. At the same time, you can remove branches that are blocking views. Make a cut on the underside of branches so when you cut from the top down, they fall off without peeling bark.

Finally, neatening up includes making sure to collect and wash off all of the cell packs and plastic pots and flats that you accumulated. Store them until Aug. 18's annual ALPAR/ABG Pot recycling day out at The Garden. If you cannot wait until then, Faltz Nursery (1401 Labarthe Street) will take them during working hours.

Next, now is the time for replacing missing plants. What I am thinking of is replacing missing hedge plants and trees that went down this winter and spring, but consider, of course, those plants that didn't survive the last few week's plantings. Take inventory and go to a few nurseries and replace stuff. The sooner you get it planted, the quicker it will reach size. And, lucky you! Now is when nurseries have lots of stuff on sale. Make sure to look for bare root items as they will be the cheapest because the nurseries don't have to use soil, pots or labor.

Remember when planting trees and shrubs to use your yard's native soil rather than adding new soil. That, and more particularly, compost, can go on top of plantings, not in it. When you use new soil, roots won't go out and explore for nutrients, but rather stay the hole filled with rich soil. This is not what you want.

Not to pile on more stuff to do, but look around the yard and see what needs staking. Things are growing fast under the midnight sun and those plants that need support to prevent damage, such as delphiniums, or to encourage climbing, as with sweet peas, should be taken care of.

And, of course, keep up with the weeding. Equisetum can be cut down to the ground. Chickweed is up and in some instances already flowering. And, while we are concerned about dandelions now, the "butter and eggs" (Linaria vulgaris) are up, and it's prime time for cutting them down with a weed eater or just picking by hand. Get them now, long before they can even think of flowering. They are as bad as dandelions when it comes to spreading.

Finally, keep mulching. Green mulches are for annuals and brown mulches are for everything else. There are no bare soils in nature. Not only will properly applied mulches keep weeds down, but they will foster the right kind or microbial community your plants need.

Jeff's Alaska garden calendar:

Alaska Botanical Garden: There are too many great things happening to list, so you need to go to and check out their events. For starters, there's Beer in the Garden, Wine in the Woods and the big 25th anniversary gala. It's not too late to register for next week's day camp and, of course, story time in the garden. Join, visit and enjoy a really special place and group. What are you waiting for, gardener?

Potatoes: Last call on planting. First reminder to "hill," i.e. cover up all but the top few inches of stems to create a large root zone for the potatoes to form.

Pollinate: Tomatoes, fruit trees may need you to be the pollinators.