Skip to main Content

Here’s what you should be doing in your garden right now (but leave the lawn alone)

  • Author: Jeff Lowenfels
    | Alaska gardening
  • Updated: May 30, 2019
  • Published May 30, 2019

There are plenty of things to do this week as we are in one of those zones where you only have so much time before it is too late. Such is the nature of gardening and gardening in a short-season place like Alaska in particular.

Right off the bat: Skip lawn chores, save mowing (if it dries enough). No fertilizing, thatching or anything else. I am betting lots of money and all my Scotts Miracle Gro stock (I don’t have any, actually) that yours is really nice and green. Once again, Mother Nature has demonstrated that all your lawn needs is water, not fertilizer.

If you have not completed your initial plantings, it is time to do so. Yes, it is rainy and wet, but that is gardening in Alaska. Newbies better get used to it. When it is time for a chore, there is no time to waste given the short season. Keep in mind that there will be the annual ALPAR garden pot recycle day this year so wash off things and stack them so they can be recycled later.

I am not going to spend a lot of time on planting. You know the cardinal rule by now: hardening off everything that is grown indoors. Rolling seed and transplants in an endomycorrhizal mix is also a good idea, if not a rule unto itself. Making sure starts and seed get enough water is surely a rule, but one you don’t have to worry about this year given the rain.

While beautiful in some settings, horsetail can grown just about anywhere, including where you don't want it. (Jeff Lowenfels)

This weekend, check the status of your perennials. They should be at least emerging, if not in full-growth mode. Some, like peonies and delphiniums, are going to need support while others, like giant bachelor buttons and rapunculus, actually need to be pulled out. Horsetail is up and should be dealt with by removing the above-ground growth. In any case, you should mark where smaller plants are growing with something like tomato stakes. This will help you and others, including the dog and moose, know there is something that shouldn’t be stepped on. And, if you are pretty sure everything in your beds has come up, you can spread out mulch so there are no bare spots. This will keep down the weeds. Make it thick enough and your plants will get a jump on even the horsetail.

Right away, make sure to install guards or guides to keep hoses from being pulled through your perennial gardens. Young plantings are particularly susceptible to someone on the other side of the yard accidentally pulling a hose through a garden bed. Simply pound thick dowels or 2-inch x 2-inch pieces of wood which can act as protector guides.

Next, keep an eye out for aphids on the meadow rue. They coat the tops of these plants. Hand-squish them or wash down with cold water or spray with a Neem-based product. Use a formula with Bt, a strain of bacteria, on delphiniums to get rid of the defoliators that I know are attacking yours as you read this. Go out right now and hand-squish the ones that are there. Similarly, keep an eye on your currants and gooseberries for attacks by sawflies. Some insist a detergent-water mix will take care of them, but I have not found an effective remedy.

It is never too early to start dealing with slugs and snails. Put beer or yeast in shallow cups and insert these into the ground outside the gardens. If they are around, you will attract them. Rain will dilute the yeast smell that attracts them, so refill after a downpour.

Finally, keep visiting nurseries and other venues that sell plants. You will need at least some to fill in gaps in your current plantings. In addition, there are all manner of sales this time of year as no one wants to get stuck with excess nursery stock.


Starts: Consider starting broccoli, kale and leaf lettuces for a second crop. These can grow outdoors in cell packs and be transplanted into the garden next month.