First things first: It is time to take down the bird feeders. The bears are up and looking for a quick meal, and sunflower seeds (funny, I just wrote about them) fit the bill. Make sure you put yours away, and I mean away. If you leave them in a container outdoors, they are going to be found. If you store yours in the garage, make sure to keep the door closed at all times.
Clean feeders with a bleach solution, not only to disinfect, but to get rid of the alluring smell of sunflower seeds. (You have to be smarter than the average bear and more.) Then put them away. Then go out and look at the tree you hung the feeder in. Check the buds. Two more weeks? Three until the frosts are over?
Next up: pruning. I get a lot of questions about pruning things this time of year. It is not a good time for most plants to be pruned, however. For one thing, the sap is running in birch trees and if you cut them, they will “weep” sap. Lilacs already have buds for this year’s flowers, so if they are pruned, no flowers.
Three exceptions come to mind. Cotoneaster and caragana can be pruned, if you must. It is better to wait for leaves so the plant can make some carbs to help heal the wounds. And, raspberries need pruning at some point in the spring. Go for it now, if you want. I like canes to be about 5 feet tall. You can prune to your own height preference.
I don’t know about you, but the sight of flowers growing in soil is a happy sight for sure. If you have been vaccinated, what are you waiting for? Visit a few nurseries. Find flowers, the smell of soil, vegetable starts! Continue to mask up for the other guy.
There are a few things to seek out at the nursery. Endomycorrhizal fungi for rolling seeds in, nitrogen-fixing rhizobia for the legumes seeds, and Bt products to get rid of caterpillars, the first things to attack and it is usually cotoneasters (so it is best to have it on hand).
If you don’t have any, look for Plantskydd. Now is a good time to reapply it, or do a first application to keep those hungry moose at bay. Your tender bush and tree growth is full of sugars the moose simply love. Scare them away by painting a bit of Plantskydd around.
Why wait for outdoor gardening to eat fresh, homegrown produce? This is a great time to plant a little indoor lettuce garden. Any old styrofoam packaging for a computer or TV monitor can be turned into a neat container. Poke some holes for drainage and fill with good organic soil. Sprinkle on some leaf lettuces, cover with Saran or plastic wrap and wait for germination. You can start eating lettuces as early as you like and because you cut the leaves off, new ones will grow in.
And if you have containers large enough, say a gallon per plant, now is a great time to start snap peas. I know they are not normally grown in containers, but it works, especially if you keep things cool. We have been eating snaps all winter long. Again, why wait for outdoor gardening. Get growing. You can start a new outdoor crop or transplant this one.
Jeff’s Alaska garden calendar for the week
Vegetables to start from seed: Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, head lettuce, pepper.
Flowers to start from seed: Achimenes (tuber), brachyscome (15C), dianthus (5), Stock( 10L), Lockspar (20C). These numbers represent the days to germinate. C means grow cool and L means seeds need light.
Herbs to start from seed: Sorrel
Visit Nurseries: Safely. Mask up.
Join the Alaska Botanical Garden: www.alaskabg.org. Do check out the offerings. It is a great time to join! One trip to the garden’s nursery will pay for your membership!
Spruce bark beetle stuff including firewood: forestry.alaska.gov/insects/sprucebeetle