Gardening

Southcentral Alaska gardens are having a slow summer - except for the weeds

Is it just in our yard or perhaps just me? Seems like things are growing slower, the bird populations are way down — seen many geese this year? — and there are far too few insects other than light hits of mosquitoes. I don’t know. It just seems like a slow-moving summer.

Be that as it may, one plant is not growing slowly. When I get three emails asking the same question, all in one day, I know I better let the world in on the answer, as it must be a prevalent problem. I know more than one gardener is suffering through an invasion of Campanula rapunculoides, aka purple bell flowers, the subject of these multiple inquires. It is taking over more people’s flower beds than just ours.

First of all, if Campanula rapunculoides is not on the Alaska invasive, noxious weed list, it sure should be. I know it is on the very top of mine. Never, under any circumstances, should anyone voluntarily plant Campanula rapunculoides.

[Related: Methods for destroying the weeds showing up in your yard — yes, even the pretty ones]

You cannot rid your property of Campanula rapunculoides. You may be able to contain them with sessions of weed-eating. I have also, from time to time, used the neighbor’s flame thrower on them. You have to be very careful either way, as you can damage more than just the bell flower targets. Once you have them down, cover with a thick layer of mulch. The goal is to prevent flowering even if they do spread underground as well.

This should also be a gentle reminder, second week in a row, to get those butter and eggs. You don’t want them mimicking the advance of Campanula rapunculoides. Hand-weeding them now is easy. No need to use a weed whacker or flame thrower. Just remember: no yellow flowers allowed.

Speaking of weed whacking, since I know people have their gardens in, now is a good time to nag a bit about cleaning up. First, get out and use that weed whacker along fences, posts, decks walkways, driveways and around the mail box. Do it carefully, so as not to destroy wanted plants, damage trees and shrub bark or whack yourself. If you are worried about damaging plants, put a shovel blade between the flying string and anything you want protected.

The next step is to put away tools and toys you are not using. You are not going to use them. Why let them rust up and clutter the yard? Coil hoses, too. And what are you doing with those flats and plastic pots left from spring planting? Rinse them and store them until they can be recycled.

Clean up means cleaning up. Don’t make me take your privileges away.

A good clean-up includes a good mow, which will also mulch up the whacked material. Lay out a nice pattern, say circles, diagonals, triangles or anything other pattern than the traditional cross cut. Be creative. Lawn art is free and it makes mowing the lawn a whole lot more enjoyable. Trust me. Just try it. You won’t go back to your old, boring ways.

Once you have finished mowing, get out that battery or electric blower if you have one. Gas blowers pollute too much. The noise from any blower is bad enough. Be considerate of your neighbors. A rake is quieter and preferred, but I am realistic enough to realize you may not be inclined to do the decks, walks and the whole driveway with a rake. They all need cleaning and your place will look so much better, polished even, after you are finished.

Finally, clean up the gardens. Get the chickweed. Apply mulch to make the weeds disappear and don’t forget to cover areas you may not have planted in this year. There is always next year. Pick up boards and kneeling pads and the like, as they are great hiding places for slugs.

Then get out a lawn chair. Sit down and enjoy your yard, which should now look like a little bit of heaven.

Jeff’s garden calendar for the week:

Nurseries: Some great deals. Visit.

Replacement trees: The recommendation is to replace spruce with spruce

Alaska Botanical Garden: Go and see The Sculpture. Check it and other activities out at alaskabg.org.


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