Gardening

With enough effort, you might be able to rid your lawn of clover. But why would you want to?

As noted last week, getting a great question makes my life as a columnist much easier. A wrong answer, however, does not. After noting last week that one needs two plants of the same cultivar to produce honeyberries, I received a nice correction from a guy who knows his honeybees: Kevin has five acres and over 100 plants with 30 different varieties.

He corrected me. “One ‘must’ have a different variety that is unrelated and blooms at the same time. Varieties that have ‘blue’ in their name typically will pollinate each other.” (He pointed out some Russian varieties imported by One Green World that are typically found in catalogs.)

The correction continued, “Of the varieties that Home Depot carries, Aurora will pollinate Borealis and Tundra or Honey Bee (all are Canadian Varieties from the University of Saskatchewan). Tundra and Borealis are too closely related to pollinate. Berry Blue will pollinate any of the aforementioned varieties.

Incidentally, our considerate reader also noted that birds will carry the seeds. Be careful and be on the lookout.

Next, clover is a big deal to many people. Some of us love it, but this week I got three emails about not loving it and asking how to get rid of it. It can be done. It isn’t always so easy, however.

You can use all of the traditional, organic weed removal methods on clover. These include hand pulling, using a thatching rake, spraying with a vinegar mixture (one to one with water and few drops of Dawn type detergent), soothing the area with black plastic for a couple of weeks and flaming it. The latter two methods will also kill the grass. The salt-based A.D.I.O.S. product is also useful and won’t kill as much lawn grass. Letting the grass get to 3 or 4 inches can serve as a control, but won’t eradicate clover.

High nitrogen, chemical fertilizer encourages clover. They lower the pH which encourages clover over grass. Stick with organic ferts.

Or, learn to love clover. The only reason it isn’t in lawn seed mixes anymore is because we have been brainwashed into thinking this nitrogen providing plant is a weed and not part of a normal lawn. Making it a weed, enables herbicide manufacturers and chemical based lawn maintenance companies to make money and damage the environment.

Next, a request to identify a bug, “¼ inch long, yellow with beautiful red markings and a triangular shape. I thought I was looking at a tiny, art-deco piece of jewelry! I think I have made a new discovery.”

This has to be a leafhopper, Cicadellidae (Jassidae). These sap-sucking insects are actually pretty common here. There are a number of different kinds and each is pretty host specific. They go through several life stages, and cause damage by sucking sap and laying eggs in plant tissue, serving as vectors for plant diseases, curling leaves and more.

Yes, leafhoppers can be incredibly beautiful. The one described goes by the nickname “Candy stripe.” I think it likes asters, but I am not quite sure. (Check out some of the other beauties and the plants they hit and damage caused: britannica.com/animal/leafhopper.)

Finally, right on schedule, a reader wants to know what the real story is with regard to fireweed blooms and the appearance of winter? The stuff is in full glory in many parts of Southcentral and getting there in others.

I know there is debate about this. Some insist the six week warning that cold weather is coming is when the last flower turns to fluffy seeds. Others insist that when the last flower opens, there are six more weeks before winter will rear its ugly head. I go with the latter, but it is probably a great idea to keep records. I always write about phenological events that herald warm temperatures. The arrival of winter is just as important, obviously.

Jeff’s garden calendar:

New potatoes: These are nothing more than young spuds. You might stick your hand into a hill and see if you can find some the size you like.

Lawns: Let them get a bit higher than normal to compete with dandelions.

Broccoli: Carefully remove florets and more will develop. Do not pull the whole plant.

Picnic in the Alaska Botanical Garden: Reserve a table and a meal for family and friends at this fundraiser catered by South Restaurant. $30 and $60 for adults includes an entree, side, dessert and beverage. 6-8 p.m. Aug. 5, 19, 26. alaskabg.org.

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