As summer hits its stride, gardeners have questions

Ah, the season continues and I am getting a bunch of questions which I figure I better answer.

First, I am getting a few reports of leaf rollers taking out leaves primarily on cotoneaster. They chew and once fattened up, they make a blanket of a leaf and roll themselves up in it. These are caterpillars and they are going through metamorphosis. You can control their populations by spraying the leaves they eat with bacteria known as “Bt,” Bacillus thuringiensis. However, you need to do this before the caterpillars stop eating, obviously so they ingest some. When they start rolling the leaves instead of eating them, it is too late.

So, what do you do if your leaves are already rolled? Once again, being on the forefront of using your cell phone as a gardening tool, I suggest simply set an alarm with a note on your cell phone calendar for, say, June 15, 2023, reminding you to spray the leaves of those plants infested this year. Do it now.

Speaking of leaves, throughout the season I get questions about curling leaves on lilacs. It happens all season long. These are almost always caused by someone in the area using a weed and feed type product to deal with dandelions. Lilacs are very sensitive to these herbicides. There is nothing you can do about these leaves (they won’t die and should recover) other than stopping, or getting your neighbor to stop using these chemicals.

Here is a good one: How do you remove bumps in a lawn without digging up the whole thing? It is really very simple. Just cut large “Xs” over each bump so that you can peel back the lawn from the center of the hill. Remove the excess soil and lay the lawn back down. Water and enjoy.

And, someone wants to know why she never gets kiwi fruits on her six plants. She has had them for more than five years without a single berry. The answer, undoubtedly, is that kiwi require male and female plants to produce fruit. So, it is necessary to figure out what you have and then go from there. How to tell which kiwi is a male and which is a female? Both flower so you just have look at their centers. Male flowers produce a yellow pollen so if the centers of your plants’ flowers are bright yellow, you have males. One male plant is suggested for every female plant to get proper pollination but I bet two would pollinate the 6 in question.

Moving on, tomato flowers are not setting fruit in one reader’s greenhouse. That is because we seem to have few pollinators this year. (Could that be?) In any case, hitting the flower stem with an electric toothbrush for a minute should do the trick. This is better than using a small brush and going from flower to flower.


Finally, and I am glad this was asked, a reader wants to know when is the annual Anchorage Garden Club tour of gardens? It has been missing for two years or so. Well, this must-do tour is back! It is on July 31 from noon to 5 p.m. You will find the list of gardens posted on the club’s website. You can also find information on their Facebook page the day before the event. The rules to participate are easy: no dogs, strollers, high heels or unmonitored children. These are private gardens and this is always a terrific event for area gardeners.

Jeff’s Garden Calendar

Alaska Botanical Garden: Check out the events at And, don’t forget to check out the nursery goods! There is an online shop so you can order online and then pick up your order when you visit.

Harvest: Don’t let things get too big, flower and stop growing.

Jeff Lowenfels

Jeff Lowenfels has written a weekly gardening column for the ADN for more than 45 years. His columns won the 2022 gold medal at the Garden Communicators International conference. He is the author of a series of books on organic gardening available at Amazon and elsewhere. He co-hosts the "Teaming With Microbes" podcast.