Do you have the gardening itch? Here’s an opportunity to scratch it.

Who doesn’t have the “gardening itch”? Given all the snow this winter, I really should also ask who doesn’t have the worst case ever? That itch is only going to get itchier; birch leaves are not expected to reach squirrel’s-ear size for a couple of months.

Thank goodness for the Alaska Botanical Garden’s Spring Garden Conference. COVID hit for a couple of years, but most of it will be back in person this year. The garden is offering virtual opportunities to allow for some Outside speakers! All presenters on March 8 will be via Zoom. Then on Friday and Saturday, March 10-11, the event will be held live, in person, on the Alaska Pacific University Campus.

First of all, there is nothing better for a gardening itch than a scratch by a gathering of gardeners. Add to that great benefit that this event is designed to help the Alaskan gardener be a better one. All manner of talks will inspire you to great things!

You need to register and, frankly, you should do it now. I am sure space is limited.

I won’t run through all the players or the vendors that will be there; you can read about that while you register. I will note my friend Nan Sterman, an award-winning TV garden writer, will discuss how to get rid of your lawn, a timely one for sure.

There is a lecture for everyone this year, from slugs and bonsai to uber food production, deciding what peonies to plant, composting, growing flowers for cutting and even the muni’s plan to deal with your food waste. There is even a talk on how to combat the invasive prunus.

And for those readers who want to learn a new part of the soil food web, a thing called “rhizophagy” without having to read my new book on the subject, Friday evening, March 10 is your chance. I only do one talk a year in Alaska, so come on out to Grant Hall!


Then there are the sales outside the talks. I am pretty sure you will be able to buy special Alaska seeds, maybe some Rhodiola plants (an herb the Russians use for stamina said to have all manner of healthful properties), dahlia tubers, indigenous wildflower seed as well as garden books and ABG paraphernalia. You just never know, which is why you need to show up.

You don’t have to be an ABG member to attend the annual spring conference, though you most definitely should become one even if you are not planning on attending. (You can become a member by visiting

I assume you read this column because you are a gardener. The Garden offers so much. For example, the ABG is participating in a summer seed swap this weekend from noon to 2 p.m. Swap old seed, new seed and gardening tools. Here again, is a wonderful opportunity to be around gardeners who are also eagerly awaiting spring.

Don’t forget the ABG’s summer camp. The kids (and their parents) love it. And, you can even apply for a summer job at The Garden. (Oh to be trained by Will Criner! Really a special opportunity). Even if you don’t want a summer job there, you can volunteer, take classes and learn to push your gardening envelop by seeing what can actually be grown in Alaska.

We are so lucky to have a great botanical garden in Anchorage and not just for its terrific spring conferences. Take advantage of all it has to offer.

Jeff’s Alaska Gardening Calendar

Pelargoniums: If you have been growing your “geraniums” during the winter months, now is the time to prune them to shape and to root the cuttings for new plants. Let them callous over for 48 hours first.

Stored Spring Flowering Bulbs: Bring them out of storage, water and give them light.

Seed Racks: They are back. I read a funny one-liner “Buying spring seeds and planting them are two different hobbies.” Go easy.

Jeff Lowenfels | Alaska gardening and growing

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’s authored several books on organic gardening, and his latest book, "Teaming With Bacteria," is available on Amazon. Reach him at