Finally! A bit of summer, sunny and warm weather, and oh how the yard and gardens will respond. Meadows, nee lawns, need mowing. Vegetable, annual and perennial beds need weeding and mulching. And the compost pile calls out for some dry material to soak up the rain.
The Sourdough gardener knows this streak of golden weather could end up being our entire summer. It has been that kind of year. So, the last thing this columnist wants to be responsible for is you doing work in your yard while a dry Alaska awaits. No, there are times when you want to do the minimum. Do it quickly. And get out into Alaska.
Now is one of those times.
Start with weeding. Your plants are now big enough and have established strong enough root systems so you don’t have to get down on your hands and knees to gently pick around them while you weed. Now you can do it standing up with a hoe, or winged-weeder or a similar bladed, but long-handled tool.
Hoeing makes the quickest work of weeds. Since you are hopefully going to follow up with a layer of mulch, you can leave the weed tops — and a few of the smaller weeds — which will be smothered and decayed.
While you have a hoeing tool in your hands, give a few pulls to the weeds under bushes and the bases of trees. Leave them as mulch, but last year’s leaves — you must have some around the property! — or wood chips will really make your landscaping pop out.
Listen to the podcast with Jeff and Jonathan White:
No mulch? You can collect some lawn clippings as mowing is the next chore. No need to attach the mower bag. There should be plenty of grass dropped around your beds. Just rake it up and let it dry. Then mulch around plants. And next fall, save a half dozen bags of leaves for this purpose.
OK, so as noted, next you should mow your lawn. I am sure it needs it. The tendency after a long period of rain when the lawn grows out is to cut it really short. After a few missed mowings we naturally want it to return to the height is normally is at and if it might start raining for weeks again, you want to have the lawn look good. Don’t do it.
Now is when you want to mow your lawn high. Leave two-thirds of its current height. Higher lawns have better and deeper root systems which means better access to the soil food web. And by taking off only one-third of each blade, the job will get done quicker and you won’t be tempted to rake up clumped clippings. Even if they do mat up, just let them be. They are mostly water — I know — and will quickly disappear without forming thatch.
Let me remind you that tall grass, even with clover and weeds mixed in, makes a great palate for pattern mowing. Your yard is one big Etch A Sketch. Now is the time to mow in circles because it is quickest, but when you have time consider ovals, hearts, diagonals or other designs.
Finally, a quick cleanup. We had a lot of tree detritus fall in those storms and you always leave lawn clippings on the driveway and walk when you mow. Sweep or use your blower — electric/battery only. It is a quick job.
I know things will be covered in cottonwood fluff, but cleaning up is the frosting on the cake; it makes your other efforts — like those patterns — stand out. And, as important, it makes it look like someone is living at your house even though you are out fishing, hiking, camping and taking advantage of the other Alaska activities in good weather.
Jeff’s Alaska Garden Calendar:
Alaska Botanical Garden: Sunny days! Do visit. Do take visitors. The crack garden staff has the place in tip-top shape and you will enjoy Alaska’s finest in the sun. This is also a great time to join. What are you waiting for? Check it all out in person and at www.alaskabg.org
Slugs: If you see one, hand-pick. Beer and yeast traps go just outside the garden.
Second plantings: Lettuces, snap peas, radish, chards ... planted now will produce a second harvest.