To-do List: Alaska

R. L. Rhodes
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June is when plants get established in Alaska, lawns start growing under the midnight sun and gardeners deal with mosquitoes, newly born moose and weeds. There is plenty to do. Just remember to look at your watch every now and then. With so much daylight it is easy to forget what time it is, and you may find yourself mowing a lawn or using a chain saw on a tree at 11 p.m., much to your neighbors’ chagrin.

  • Get your garden plants in the ground early. Don’t procrastinate. Things move very quickly in our short season and every day counts. Harden off all plants grown inside so they are acclimated to the sun and wind. Water your gardens the day before you plant seeds and transplants. Apply mulch (grass clippings, straw and kitchen wastes for annuals and veggies or leaves and bark chips for perennials and trees) after planting to hold in moisture and to feed soil microbes.
  • Defend against defoliating caterpillars. Delphiniums are one of the most popular flowering perennials in Alaska and cotoneasters are one of the most popular shrub and hedge plants. Caterpillars attack both in June. They strip leaves and devour buds. Fortunately, you can buy several very safe products that contain Bacillus thuringiensis (often just called Bt). Bt kills only caterpillars. Spray plants in early June as soon as caterpillars start feeding.
  • Stake your garden plants. Peonies, delphiniums, malva and other tall plants should be staked early so they don’t break in the wind and under the weight of rain. You can use tomato stakes and tomato cages or bamboo stakes; these and other options are available at The Home Depot.
  • Harvest rhubarb and pick off flowers. Rhubarb is one of the only reliable fruits we can grow in Alaska. Harvest it during June by grabbing stems at their base and twisting them off. Don’t use a knife. Also, remove the big flower heads as soon as they appear to keep rhubarb plants producing longer.
  • Water the lawn. Make sure lawns get one inch of water between you and Mother Nature each week in June. If you don’t have a traveling lawn sprinkler, now is the time to get one. Let lawns grow to three inches before cutting one inch off. Dandelions appear in June. Hand pick flowers or mow them before they open and go to seed. Aerate any hard, compacted lawns to improve structure and microbial growth in the soil. Fix dog and moose spots now by covering them with compost along with lawn seed and keep these spots moist until the seeds germinate.
  • Apply compost. Add a ¼ to ½ inch layer of compost around shrubs and perennials to feed the plants, keep weeds down and retain moisture.

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