Summer has arrived! The days are wonderfully long, rain is certainly more than ample, and the temperatures are becoming more summer-like as the month progresses. June is filled with chores that linger from spring, as well as preparations necessary for the garden to continue to thrive well into late fall. As the temperatures rise, enjoy the coolness of the early mornings and evenings for those tasks requiring the most exertion, with the heat of the day reserved for light duties. Try to water in the early morning as well, since evening watering tends to promote diseases, and evaporation is most extreme during the midday hours. Also, don’t forget your hat and sunscreen, and finally, remember to sit down with your favorite cold beverage to write in your journal and to enjoy the fruits of your efforts!
Things to do:
- Finish decorating containers and mixed borders with annuals and tropicals. Do not be bashful about using larger and bolder plants such as Banana, Canna, Alocasia, Colocasia or even some of the larger Bromeliads (as pictured at right)—they add a wonderful textural impact as well as foliage color.
- Fertilize annuals with a liquid feed once per week through June to give them a good start. If you used slow release fertilizer in your containers, use a 50% dilute solution of liquid feed. During hot periods, containers may need to be watered twice per day, especially if they are in the sun and if the pots are smaller than 12”.
- Weed! All of the rain from May has created abundant growth and the spring blooming weeds are about to go to seed. Remember, weed seeds last an average of 7 years!
- If you have deer, apply a deer spray weekly or after a heavy rain. It is best to rotate weekly between three different types of sprays for best effects.
- Deadhead May-blooming iris to reduce the occurrence of the iris borer. Study the blooms of your iris; if the blooms are few and the foliage is limp or overly dense, the plant either needs division or to be moved to a more sunny location. If it needs division, August is the best time.
- Deadhead the peonies as they finish blooming and lightly fertilize repeat-blooming daylilies and roses at the end of the month for a good August/September bloom.
- Resist the urge to remove the yellowing foliage of daffodils and other bulbs until it has totally turned brown. The foliage is producing the carbohydrates (or stored energy) for next year’s floral display.
Shrubs and Trees
- For woody plants, pinch off most of the water sprouts that you see growing from branches or stems—typically they appear at points where they were pruned off this past winter! Removing them as they start to grow discourages future dormant bud break.
- Many low-branched trees may need to have portions of the lowest branches removed, as the new growth from May and early June adds weight to the branch, causing it to droop ever lower. This is a chore that often needs to be done each year until the tree is at least 15-20 years of age and the stems are of significant size to support the added weight.
- Cut turf weekly. During periods of drought, irrigate the turf for extended periods in the early morning, promoting deep root growth. As the summer heat begins, raise the cutting height to 3” to reduce the stress on the turf.
- Harvest spinach, lettuce, radishes and arugula daily. As the days become hotter, the lettuce will become increasingly bitter and less tasty. These plants will also produce flowers or “bolt,” after which the foliage becomes extremely bitter, so it is important to harvest while the plants are smaller. Once the plants begin to bolt, remove them and plant summer squash, okra, cucumbers, pole beans, or other vegetables that will provide a yield in 65-70 days (September into October).
- It is not too late to plant tomatoes. Planting in June often avoids the problems with early blight as well! If the plants are leggy, bury the stem up to the first true leaf, as the stem will produce roots and yield a sturdier plant. As the tomatoes grow, make certain that they are staked, lifting the fruit to come off the ground and reducing the chance of decay.
- For tomatoes, it is ideal to pinch off the lower shoots up to the point of the first flower cluster (pictured at right). This will allow for a more manageable plant and a more sustainable crop of fruit.
- Plant eggplant, peppers, okra and other plants that prefer heat of summer.
- Mulch vegetables with newsprint or cardboard, covered with straw, reducing weeds and water loss. This is ideal for heirloom tomatoes since they need consistent soil moisture in order to discourage splitting of the fruit. You can also mulch with lawn clippings provided that herbicides or insecticides were not applied to the turf.
- Stop harvesting asparagus and rhubarb. They need to produce stalks and leaves of sufficient size in order to develop the energy reserves for next year’s harvest (the same reason that you do not remove bulb foliage until it has turned totally brown).
- Early June is time to thin your beets to 3” apart if you wish to harvest baby beets, or 5-6” if you wish them to grow larger. Either pull out or cut off the baby foliage (should you prefer not to disturb the soil). Don’t throw away the leaves either, since they are a great addition to salads!