I KNOW, I KNOW: Why can’t it just last; why does it all have to start to flop and fade and fall apart? The spring garden, that is. June is the month when spring turns to summer—often well before the official moment (June 20 at 7:09 PM Eastern Daylight Time in 2012). Remember those gorgeous lilacs, rhododendron, flowering bulbs? Beautiful memories, yes, but also big brown messes everywhere. Uh-oh, get ready for another cleanup! Shall we tackle it together, one thing at a time (in print, and in podcast version)?
Prefer the June Chores in a Podcast?
Here’s where I begin this month or thereabouts (and probably never end, the usual story with the to-do list…but it makes me feel better having it, anyhow):
MAKE A PASS through each garden bed each week, since weeds are not just unsightly but steal moisture, nutrients and light from desired plants. Apply mulch to all beds to help in the plight. First: Learn to identify your opponents. Help with weed ID.
SOME PERENNIALS MAY be so tired they need a full cutback now or soon. My perennial geraniums, particularly the great groundcover Geranium macrorrhizum and extra-handsome G. phaeum, are like that. You sometimes have to make things worse for the garden to look better in the long run.
GARDENS NEED an inch of water a week from you or the heavens. Check your rain gauge to make sure they get it, and remember: Soak deeply in the root zone. Don’t spritz things with a sprayer now and again like you’re washing the car. That’s a garden no-no. Pots need extra attention, especially smallish ones in sun, and they also need regular feeding. Be alert!
WHAT? Didn’t plant up any pots yet? Plenty of time still; here’s the routine.
TREES & SHRUBS
SPRING-FLOWERING SHRUBS like lilacs get pruned now. Later pruning (after July 4th in my Zone 5B Northeastern location) risks damage to emerging buds for next year’s blooms. Clean up unsightly deadheads of other big bloomers like rhododendron if you care to, and other things that don’t make showy fruit next–anything where leaving behind the faded blooms just looks messy. With fruiting things (roses that make nice hips, viburnums, you get the idea…) faded flowers are left intact to set beautiful, bird-feeding fruit.
MULCH AROUND WOODY PLANTS after cleaning away weeds and grass, but no volcano mulch (meaning no piling thick mulch up against trunks). Two inches depth or slightly less is plenty, starting several inches or so away from trunks.
THROUGH THE END OF JULY, softwood cuttings of Buddleia, Weigela, Rose-of-Sharon and roses, among other shrubs, can be taken to propagate more plants inexpensively.
CONTINUE SOWING carrots, beets, radishes, lettuce, dill, cilantro (and with that last one, remember what herb expert Rose Marie Nichols McGee told us about the three kinds of plants she grows for all-year “cilantro”). With salad greens, select heat-resistant varieties now for best results, and sow small amounts every 10 days. The shadier side of a tomato row or of the pole beans, for instance, is nice for lettuce right now…not baking sun.
DIRECT-SOW A SHORT ROW OF BUSH BEANS every two weeks, and also sow pole beans for an even later crop if you didn’t yet. Whether for eating fresh or drying, here’s how to grow beans. Did summer and winter squash, cucumbers, melons go in? It’s time.
SWEET POTATOES, despite their heat-loving nature, can grow in all 50 states, and late spring is the perfect planting time. The how-to, in detail.
DID YOU HILL UP your white potatoes?
YOU HAVEN’T MISSED tomato time.These ambitious creatures will catch up and bear even if they go in July 4th in my area (but Memorial Day or early June is best). The entire tomato-growing tip collection is right here. Plant deep, and use heavy cages. Eggplants and peppers should be in the ground early this month, too, and too-small tomato cages can be recycled to hold these guys up.
KEEP ASPARAGUS and garlic well-weeded; let asparagus grow lots of ferns the rest of the summer into fall as harvest ends. If you’re growing hardneck garlic, as I do, the delicious “extra” crop of their scapes (flowering stalks) will be coming in right about now up North.
DEADHEAD ANY messy-looking bulbs as blooms fade, but continue to leave bulb foliage intact to wither and ripen the bulbs naturally. I mow my daffodil drifts around July 4th, for example, or whenever they wither on their own. Deadhead spring-flowering perennials unless they have showy seedheads (same with bulbs), or you want to collect seed later (non-hybrids only). More about seed-saving.
TENDER BULBS like dahlias, cannas, caladiums, gladiolus and such should be in the ground, but with the glads, you can stagger flower harvest by planting a row every two weeks until the start of July.
ARE ANNUAL VINES getting the support they need, whether twine, wire, lattice? What about perennial ones like clematis? All my vine-related stories are here to browse, and expert tips from Dan Long of GardenVines [dot] com are in this Q&A.
ORDER BULBS this month to get varieties you want (see Sources for bulb vendors). Remember our “early, middle, late” mantra when doing so.
EDGE BEDS to make a clean line and define them, and keep edges clean with regular fine-tuning with grass shears. A well-cut edge (along with mulch touchups) makes a big difference in how the garden looks.
HOUSEPLANTS, including amaryllis, and also clivia, among many, can spend the summer outdoors, in a sheltered location with filtered bright light (not direct sun). Pinch back and repot those that need it as you transition them, and feed regularly.
DON’T BAG OR RAKE clippings; let them lie on the lawn to return Nitrogen to the soil…unless you waited too long between mowings, that is. Mow frequently if grass is growing fast (I’m at twice-weekly now because we have had heat and rain); never remove more than one-third of the blade of grass at any one mowing.
DON’T LET THE HEAP dry out completely, or it will not “cook.” Turning the compost pile to aerate will also hasten decomposition, but things will rot eventually even if not turned.
On using this list in your garden: The monthly A Way to Garden chores and based on my Zone 5B Berkshire MA/Hudson Valley NY location; adjust accordingly.