I’M FIGHTING THE URGE to go inside, draw the blinds, and take refuge in streaming videos (perhaps with an entire rhubarb crumble by my side). Instead let’s fight together through “the shaggies,” the stage the spring garden inevitably goes through after all that fresh promise of April and May devolves into endless deadheads, and the emergence of the warm-season weeds. The June garden chores are the antidote:
The spring—which officially becomes summer June 21 at 6:51 AM Eastern Daylight Time in 2014–has been cool here, but also drier than I’d like. I’m already watering—a chore in itself because I have no system, but must drag hoses and sprinklers around all day from space to space. Despite lower-than-normal rain, though, the lawn is growing madly, requiring twice-weekly attention. Oh, dear—but onward I mow, and go.
weeding and watering
MAKE A PASS, with hand or hoe, 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. Here’s help with weed ID. I am about to do battle with this prolific one—called clearweed. Look familiar? I have a whole archive of weed stories at this link.
GARDENS WANT 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. Pots need extra attention, especially smallish ones in sun, and they also need regular feeding (no blue chemicals, please; try seaweed and fish emulsion concentrates that you dilute in your watering can). Be alert!
WHAT? Didn’t plant up any pots yet? Plenty of time still, and here’s how to take your containers up a notch this year.
WANT VEGETABLES all summer? Many of those early sowings won’t last, so here’s how I make room for more with the practice of succession sowing. Some examples:
SOW (OR SOW MORE) CARROTS, or beets (grow them like a pro), radishes, salad greens, dill. With salad greens, select heat-resistant varieties now for best results if they’ll bump into warmer weather in your zone. Direct-sow more kale and chard, too—or start kale indoors, like this, to give it an extra-strong start.
DIRECT-SOW BUSH BEANS; plant a short row every two weeks, and also sow pole beans if you didn’t yet, for an even later crop. Maybe try heirloom beans for drying, too? Did summer and winter squash, cucumbers, and melons go in?
I LOVE VEGETABLE SOUP, and freeze dozens of containers of it for year-round use, so yes, I’m growing the ingredients of a soup garden.
IF YOU LIKE CILANTRO, plant a short row every couple of weeks for a constant supply; most varieties bolt pretty fast (eventually yielding coriander seeds). Or try one of the substitutes in this story.
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 here). Plant deep, and use heavy cages, or better yet, stake and prune tomatoes to help prevent disease. Some insights in what makes the best-tasting tomato.
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 and fall; never cut back the foliage until it’s totally brown. 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.
WATER GARLIC during dry spells for biggest bulbs (and did you feed it?). Though many people wonder all spring about when to harvest, typically that’s in high summer sometime, around July here. Not now!
MULCH VEGETABLES with baled or chopped straw, partially rotted leaves, or other available organic materials. Confused what mulch to use? Read this.
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.
LET ANNUAL GERANIUMS, which are technically in the genus Pelargonium, dry between waterings for best results. More on these tried-and-true annuals.
SOME SPRING WILDFLOWERS can be multiplied by simple division around this time of year, including trilliums, and others can be divided in fall. Here is how expert Carol Gracie does it and how I propagate my trilliums.
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).
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? Expert tips from Dan Long of GardenVines [dot] com are in this Q&A.
PREPARE NEW BEDS by smothering grass or weeds with layers of recycled corrugated cardboard or thick layers of newspaper, then put mulch on top. Need mulch advice?
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.
Feeling like what you need most is help with reworking design issues? Landscape architect Thomas Rainer recently offered me some valuable tips on reducing lawn areas and massing plants for visual impact, and designer and nursery owner Katherine Tracey told us how to critique our own yards. If you’re feeling stuck, I suggest both articles as a start.
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. How expert Lee Reich makes great compost the smart way.
trees & shrubs
BE ON THE LOOKOUT for dead, damaged, diseased wood in trees and shrubs and prune them out as discovered. Ditto suckers and water sprouts. Complete pruning tips are here.
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.
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.
Love your to do list – great reminders. We too have too little rain for our liking but mowing twice a week :).
When the alliums lose their color, I spray paint the heads with Krylon indoor/outdoor satin in Burgundy. The Krylon spray sends out almost a mist so it’s not a “sprays all” situation. It’s pretty cool and lasts right into summer.
I’m afraid I have succumbed to garden weariness!
Borders torn up for rejuvenation and masses of things potted up to go elsewhere.
I’m tired and sore and have retreated indoors, but it’s pouring out and I’m on hour 9 of Chelsea Flowershow coverage on YouTube. Energy and AMBITION are on the way!
We had quite the opposite of you. A very wet late spring. It’s finally drying up enough to get out and do something. After a walk through yesterday I’m horrified at the mess in one of the beds. It may take me all summer to get it back in shape!
Bless you Margaret. I’ve got to focus, and this REALLY helps!
What kind of tractor do you drive,is it difficult to run it ?
I’m in North Idaho and find that your tips are so very helpful! ! Love reading your tips,tricks and To-Dos!
Glad to help, Kaycee. I think you get a bit colder than I do, and have a shorter season (depending on your elevation), but the pattern is definitely the same. Nice to hear from you.
I am wondering about your duckweed pots, featured other seasons. Where do you get duckweed? Did you buy it, or find it in a pond? How do you winter it over? I don’t see it in any of your lists, but I lust over it in photos from previous posts. I have a galvanized tub set up and ready for it, but no duckweed. Thanks for any tips. Perhaps a whole post on container water gardens would be good.
Thanks for this!!! I have a horrible case of the shaggies myself…well, my garden does anyway. I can’t weed enough. I think at this stage they are outgrowing the veggies. Ugh…need to weed after work!
It is oddly comforting to know that I am not alone in experiencing ‘garden weariness’ at the beginning of June. After the excitement of seeing all the little veggie seedlings coming up, and planting them outdoors, suddenly the entire garden has awakened and OMG everything wants attention NOW! Meanwhile it has gotten hot and humid, and the mosquitos are out and…not so fun. So, I’m going away on vacation for a week. :D
Good for you, Ellie. Everything wanting attention all at once is getting to be a little much over here, too. : )
Hello Margaret. So glad your first tour went well. I love the photos. I want one of those
Astilaboides (sp?)! I am still fighting the wild violet!!! Any ideas?. Laurie David’s book
sounds terrific..and I will order. Another good book on how to use veggies and fruits without destroying the nutrition is: “Eating on the wild Side” by Jo Robinson. We can accidently ruin things with improper storage or the microwave. I think of you often and so admire what you have done with your property and the fantastic blog. Go Girl! Best from Anne