my garden chores: june 2011

JUNE MARKS THE MIDYEAR, AND THE START OF SUMMER–meaning also the official unwind of spring. Uh-oh. Remember those gorgeous lilacs, rhododendron, flowering bulbs? Beautiful memories, yes, but also big brown messes everywhere. Shall we tackle it together, one thing at a time (in print, and in podcast version)?

Prefer the June Chores in a podcast? Listen in here, or subscribe to get all the weekly shows I do with Robin Hood Radio, WHDD in Connecticut, America’s smallest NPR affiliate.

YES, THIS THE MONTH when the spring garden, all promise and freshness, fades to a picture of widespread deadheads, and weeds really start testing us. We shall overcome! Multiple bouts of heat in some areas may have put things off course a bit, and you’ll find yourself doing chores already that usually come mid-month. Here, it was cold forever, and then whoosh, we baked (and caught up). Go with the flow, right? 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.

GARDENS NEED an inch of water a week from you or the heavens. Check your rain gaugeto 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!


BE ON THE LOOKOUT for dead, damaged, diseased wood in trees and shrubs and prune them out as discovered. Ditto with suckers and water sprouts. Complete pruning tips are here.

SPRING-FLOWERING SHRUBS like lilacs get pruned now. Later pruning (after July 4th here) risks damage to emerging buds for next year’s blooms. Clean up unsightly deadheads of other big bloomers like rhododendron, things that don’t make showy fruit next, so leaving behind their faded blooms is just messy. Viburnums, on the other hand, need faded flowers 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 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. 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 your 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. 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. Mulch vegetables with baled or chopped straw, partially rotted leaves, or other available organic materials.


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. Deadhead spring-flowering perennials unless they have showy seedheads (same with bulbs), or you want to collect seed later (non-hybrids only).

SOME PERENNIALS MAY be so tired they need a full cutback later this month or early next. You sometimes have to make things worse for the garden to look better in the long run.

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?

ORDER BULBS this month to get varieties you want (see Sources for bulb vendors). Remember our “early, middle, late” mantra when doing so.

PREPARE NEW BEDS by smothering grass or weeds with layers of recycled corrugated cardboard or thick layers of newspaper, then put mulch on top.

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 makes a big difference.


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.


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.

  1. This is a very good and long list Margaret. I can’t wait to get stuck in. This year I am helping with not only the garden but the allotment too so the vegetable tasks really stood out. No rest for the wicked!

    Thank you.

  2. Terryk says:

    Thanks for the list, the vegetable list is helpful this year as it is my first attempt to have one in a L O N G time. It has been a hard spring guessing do I plant now or is the soil too wet and too cold. I listened to our podcast on Monday and was glad to hear that the heavy rain was the cause of soil compaction, not my rototilling. I figured if you had this problem, I am in good company (misery loves company!).

    I asked two questions in the q&a forum on soft potatoes and peas, but called pine tree seeds and was happy that I can still plant the potatoes and also the peas, sugar and regular a try. I am going to try another of your tips, cover this soil with a board to cool it down and keeping it in till seeds germinate.

    Do you grow parsnip? Crockett’s Victory Garden makes it sound difficult, any tips?

  3. kristi says:

    Great amaryllis tip. My last attempt at getting an amaryllis through the summer didn’t end well, but I planted it in the ground. I’m going to go water mine right now.

    I love that people get excited about a list of chores!

  4. Kristina says:

    Due to work commitments and health issues with parents, last year’s yard and garden took the backseat. You can’t imagine how much I have to do this year just to catch up. Your list is a huge help! :) I’m just trying to accomplish the basic maintenance before I dig into the fun stuff. Have a good day!

  5. Thanks again Margaret for a great list of reminders. I planted my squash, strawberries and some cleome this morning. Also mulched them and the raised vegetable beds with some of the bags of shredded leaf mulch that I prepared earlier in the spring. Parts of our yard are still flooded, so I was only able to mow in some places. Yesterday was 92 degrees but dry. Today 75 and breezy. Much better.

  6. Brian G. says:

    i just started my tomato seeds on Sunday. Oops. Started them way too early last year and had leggy seedlings by planting time that I had to plant way deep. The late start will force me to plant them when smaller so maybe it’s a good thing.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Mary Jean. I haven’t grown them in so many years, but am feeling like I wish I had a spot again to devote to strawberries. Always fought the birds and chipmunks for the crop, as I recall. :) See you soon!

  7. Janet P says:

    Speaking of plant chores, I just learned I have mealy bugs on several different plants (Rhodie, obedient plants, a rose, a boxwood and a Virginia sweetspire so far). Will lady bugs get rid of them?

    1. Margaret says:

      Hi, Janet. Do you have mealy bugs on all those plants or some other pest? Just wanted to be sure — not aphids, but mealy bugs?

  8. Terryk says:

    Yesterday I was showing my son in law the german garlic bulbs that I planted last year and I noticed they have scapes!! I want to use them but only have planted about 14 bulbs. Will I get only 14 scapes or will the garlic produce multiple scapes for a period of time.

    Do I cut the ones that are there now rather than letting the grow a little longer?

    Any tips would be aprreciated.

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