my june garden chores

chores-logoJ UNE IS THE MONTH when the spring garden, all promise and freshness, fades to a picture of deadheads everywhere, and weeds really start testing us. We shall overcome! I’m offering the list a bit early this month, because I’ve had two bouts of heat that have put things off course a bit. Here’s where I begin in June 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 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!


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. 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. 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. If you are in a colder spot, try last month’s list. Warmer climate? Try a peek at next month’s.

  1. Nancy says:

    I’m thinking of trying an “upside down tomato plant” because I can have it much more in the sun than my containers (too many hungry critters to put the containers right out there in front of everybody). Have you ever tried them or had any comments on them from people? I have some “Big Boy” plants to use…

  2. Bobbie says:

    I’m zone 6. I have many different types of hydrandea’s that have old wood popping out of new growth (which has really taken off and formed small buds too). Should I cut the old wood out, or wait until they wiggle loose with time? If I cut, I’d be sure there’s no new growth on the stalk. The wood look like sun rays, and my birds like them, but it just looks messy.

  3. chigal says:

    Thanks so much for posting these monthly lists! I wasn’t sure if I should put the melons out, yet, what with all the admonitions about warmth.

  4. margaret says:

    Welcome, Bobbie. Do you mean Hydrangea paniculata, or panicle hydrangeas, that have big creamy flowers in high summer that then fade to pickish-beige in early fall? Check this story if you don’t know; you can see a photo. Those are typically pruned in early spring, before they start sprouting the new buds (baby leaves I mean), but if it’s a mess you can still do a little trimming. Basics of pruning are in the Pruning FAQ.

    @Nancy: I am not in favor of the upside-down ones (just because it’s gimmicky and I guess I am old-fashioned). People say they work, and then some “experts” say not good for the plants, so I cannot tell you for certain. Wouldn’t putting a barricade/fence/netting of some kind around the pots just be easier, to keep animals out? (Maybe the sun issue is more what you are trying to get around by elevating things.)

    @Chigal: I haven’t done my squash, cukes, pumpkins…like melons, things that really like to get a good fast start in warm soil from seed. Did you stretch some black plastic out to pre-warm the area? I will do that this next week and then plant soon.

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Diana; glad to help. It helps me to keep track and even though I never get it all done, I find it reassuring. (‘m a BIG list-maker, can you tell?) See you again soon.

  5. suzanne says:

    weather just wont make up its mind. Warmand cloudy today so put in 11 tomato plants on the Jersey shore. Now the fog is moving in. The grapes and cherries put inlast week and thriving so maybe o.k. (in pots) Love your blog dont know how you write with all your chores outside.Husband hacked atmy mac hydranga down to the ground. Leaves are appearing but no buds do you think its gone? Read that you should only prune old wood.suzanne

  6. Melissa says:

    I enjoy going through you list of chores. It helps me out!

    I recently got your book from the library and love it. Any chance it will be reprinted at some point.

    Thanks for your wonderful website.

  7. Nancy says:

    I agree with you that upside down is gimmicky, and I may hate the way it looks, but I’ll see what it leads to in the way of tomatoes…:) I decided to try both ways and compare results. The payoff might be worth the creepy quality. My yard is small and fencing isn’t an option–tomatoes would be my only veg, except for herbs, which do fine on the deck.
    note for Suzanne–it’ll come back. I lost my little buddleia over the winter–my husband pulled it up!!!

  8. chigal says:

    Hi Nancy, upside-down tomatoes were a big, unsuccessful mess, for me. Not to discourage you from your own experiment… I’ve thought since then that the vines would have been happier if they were on a drip irrigation system, to minimize both drying out and drainage onto the vines. Nothing stops a determined squirrel, though. So if the goal is to protect the fruit, you might want to go with right-side-up tomatoes and a super soaker. ;)

  9. Nancy says:

    I can see this may be an uphill battle…;^)…but the planter came today. No idea if it will work–knowing some of the pitfalls in advance will a) help me avoid? them and/or b) reduce my disappointment if things go awry. Optimism is the sauce of spring.

  10. ML says:

    Hi, Margaret,
    In a recent posting you mentioned an edger you like a lot. I can’t find where you mention it. Could you post the brand again? Thanks.

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, ML. Good question…but no answer. Haven’t been able to find a brand I like as a backup to my very old one, which apparently is no longer made. It was on this post that people referred to it again (and there is an older post with other suggestions…but not a source for “my” edger, sorry).

  11. Delores says:

    Hi Margaret, Do I remember correctly that you freeze kale for winter soups? I have a mass of kale and looking for options. I’m a “regular” and find your posts so helpful – can’t wait to get your new book.

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