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Garden Tasks and Tips for June

Farewell, Spring’s Shaggy Sidekicks

Ah, June – the moment when spring has had its fill and retreats, leaving behind a whole new palette of emerging weeds, the warm-season kind. It’s the shaggies’ time to shine, those persistent pests that feel the need to dominate every inch of the garden. But fear not, my fellow gardeners, for I have the secrets to tame this verdant invasion.

As the long-reach pruner becomes my best friend, bidding farewell to crispy lilac trusses, I take the long view. The long view is summed up in the June garden chores that follow. First, a note: spring won’t officially give way to summer until Thursday, June 20th at 4:50 PM Eastern Daylight Time. But chances are, it’s already long gone at your place, if you’ve had more heat or bouts of dry and warm weather versus dramatically cool and wet.

Making Peace with the Weeds

My organic-gardening approach and the how-to tips I offer apply most anywhere – pruning a rose or sowing a tomato seed is similar wherever the rose or tomato may grow. But the when is not the same. To adjust the timing, remember that my garden is in Zone 5B in the Hudson Valley NY-Berkshires MA area, where frost can persist well into May and return in October. You may need next month’s chores or last month’s – the archive is always here for reference.

Now, let’s tackle those weeds. I make a pass with my hand or hoe through each garden bed each week, as these unwanted guests are not just unsightly, but they steal moisture, nutrients, and light from the plants I actually want to grow. To help in the plight, I apply mulch to all beds – a layer of organic material like baled or chopped straw, partially rotted leaves, or whatever is available, to a depth of a couple of inches. This helps suppress weed growth and retain moisture.

Keeping Plants Hydrated

In zones like mine, summer gardens want water each week, from you or the heavens. I feel happy if an inch of rain falls each week, but lately, it’s been more feast or famine. If I have to supplement, I make sure to soak deeply in the root zone – no spritzing like I’m washing the car. Pots need extra attention, especially the smallish ones in sun, and they also need regular feeding. I skip the blue chemical crystals and opt for seaweed and fish-emulsion concentrates, diluted according to label directions.

Succession Sowing for Continuous Harvest

Many of those early vegetable sowings won’t last, so I make room for more with the practice of succession sowing. I direct-sow more carrots or beets, grow them like a pro, and do the same with radishes, salad greens, and dill. With salad greens, I select heat-resistant varieties now for best results if they’ll bump into warmer weather in my zone. I also direct-sow more kale and chard, or start kale indoors to give it an extra-strong start.

For beans, I plant a short row every two weeks and sow pole beans if I didn’t yet, for an even later crop. Maybe I’ll even try some heirloom beans for drying this year. As for summer and winter squash, cucumbers, and melons, I make sure those went in the ground earlier this season.

Feeding the Soup Garden

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’re a cilantro fan, 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 if you’re not a fan of the herb.

Tomatoes, Peppers, and More

I haven’t missed tomato time at least, not up North. These ambitious creatures will catch up and bear fruit even if they go into the ground on July 4th in my Northeast Zone 5B area, but early June is best here. I plant them deep and use heavy cages or, even better, stake and prune them to help prevent disease. Some insights on what makes the best-tasting tomato can be found in this article.

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. I keep asparagus and garlic well-weeded, letting the asparagus grow lots of ferns for the rest of the summer and fall, never cutting back the foliage until it’s totally brown. If I’m growing hardneck garlic, the delicious extra crop of their scapes (flowering stalks) will be coming in right about now up North.

Putting the Garden to Bed for the Night

As for perennials, some 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.

With annual geraniums, which are technically in the genus Pelargonium, I let them dry between waterings for best results. And even the easiest familiar annuals like zinnias or marigolds may poop out if you only sow once in spring. I learn from flower farmers about succession sowing of flowers too, for ample blooms through till hard freeze.

Dividing, Deadheading, and Deadwood

Some spring wildflowers can be multiplied by simple division around this time of year, including trilliums. Others can be divided in fall – here’s how expert Carol Gracie does it, and how I propagate my trilliums.

I 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. Deadheading spring-flowering perennials is also a must, unless they have showy seedheads – same with bulbs, or if I want to collect seed later (non-hybrids only).

As for tender bulbs like dahlias, cannas, caladiums, and gladiolus, they should be in the ground by now, but with the glads, I can stagger the flower harvest by planting a row every two weeks until the start of July.

Pruning, Edging, and Design

I’m always on the lookout for dead, damaged, or diseased wood in trees and shrubs, pruning them out as discovered. Ditto for suckers and water sprouts. Spring-flowering shrubs like lilacs get pruned now, as later pruning after about July 4th in my Zone 5B Northeastern location risks damage to emerging buds for next year’s blooms.

Cleaning up unsightly deadheads of other big bloomers like rhododendron is something I do if I care to, and the same goes for anything where leaving behind the faded blooms just looks messy. With fruiting things like roses that make nice hips, viburnums, and the like, I leave the faded flowers intact to set beautiful bird-feeding fruit.

I make sure to 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. Edging beds to make a clean line and define them, and keeping those edges clean with regular fine-tuning with grass shears, makes a big difference in how the garden looks.

If I’m having design issues with the yard, just not hanging together visually, I turn to landscape architect Thomas Rainer’s valuable tips on reducing lawn areas and massing plants for visual impact, as well as designer and nursery owner Katherine Tracey’s advice on how to critique our own yards.

Welcoming Wildlife

Want more wildlife, including birds? I create a habitat garden and also refer to the Q&A with wildlife ecologist Doug Tallamy of the University of Delaware on creating backyard habitat. In our latest conversation, Tallamy tackled the topic of showier nativars (cultivars of native plants) with colorful leaves, versus the wild type, and how wildlife views these ornamental changes.

Will this be the year I add water, whether in-ground or simply an easy seasonal trough? And I always encourage pollinators by getting to know more about them, with help from the Xerces Society. My insect fascination goes beyond bees, too – I learn about other native insects as well.

Saying Goodbye to the Lawn

Less lawn means space for more diverse plantings and therefore support of more wildlife diversity, from insects on up. Do I want to mow differently, as I’ve done the last three years to good result? And if I’m sick of deer damage, maybe it’s time to plan for upgrades in deer control. If by this point, I’ve tired of deer damage, perhaps this will be the year I fence the yard or at least a key area, using one of these approaches.

So there you have it, dear gardeners. June may bring the “shaggies” to your door, but with a little know-how and elbow grease, we can tame this verdant invasion and create a thriving, wildlife-friendly oasis. Happy gardening, and don’t forget to visit todaysgardens.org for more inspiration and resources.

Today’s Garden is Garden and Landscape Company, provides all you need about Garden and Landscape Design to get better garden decorations.

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