June: To Do in the Garden

by Gary Crispell, EMGV

Will you look at that!  It’s June…already.  Did May actually occur?  Oh, yeah.  Now I remember.  There was Mother’s Day, and a grandkid graduated from Duke and Memorial Day (really short memory here), and planting, watering, mowing, affordable housing meetings…  Sheesh!  No wonder I lost track.  The plate overfloweth.  But wait.  June has white space on its calendar.  Whoa.  What’s that all about?  I’ll take it.  The gardening calendar, however, is not resplendent with white space.  First, though an update on the Accidental Cottage Garden.

The Accidental Cottage Garden is popping with color thanks to (Left) the Asiatic lily (Lilium x ‘Corsica’), (Top Right) butterfly weed with a bumble bee friend (Asclepesis tuberosa), (Bottom Right) gallardia (G. puclchella), and the Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera). (Image Credit: Gary Crispell)

The space in front of the house is spectacular.  The Siberian Wallflower (Cheiranthus allionii) that Melinda ID’d for me (Thank you, Melinda!) is nearly done as is the dianthus (Dianthus x ‘Sweetie Pie’).  The new orange is butterfly weed (Asclepesis tuberosa) and the new pink is an Asiatic lily (Lilium x ‘Corsica’). They have lots of friends blooming or fixin’ to.  The English daisies (Bellis perennis) contrast nicely with the gallardia (G. puclchella), the Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera), and the Knockout rose (Rosa x ‘Radtko’).  Because it no longer fit in the backyard plan there is a potted hibiscus (Hibiscus x hybrid) in front of the kitchen window. There are two plants in the pot, a double red and a double orange.  We love it because when everyone else is hot and tired she just keeps blooming (as long as I remember to feed her regularly).

Now let’s get at that gardening calendar before July runs us inside to the AC.


Last call to get off your duff and feed that warm season grass (Bermuda, zoysia).  Well, maybe not THE last call, but if you really want a lush green lawn all summer…just sayin’.  Of course, we know you sent in a FREE SOIL TEST last fall or this spring so you know exactly how much and what N-P-K ratio to apply, right?  (They are free from April through November, friends.) Click HERE for more info on soil testing.

June is THE month to fertilize centipede grass.  If you, too, didn’t get a soil test, the recommended application is ½ pound of 15-0-14 or equivalent per 1000 square feet.

June is as good a month as any (and better than most) to core aerate any lawn.  It will facilitate getting water and nutrients down in the root zone where the plants can use them.   And it puts air into our heavy Piedmont soil.  Win, win, win.

Keep warm season lawns mowed to a height of 1 ½ inches and cool season lawns to 3-4 inches.


This is a great time to fertilize dogwoods (Cornus spp.).

Vegetable gardens will reward you later if you side dress them now with a little balanced fertilizer.


For everybody who has been trying to out-wait the frost; it’s gone until October and you can plant the veggie garden now.  It is a bit late for seeding most things, so transplants are in order for these guys:  tomatoes, peppers, black-eyed peas, lima, green and wax beans, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, squash, cucumbers, etc.

Start from seeds for mid-July planting Brussels sprouts, broccoli and collards.


June is a fine time to prune lots of stuff.  Make sure the pruning tools are sharp and lubricated (Not the operator, though.  Only the tools should be lubricated.) 

Coniferous (seeds form in cones) evergreens such as cedars, arborvitaes, chamaecyparis, junipers, cryptomeria, pines, etc. fall into that category and may be pruned now.  Not severely, though.  They don’t generally put out new growth below the cut.

Azaleas should be pruned before the 4th of July except for Encores® which to my limited knowledge, need only be pruned for shape and usually in the spring.

Sometimes acid-loving plants (ericaceous plants) suffer from a disease called dieback.  Prune it out as soon as you detect it by making cuts 4-6 inches below the affected part and sanitize the pruner with 10% bleach between cuts.

Hydrangea macrophylla (macro=big, phylla=leaf) can be pruned when the flowers fade.

Keep garden mums (Chrysanthemum spp.) pinched back until mid-July for fall blooms.


Be vigilant in looking for June’s usual suspects—lace bugs, leaf miners, aphids and bagworms.  If the bagworms have already ensconced themselves in bags you will have to pick them off the plant and dispose of them as you see fit.  (I smush ‘em.)  Treat the others as necessary with an appropriate insecticide.  As always read the label and follow the instructions.

Be aware of tomato early blight.  It is caused by either of two closely related fungi, Alternaria tomatophila or A. solani.  (Sometimes I actually research this stuff.)  The initial symptoms are dark spots on the leaves.  The spots will eventually form concentric circles, yellow and then brown the leaves.  Remove infected leaves and treat the plant with fungicide.  There are organic options.

While we’re in the veggie garden (If one grows tomatoes in the flower garden, is it a flower garden with tomatoes or a tomato garden with flowers?  Isn’t philosophy fun?) There are hordes of insects in there that think every week is “Restaurant Week” for them.  Look out for any number of different worms on cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, etc.), cucumber beetles on cucumbers and melons, squash vine borers on other cucurbits (squash, melons, etc.), flea beetles on green beans, tomatoes & eggplant and aphids on just about everything.

(Left) Scout your garden frequently in June for early blight on tomatoes. Note the concentric circles on the leaves of this infected plant. (Image credit: Inga Meadows) (Center, Right) Another pest to watch for is the cucumber beetle who loves your cucumbers, squash, melons. It can come to your garden party dressed in spots or stripes. (Image credits: Debbie Roos and UNH Extension/ Alan T. Eaton)

Japanese beetles will make their grand entrance sometime this month.  Spray them, powder the plants or pick them off and drown them.  (My dad gave me a penny a beetle back in the Cretaceous Period.).

Poison ivy/oak, kudzu and honeysuckle are ripe for eradication (or at least a modicum of control) this month.

As usual, continue spray programs for roses, fruit trees and bunch grapes.



You know at some point this summer it will be necessary to supplement Mother Nature as her summertime efforts tend to be sporadic and frequently insufficient.  Plants (lawns and gardens) need about 1 inch of water per week to remain healthy.  Irrigation water is best applied in the morning to minimize evaporation and the spread of disease.  (Mother N knows this, but does not read this blog.)

Strawberry beds can be renovated now because strawberry fields are not forever, actually.

Patios and decks should receive maximum use this month.  Cool beverages, lite hors-d’oeuvres and good conversation with friends are recommended.  Organic varieties of each are available.

Happy summer, y’all.  Enjoy this, the “goodliest state”.   


Resources and Additional Information

NCSU’s TurfFiles Carolina Lawns: A Guide to Maintaining Quality Turf in the Landscape offers an comprehensive look at care for all types of lawns


Clemson University’s Home and Garden Information Center fact sheet on pruning shrubs offers advice on methods and timing


Check out NCSU’s Central North Carolina Planting Calendar for Annual Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs


To learn more about tomato diseases including early blight of tomatoes and identification and management of common insects on veggies, see NSCU’s helpful sites

Tomatoes: https://vegetables.ces.ncsu.edu/tomatoes-diseases/

Cucurbits: https://entomology.ces.ncsu.edu/cucurbit-insect-management-in-north-carolina/

Nightshades: https://entomology.ces.ncsu.edu/insect-management-on-fruiting-vegetables-in-north-carolina/

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