June To Do in the Garden

by Gary Crispell, EMGV

Summer must have started because Memorial Day has come and gone. As I write this it is cold and wet and generally unpleasant. Worst of all, it is totally not conducive to gardening. How rude.

Meanwhile the Accidental Cottage Garden (ACG) is trying its best to ignore the unpleasantness. Current cohabitating contributors to the conspicuously colorful collection of organisms with cellulose cell walls include lance-leaf coreopsis (C. lanceolata), orange daylilies (Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus), black-eyed susans (Rudbeckia hirta), English daisies (Bellis perennis), Stoke’s aster (Stoksia laevis), wand flower (Guara lindheimeri), gallardia (G. pulchella), Asiatic lily (Lilium x ‘Corsica’), thyme (Thymus vulgaris), and prairie cone flower/Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera). The Siberian wall flower (Cheiranthus allioni) and sweet William (Dianthus barbatus ‘Sweet Black Cherry’) are carry-overs from last month. A decidedly delightful display, if I do say so myself.

The weather continues to be perplexing. At least we can garden without breaking a sweat. Thought for the month: If a beverage containing alcohol is a potent potable, is a non-alcoholic beverage impotent? LET’S GARDEN!!!

LAWN CARE: Because I realize there are some of you out there who are too busy/new to the piedmont of NC/not paying attention/just plain horticulturally uneducated, I am urging you to fertilize your warm season grasses (Bermuda, zoysia) now, as in right now. April or May would have been just fine, but now it is mandatory. You’ll know how much and what formulation because you got a FREE SOIL TEST earlier (No. Probably not as you haven’t fertilized yet. All excuses from above I suppose.) Soil tests are free from April through November. Contact the NC Cooperative Extension office (919 560-0525) to get a free test kit with instructions. If you insist on winging it, 1 pound of Nitrogen per 1000 square feet of turf is a safe application rate.

June is THE month to fertilize centipede grass. The 1 pound per 1000 sq.ft. rate is applicable to centipede, also.

Summer is a good time to core aerate any lawn. Aeration facilitates air, water and nutrient movement through the soil and to the roots zone.

Always wanted a zoysia grass lawn? June is a really good month to start one. You will need to use sod or plugs as zoysia seed is not available.

FERTILIZING: Dogwoods (Cornus sps.) can be fertilized now. Again, a FREE SOIL TEST and its resulting recommendations would be helpful here. I am unable to offer suggestions here. Too many variables. Throw a handful of 10-10-10 or equivalent at the plants in the veggie garden. It’ll assist the quantity and quality of your anticipated harvest.

PLANTING: All of y’all who have been waiting for warm weather to plant your vegetable garden better hustle up now. It’s apparently as warm as it’s going to get for a bit and if you want tomatoes before Labor Day… It is necessary at this point to install plants rather than seeds for most vegetables other than beans and maybe pumpkins.

For those of you who plan ahead, it’s time to start seeds for your fall/winter garden. Cruciferous veggies (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower. kale, collards) can be started now to be transplanted in mid-July.

PRUNING: Coniferous (produce seeds in cones) evergreens such as pine, juniper, chamaecyparis, cryptomeria can be lightly pruned now. Be aware, they generally do not produce new leaves beneath a pruning cut.

Hedges and any severely overgrown plants can be radically cut back. The book says never more than 1/3 of the top, but anecdotally I can tell you that many broadleaf evergreens and deciduous shrubs can be reduced to 18 inches or so and recover nicely. (The author nor the publication nor the Master Gardener program nor NCSU Cooperative Extension nor the university assume any liability for plants that do not recover.)

Continue to pinch back garden mums (Chrysanthemum maximum) until mid-July if it is fall blooms you desire. If you don’t care when they bloom, well good for you, you rebel.

Big leaf hydrangea (H. macrophylla) can be pruned as soon as the blooms fade.

Azaleas, including Encore cultivars, can be pruned anytime from bloom fade through the 4 th of July. Dieback can occur in ericaceous (acid loving) plants in early summer. Rhododendrons, including azaleas, pieris and others can be infected by a Phomopsis fungus. Prune the infected branches well below the infection and sterilize your pruning tools between cuts with a 10% bleach solution or 70% alcohol. (Good gracious, NO! Not 140 proof vodka.) Destroy all clippings.

SPRAYING: BOLO (be on the lookout) for the following dastardly destructive six and eight legged pests: lace bugs (azaleas, pyracantha), leaf miners (boxwoods), spider mites (needle leaf evergreens), bag worms (mostly, but not exclusively, on needle leaf evergreens) and aphids on anything they can get their pointy little mouth parts into.

There are numerous pest control products available for control. Try an organic product first. The planet is counting on you.

June is prime Japanese beetle time. (Contrary to popular myth, they do not sing “Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in Japanese while devouring your roses and crape myrtles.) Treat them with appropriate pesticide or pick ‘em off and drown ’em. Smush ‘em if it gives you satisfaction. (Personally, “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”.)

Be aware of tomato early blight. It shows up as brown spots on the lower leaves followed by a yellowing around the spots. Eventually the whole leaf will usually turn yellow and fall off. There are several products available to treat early blight. Some of them even have zero days until harvest rating.

Vegetable gardens are susceptible to a myriad of pests. Lots of insects (and other genera) like the fruits of your labor as much as you do (and they outnumber us). There are multiple species of worms seeking sustenance from your cruciferous veggies. Then there are the cucurbit lovers like cucumber beetles on (believe it or not) cucumbers and other cucurbits, squash borers on most squash varieties and melons. You might find flea beetles (They don’t sing either.) on any bean species plus tomatoes and eggplant. And let us not forget the ubiquitous aphids.

Continue spray programs for roses, fruit trees and bunch grapes.

Use pesticides only when necessary. ALWAYS read the label and follow the instructions. Try organic first.

A word about watering. Sometime this summer you will find it necessary to supplement Mother Nature’s somewhat capricious watering schedule. Plants, including lawn grasses, need about one inch of water per week to sustain growth. It is best applied in the early morning to minimize evaporative loss. Evening watering is acceptable if the leaf surfaces will be dry before nightfall. Damp leaves promote disease.

Alas, strawberry season is over. Therefore, it is appropriate to renovate the beds in preparation for September planting.

Once you have exhausted the days’ to do list (and most likely yourself) one should take time to kick back and enjoy the garden. Outdoor living spaces were made for June evenings. Food, family, friends (and a cool beverage). That’s what it’s all about. As T.S. Eliot wrote, “There is no life that is not in community.”

Find your community and welcome to summer.

All photos: Gary Crispell