June 21 is the official first day of summer, but for many gardeners, it’s full-on heat already! By now, you’ve likely planted much of your warm-season garden, but planting and garden chores continue this month in spite of the heat or humidity. Follow this checklist to stay current with your June garden chores, always remembering to consult your local garden experts on the best times to plant.
Remember last year when you had so many zucchini, tomatoes, and figs that you didn’t know what to do with them? Make a plan now for creative ways to use your surplus harvest so it doesn’t go to waste. Have a watering plan in place to ensure your garden gets adequate irrigation when rainfall levels are low and temps are high.
Going away for vacation? Make proper plans to have your garden checked on in your absence — have a trusted neighbor make sure your garden is watered, and let them know they can harvest anything they see for their dinner that night!
And lastly, don’t forget that garden journal. Make notes about the tomato varieties that are super tasty, as well as the annuals that are thriving or bugs that are munching. You only think you’ll remember, and we don’t want you kicking yourself later.
Prepare & Maintain
From planting, watering, weeding, and even harvesting, June keeps a gardener busy. It’s good to set goals for your garden. Consider the following tips to maintain the hard work you’ve put into your garden so far.
- Begin planning for your fall garden — I like to stay a season ahead so I’m not caught off guard when the time comes. Plan your plantings, organize your seed or bulb orders, and start drawing out that new bed.
- Take an inventory of your garden supplies now — trust me, you don’t want to have an invasion of pests only to realize at the last minute that you’re out of Bt.
- Plan to rise earlier to get necessary garden chores done — it’s cooler and less humid, and will be much more comfortable and safe for you.
- Prune spring-flowering shrubs and trees (if necessary) after they have completed blooming, and lightly trim up any evergreen shrubs after the new bright green growth turns darker.
- Keep any dead tree limbs pruned — it’s the start of hurricane season, and you do not want those heavy limbs falling on your house or garden.
- Speaking of trees – look up and be on the watch for bagworms that can defoliate a tree in no time flat. Attract natural predators like parasitic wasps, or treat with a product that contains BTK (Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki)
- Protect any ripening berries with netting – and be on the lookout for fallen fruit from trees — clean it up quickly to avoid attracting critters.
- Remove any cool-season plant that has bolted — leaving those old plants in your garden is an invitation for pests and disease that easily spreads to new plantings.
- Got farm/urban farm animals like goats or chickens? If you’re cleaning up your cool-season garden now, let them in for a day or so to clean it all up for you.
- Keep succession planting your summer greens – like warm-season spinach or chard for continual harvest.
- Stay on top of harvesting to ensure optimal flavor and texture.
- Water your garden regularly — both edibles and ornamentals. Spring rains may be lessening, and your garden depends upon you for consistent irrigation in order to flower and fruit the best it can.
- Stake tomato plants when they’re young and prune off the suckers at the bottom.
- Start pinching back those fall bloomers – like monarda and asters — it’ll keep their shape more attractive when the time comes for them to shine.
- Water new plants consistently to get them established – and remember that deeper but less frequent watering is better for those plantings that are humming right along. No sprinkling allowed — you’ll simply leave your plants gasping for a drink.
All zones: Provide support structures or cages for peas, cucumbers, beans, or tomatoes. Be on the lookout for garden pests like stinkbugs, grasshoppers, snails/slugs, and caterpillars — they can do enormous damage overnight. Make sure all planted beds (both edible and ornamental) are adequately mulched suppress weeds and preserve soil moisture. Animals like birds and toads will appreciate a freshwater supply during the hot summer, too, and while you’re at it, keep your compost pile moist so it will “cook.”
Zones 3-6: Plant all veggie crops, and sow seeds of carrots, beets, and beans. Harvest any early season crops, and remove any lingering cool-season crops that are past their prime. Thin seedlings to avoid future plant crowding, which can lead to poor plant health. Start broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage seedlings for fall planting, and divide and replant irises. Use bird netting to protect ripening strawberries from pesky birds and squirrels, and side-dress asparagus and rhubarb beds with a balanced fertilizer. Prune old canes from climbing roses, and fertilize all roses after flowers begin to fade. Keep your lawn mowed to a height of 2-3”. Stay on top of weeds so they don’t choke out your veggies, flowers, and perennials. Water your garden 1” a week, unless you get, receive adequate rainfall (or unless your arid garden doesn’t require it). Continue succession-sowing and planting of warm-season veggies and flowers for continuous harvest and bloom. Deadhead spring-flowering perennials and prune spring-flowering shrubs and trees.
Zones 7-8: As the weather heats up, your options for veggie plantings begin to dwindle, so check with your local extension office or trusted garden center for what is recommended to plant in your area. Plant summer annuals like cosmos, marigolds, vincas, and sunflowers, and remove faded or dead flowers on plants to encourage new growth. Keep an eye out for pests and diseases in the garden, particularly blossom end rot, spider mites, lace bugs, and gray leaf spot. Finish seeding warm weather grasses by the end of June, and establish and stick to a mowing schedule — grass grows more quickly when the temps heat up! Keep a 2-3” layer of mulch in planting beds to conserve soil moisture and suppress weeds.
Zones 7-10: Use the heat of the sun to solarize new beds. As with the cooler climates, stay on top of your weeding to avoid a maintenance nightmare down the road. Got any cool-season plants hanging out in your garden? Remove and compost them before they invite unwanted bugs into your garden space. Have unplanted beds right now? Plant cover crops to improve the soil and if you are planting in raised beds, you could try a ready to use raised bed soil. Continue to water deeply rather (than a surface sprinkling) to encourage deep roots and drought tolerance. Prune your spring-flowering shrubs and trees.
Sow & Plant Outdoor
Zone 4: Harden off tomato, pepper, and eggplant transplants and get them out into the garden. Go ahead and directly sow seeds of squash, sweet potatoes, rutabagas, okra, cucumbers, beets, corn, leaf lettuce, and lima beans into the garden as well. Plant container roses, shrubs, trees, as well as warm-season annuals and heat-loving herbs.
Zones 5-6: Direct sow seeds of bush beans, pole beans, cucumbers, squash, and melons. You can also direct sow kale, salad greens (only heat-tolerant varieties), carrots, beets, and radishes. Get tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers in the ground, too, as well as warm-season annuals.
Zones 7-8: Continue succession planting pole beans, bush beans, winter squash, okra, black-eyed peas, and Malabar spinach. Most herbs can still be planted, as well as warm-season annuals. If you’re planting perennials, be sure to give them plenty of regular water to get established, and avoid planting during heat waves when your plants can get stressed.
Zones 4-6: Harvest beets, turnips, kale, lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, and asparagus.
Zones 7-10: Harvest beets, squash, Malabar spinach, corn, beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and eggplant.