As I type this, we are being gifted with a perfect June day. Low humidity, cool breeze, warm temperatures…all of the things over which we fantasize in January. I am being gifted however with a head cold, and must enjoy the weather through my bedroom window.
Lucky for me and for other gardeners, it looks as if it won’t be the only perfect day ahead. Scanning extended weather forecasts, the beginning of this particular Mid-Atlantic June is promising quiet cool evenings, not too much in the way of bugs and a good deal in the way of fresh young beauty unblemished by excessive heat. The gardener will be busy, and find that his available hours to work bear no relation to the amount of work that needs to be done.
That said, this month’s list starts with an admonishment….
Stop and enjoy your garden. There is no point in doing this for the sake of some unattainable perfection…some five minute accolade from your garden club or an honorable mention on your HOA Facebook page. Garden for yourself, for the people you love, for the love of your plants – and then sit down and immerse yourself in your creation. Sooner than you think, all will be elves and snowmen and the wraiths of winter. Don’t miss the good times in your quest to create potential good times.
Well, weeding. Obviously. Summer weeds are well underway and some, like clover, Japanese stilt grass, pig weed, jewel weed and lady’s thumb are very scrape-able. Others, like dandelion and burdock will require a trowel if you don’t wish to see them again in a month.
WAIT UNTIL JULY to issue final death certificates for plants you think died over the winter.
Shrubs that have bloomed such as lilac, kerria or forsythia can be cut back now. If you wait a few months you will cut off all of the potential flowers for next year. That would be tragic, and quite frankly criminal.
Planting summer vegetables continues well into this month for late August harvests. If you forgot to plant peas and spinach, you can stop feeling guilty now. It’s over.
Keep your containers watered every day. If you got crazy at the nurseries and now have too many containers, group them together and near the water source. For maximum effect, containers look better in groups of three or five anyway.
You may be covering vegetables with fleece or netting to discourage bugs. If you have flowering vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers or zucchini you will need to remove it as soon as they flower to encourage pollinators. As for the bad bugs – time for hand picking, stem coverage (squash borer), and a large glass of wine (for you).
Fertilizer can still be added to shrubs, vegetables and flowers. However, make sure they are well watered before you give them anything.
Do not forget to turn over saucers, non-draining pots or anything that can hold a tablespoon or two of water. Day-biting tiger mosquitoes love it when you’re too busy to notice mosquito resorts created all over your patio. Food and shelter all in one place.
Some parts of your garden will look better than others at any given time in the garden. THIS IS OKAY, not to mention perfectly natural. Stop reading the magazines. Or at least read them with a strongly developed sense of cynicism. Pencil-thin models aren’t the only things well-posed, well-lit and well-airbrushed…
Many house plants can go outside now for a revitalizing stint in the sunshine. You’d be amazed how good a housebound shefflera or asparagus fern looks when it actually gets water every day from the hose. Bring them outside gradually, remembering that full sun can burn very quickly and most will need to adjust to the new surroundings.
Houseplants soften edges of rooms and usually help with a room that is struggling in terms of decoration. If you’ve used them this way only to lose them to the annual deck migration, you are now liable to realize how dirty the floor is, how tired your sofa looks or how much your walls need color. Spring cleaning is usually on the menu right about now.
Don’t forget about your orchids, cuttings and faithful inside soldiers. Houseplants left indoors still need water and feed throughout the season.
“What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade.”
– Gertrude Jekyll