June in the Garden

This is the month that officially becomes summer, and has the longest day of the year. The garden is starting to look lush and strong. Good things are happening out there!!! It’s a great time to give more time and attention in your garden, and there is work to be done!

Garden Prep

If your weeds are out of control, well, join the club!  With the weather warming up, they are healthy and happy and taking over.  Try to stay ahead of the problem.

Keep adding to your mulch throughout the summer to conserve water, keep roots cool, and the weeds under control.  It’s important to water well before applying mulch, or you will just insulate the dry soil underneath.  Pile mulch two to six inches deep under shrubs, trees, vines, flower and vegetable beds, remembering not to let the mulch lay against the trunks of trees and shrubs to prevent rot.

Are your tomatoes staked?  Your answer should be yes, but if not, DO IT NOW!!!

Planting

June is a great month to plant hydrangeas.   With a little care, hydrangeas are stunning bushes with flower balls that last a few months.   Along the coastal areas, they like the sun, but if you are inland, partial sun in the morning or late afternoon is okay, but mid-day is too hot for them.

June is generally a good month to plant tropicals so if you have wanted to plant hibiscus, plumeria or bougainvillea, this would be the optimal time.

Your cymbidiums should be finished blooming or getting close to being finished.  This is a good time to separate and repot your older cymbidiums if they are crowding their pots.   In the new pot, surround the original root ball with coarse organic material that drains well.

Vegetables to sow or transplant in June:  beets, carrots, celery, chard, corn, cucumbers, eggplants, lettuces (heat-tolerant and bolt-resistant varieties), melons, okra, peppers, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, radishes, summer and winter squash, tomatoes.

Flowers to sow or transplant in June:  alyssum, coreopsis, cosmos, foxgloves, gazania, marigolds, portulaca, salvias, statice, sunflowers, tithonia, zinnias.

Transplant only in June: ageratum, asters, calendula, campanula, dahlias, daisies (gloriosa, marguerite and Shasta), dianthus, dusty miller, gaillardia, geraniums, hibiscus, hollyhocks, hostas, ice plant, impatiens, lantana, lavenders, linaria, lobelia, penstemon, periwinkle, petunias, phlox, rudbeckia, stock, verbena, viola.

Watering

Water early in the morning to reduce evaporation.   Water more deeply to promote deep root growth.  Remember, we typically overwater so let your plants get stressed a little bit, keeping in mind that hot days can really be the final blow to plants that are already over stressed.

Aloes don’t need water right now, so withhold for the time being.  They are resting for the next few months.

Water citrus and avocado trees deeply, every two or three weeks, and mulch to maintain uniformly cool temperatures. Citrus roots grow beyond the tree’s dripline, so make the basin area larger.

Tomatoes don’t need as much water as you think.  If you have planted them with potting soil and in a space or pot that is at least a 15 gallon size, they will get a lot of moisture under the ground.  Right now I am watering my plants once a week.  Your tomatoes will be tastier if they aren’t overwatered.   A good indicator of watering need is the droopiness of the plant.  If your plant is wilting in the morning or late afternoon, it needs water.  Don’t judge it by mid-day droop.  I deep-water in the morning so the plant can dry off the rest of the day.

When you are watering the garden, spray down your citrus trees.  I’m starting to see the first signs of aphids so I am washing my citrus down regularly, hoping to stay ahead of the big problems later.

Fertilize

June is a hopeful month in the garden.  Everything is really starting to grow, and looks so fresh.  Plants are using a lot of energy to grow so they need food.  Fertilizing will be one of your biggest jobs this month.   Keeping them happy now will keep them healthier later.

If azaleas, gardenias, and other shrubs and citrus have yellow leaves but the veins remain green, they’re suffering from iron chlorosis. Water some chelated iron or iron sulfate into the soil around the plant roots. Chelating transforms the iron in the soil so plants can absorb it.

 Blossom end rot is a problem that you need to watch for on your veggies.  It strikes the fruit of tomatoes, eggplant and peppers. The end or bottom of the fruit will sort of sink in, turn dark brown or black and get real tough.  All is not lost. Calcium deficiency is the cause so you can preempt the problem by amending the soil with a shot of calcium.  Some forms are: bone meal, antacids, egg shells, plain old lime (not the fruit!!!).   Contrary to popular belief, Epsom salts are not a good solution because they add magnesium and sulfate to the soil which may inhibit the absorption of calcium into the plant.   Also, keep the watering consistent and mulch to keep moisture from fluctuating too much.

Feed all plants with a balanced fertilizer such as 16-16-16.  Well-nourished plants not only develop into stronger plants and produce flowers and fruits and vegetables longer, they are better-protected against insects and diseases, and better withstand heat and water stress.

An excellent “garden tea” fertilizer solution and foliage spray for general garden use is a mixture of one tablespoon fish emulsion*, one-half teaspoon seaweed or kelp, and one gallon water.  Spray this onto leaves, and irrigate root zones of vegetables, ornamentals, trees, and vines every two weeks throughout the growing season. It will help increase plant vigor and reduce insect damage. When applied later in the fall, it will help to harden plants off for cold weather.

*A little tip on the fish emulsion – wear some rubber gloves because the smell will linger for quite awhile on your hands.  It’s so stinky, but so effective!  Also, beware if you have a dog.  My dog will go nuts if I apply this anywhere he has access, which means holes dug to China and dirt everywhere, mostly on the dog!

Feed fruit trees approximately every three weeks during their growing season with a half or quarter dose of fertilizer to encourage them to produce fruit and grow strongly for next year’s fruit.

Some plumeria trees are starting to bloom now that the weather has warmed up a bit.  Mine has just started to send out one bloom stalk so I’m going to feed with Epson salts (1 tbsp: 1 gal water) and Super Bloom for the next couple of months.

Epsom salts are also great to feed to your summer veggie plants (eggplants, peppers, squashes, and tomatoes) when they are blooming and getting ready to set fruit.  Mix 1 tbsp to 1 gallon of water.  Spray on leaves and water around the base of your plants every couple of weeks.

Pest & Disease Control

Again, keep an eye out for black sooty mold on your citrus.  The cause is aphids so a good jet blast spray will really help a lot.  Do it every couple of days to keep the problem under control.

As the weather warms up the caterpillars will start eating everything in the garden.  Keep an eye out for the first signs so you can spray ASAP with BT or Spinosad.  I watch my Cecile Brunner roses, because they seem to show me the first sign of caterpillars which means the rest of my garden is next on the list!    It wouldn’t hurt to take a proactive stance and stray now to stay ahead of the problem.  Lucky for us, Spinosad comes in an application that just attaches to the hose and spray away you go!  Interesting side note: my dog takes a monthly dose of flea medicine of which spinosad is the main ingredient.  I decided that if it works inside the dog it can work outside the dog, so I spray the perimeter of the house now with my garden applicator of Spinosad.  Spinosad is considered a natural product and is approved for organic agriculture in many countries.

Borers are a problem in fruit trees.  Interestingly, sunburn is one of the biggest strains on the trees, making them more susceptible to borer infestation and fungus.  Paint tree trunks with a light-colored indoor latex paint to prevent sunburn damage.  Thin down to a solution of half water and half paint.

Protect vine vegetables from snails and slugs by lifting the fruits up onto cans, berry baskets, or boards. Also, spread crushed eggshells under each plant–the snails and slugs will avoid the sharp particles.

Pruning

My Cecile Brunner roses have finished blooming so I’ve been cutting back the stems and shaping the plants a bit.  This applies to any climbing rose.

Wisteria has finished blooming and the growth is going into overdrive.  My vine went from looking neat and tidy to wild and crazy in a couple of weeks.  Go ahead and trim to keep under control.  You’ll be glad you did later in the year.  Wisteria turns into a thick mess if you don’t keep it under control, but don’t go overboard or you won’t get a hearty bloom next year.

Epiphyllums are almost finished blooming so I’m tidying up by picking off the dead buds.   Cuttings may be taken to get new plants started.

It’s tempting to let your fruit trees produce as much as they can, but it is important to thin fruits on trees and vines.   When thinned, grape clusters will produce fewer but larger individual fruits, rather than many tiny ones. Fruit trees should be thinned evenly on each side of the tree to lessen strain on the tree, especially the young ones.   Prune at least three inches between apricots and plums; and five inches between peaches, nectarines, pears, and apples.

Citrus trees bear fruit produced on new wood, so remove entire branches (thinning) rather than shortening them (heading back). To redirect branches, trim them to a leaf pointing in the direction you want new growth to go.

Miscellaneous

My herbs are starting to come in faster than I can use them, so it’s time for a little kitchen prep.  I’m washing, chopping finely, and freezing in ice cubes trays to have herbs ready for soups, sauces,  and dressings later in the year.

Pick early and often.  Check your garden every couple of days for harvesting purposes.    Harvest your fruits and vegetables as soon as they are ripe so they are the freshest possible and the birds don’t start moving in our your hard work.  Also, if veggies are left on the plant too long will signal the plant to slow down so they won’t blossom as much.    This is especially true for beans, cucumbers, eggplants, squashes, and tomatoes.  Picking regularly helps increase your yield, and anyway, we want to eat FRESH, right?!

Enjoy your bounty whether it’s fruit, veggies, or flowers.  We can grow just about anything in Southern California so it’s easy to take for granted.  Fresh cut flowers or a homegrown salad are always inspiring, and the dirt under my fingernails is a bonus!

HAPPY GARDENING!!!

Credit where credit is due: This monthly garden chores compilation comes from a lot of resources, past and present, including: Sunset Magazine, Union-Tribune, San Diego Floral Association, San Diego Horticulture Society, San Diego Home & Garden, Anderson’s La Costa Nursery, miscellaneous tidbits found on the web, in the library, from fellow gardeners, and personal experience in the garden.