It is not for nothing that ‘June is Bustin’ Out All Over’ was such a hit song. After all the uncertainties of spring, by now the garden is really moving, and in many areas, especially in the northeast, this really is the high point of the garden year. In warmer states the heat of summer will have already arrived, bringing its own garden issues, but in many places the nights are still a bit cooler, and the air fresher, making the garden exactly where you want to be. The gardener’s life is not all easy living though, and there are important things to do this month, or the garden will soon be looking sad and overgrown. That is not what you want when it becomes time to relax and keep cool, so let’s look at some things to do this month, that will keep your garden humming along.
Key Garden Chores for June
- Stay on top of the weeds by hoeing and mulching
- Complete planting annuals in beds and boxes
- Dead Head as needed – to maximize next year’s bloom or keep rebloomers going strong
- Finish Pruning Spring-flowering Shrubs
- Control pests the Natural Way
A nasty topic to start with, so let’s get it out of the way. Nasty it may be, but no-one loves a weedy garden, so it must be tackled. If you have started a new garden the chances are that weeds are a big issue. The good news is that if you get on top of them, they will fade in importance over time, and in a few years they will hardy be an issue anymore – if you handle it right.
The key to getting on top of weeds is to never let them seed. Old-timers say, ‘One year’s seeds mean seven years weeds’, and as usual they have that right. Once the weeds produce seed – and some start doing it when they are just a few inches tall, they spread around hundreds and thousands of themselves, programmed to germinate erratically, over many years – like landmines. To prevent that happening, and to reduce the population of weed seeds in your beds, here is what you do. For newly planted beds, the key tool you need is a hoe. Not just any old hoe, but the type called a scuffle, or Dutch hoe. This is the one with a flat horizontal blade with one or two sharpened sides. When you hold it the blade sits horizontally, flat on the ground. Trust me on this, don’t settle for anything else! There is a more detail on using one in the ‘May in the Garden’ blog.
Mulching is another way to control weeds, and since it also feeds your soil and plants, as well as conserving moisture, it is a superb thing to be doing. If you didn’t already do it back in the spring, then get it done now, before full summer sets in. Make a priority of the plants that enjoy cool roots and don’t like drought, but there is hardy a plant in your garden that won’t benefit from it. Although they need more regular replacing, organic mulches like composts, manures and rotted leaves are so much better than stones and bark.
Finish Planting Annuals
Early June is a great time in the north for filling in your garden with annual plantings. We promote the use of permanent planting for gardens – shrubs, groundcovers and ornamental grasses – but there is still a place for annual flowers. Edge a shady bed with white Impatiens. They are easy to grow, shade loving, and brighten up dark corners. Since you will be using your decks and terraces now, pots with annuals, or small shrubs like Drift Roses, are a great way to brighten them and make a party atmosphere. When planning what to grow in them, there is a simple principle to follow – the TFS rule.
‘Thriller, Filler, Spiller’ is what that stands for. The ‘Thriller’ is a plant that is especially attractive, with striking foliage perhaps. It could be an ornamental grass, or a narrow golden evergreen, or brightly-colored Barberry plants, especially some of the narrow, upright types, are popular for this. Surround it with the ‘Filler’, which is something bulky and in a complementary or contrasting color. If you want to use shrubs, Drift roses are perfect, with their continuous bloom of small flowers and their full, disease-free foliage. The ‘Spiller’ is a trailing plant, perhaps petunias, or soft cascading silver foliage. This softens the edges of your planter. If you always use these three components in your arrangements, you can’t go wrong, and the effect will be great.
Dead-Head as Needed
It is important to dead-head plants that have the potential for continuous or repeat flowering, or to get the maximum blooms next year. The Butterfly bush for example, which will be showing its first flowers sometime this month. Removing dead flower heads, but leaving all the full-sized leaves, encourages more blooms and prevents your bushes from diverting their energy into seed production. Roses too really benefit from keeping this up, as well as keeping them fresh and attractive. It’s a pleasant job, that doesn’t take long, and for plants that don’t have attractive fruits it makes sure you get lots of blooms next year. Rhododendrons and Pieris (Lily-of-the-valley bush) really benefit from having their dead flower heads snapped of just above the first leaves. They will reward you with lots of blooms next year.
Finish Pruning Spring Shrubs
If you haven’t already done it by now, don’t delay any longer in pruning those deciduous shrubs that have already bloomed. You should take out most or all of the stems that bloomed, leaving the plants open and airy, with well-spaced branches. If you don’t do it annually, in a few years you will be looking at some very messy bushes.
Simple steps, like spraying for aphids with dilute soap, or using nature-friendly neem oil, will keep on top of any pests you see, so that your June garden is a delight to visit. Shop wisely for plants, focusing on varieties that are disease-resistant, such as modern roses, so that you aren’t trapped in a cycle of chemical spraying.
***If you want to check the availability of any of the plants mentioned here, go to our Home Page, click on the ‘Search’ button in the upper right, and type in your choice – both common names and botanical ones will work. If, sadly, you find the item sold out, click on the ‘notify me’ box beside the size you want, and you will get an email the moment that plant is available again – it’s easy.