My perennial and vegetable gardens require quite a bit of tending during the peak season. It becomes habit after a while, but I realized it might be helpful to provide a minor guide to June garden maintenance. This is what I do in my zone 6a garden now.
Deadheading… I can’t say enough about this. It makes such a difference. Deadheading is cutting off the spent blossoms of your plants. By doing this you direct the energy the plant would expend on seed production back into either root/bulb/rhizome and leaf growth, or into additional flower production on some perennials and all annuals. My perennial salvias bloom for ages when I deadhead. My planters that are filled with annuals reward me with abundant blooms all season if I pay attention to deadheading. Many annuals don’t need to be deadheaded, but if you see them clearly producing a seedpod, nip it off (snapdragons, annual salvias, cosmos and petunias for example).
Shearing… This is the kissing cousin of deadheading. It’s used to both remove masses of spent flowers and to generally tidy up the appearance of herbaceous perennials once they’ve gotten a bit scraggily (catmints, cerastium etc.). They might look a bit sad for a short time, but they’ll regrow and reward you with a fresh appearance in the dog days of summer. You may even get a second bloom out of many things.
Dividing… I’m sure I’ll have people who will contradict me on the timing of my divisions, but I start as soon as they’ve finished blooming. My Grandmother would say ‘make hay while the sun shines’, loosely translated that means do it while you have the opportunity. I’ll be starting on my iris shortly and stealing peonies from my Mothers garden bed ASAP (Hi Mom!). Water them well, especially if it turns super warm. And I swear I have never lost a plant by dividing as I go through the seasons.
Staking & supports… This is another chore that needs to be kept up over the months. I just staked my echinacea and a perennial sunflower (just about everything else has it’s supports in by May). I’ll need to keep running the string up the sunflowers to keep it looking natural. Once in a while I also need to stake individual blooms if they’re too large and are in danger of flopping over.
Planting… This is mostly in the veggie garden. I keep planting lettuce seed every couple weeks and I’m trying to stagger summer squash since mine are always attacked by bugs when they’re in the ground. Holding back a few plants extends my harvest season. I’ve also been removing trees and shrubs that were killed over this horrible winter and replacing them with nursery and mail order finds.
Weeding… Does this ever stop??? Just keep at it. My favorite weeding tool is a boiling pot of water. I use it between the pavers on my back patio and in any little crevice that harbors a weed. It kills the root and any seed that may be waiting to germinate. It beats chemicals! And if you’re pulling poison ivy, I buy thin gloves at the grocery store, yank the vines, and then toss the gloves. They’re also great for chopping hot peppers.
Mulching… Kissing cousin of weeding perhaps? I’m still not done (and I have to thank my husband for being so good about lugging mulch). One of my favorite mulching tips is to save brown bags from the grocery store and lay them down as an additional weed barrier beneath the bark/straw/salt hay/pine needles. It helps to smother anything that you really don’t want growing in that spot and will eventually rot out, thus enriching your soil.
Feeding… I try and feed anything in a container every time I water – they absolutely love it, especially the annuals and citrus. It doesn’t always happen, but I make a serious effort, and I never feed them at full strength, I’ll cut it by about half. My veggie garden I try and feed weekly at the recommended strength. The perennial bed receives compost and a granular fertilizer in the early spring. If I have something tucked in there that’s an annual or veggie I make the effort to hit that with the feeding can.
Minimal Pruning… I’m always trimming broken, crossed or dead branches as I see them, but I just finished the lilacs and I wouldn’t prune them at any other point on the calendar. There are certain plants that bloom on old wood and you need to get them after they have blossomed. A general rule is to prune any spring bloomers after they’ve blossomed. There are exceptions, usually things that continue to bloom through the season, but don’t get crazy about pruning. Even if you goof, it’s rarely fatal.
So that’s what I’m up to now – at least in the gardens.
Thanks as always for reading EG and let me know what you’re doing in your garden. Maybe I’m forgetting something!