June 18, 2008
June Garden Calendar.
It's mid-June, the full moon (Strawberry Moon) is tonight, and as the enlightened ones (are these advisors new to you?) tell us, tomorrow it ought to be safe to put in your tender plants: annuals to their waiting beds and special containers, and vegetables to your gardens.
The enlightened ones are those who caution that when the full moon in May is not in the last week in May, there is a danger of a killing frost until the full moon in June has passed. They are the old timers, the Farmer's Almanac gurus, those in the know from decades of observing and planting crops for their kin's sustenance. Our recent weather doesn't seem to hold much hope for a late killing frost.
June is a month so full of activities in so many areas that I risk laying out a chore list for fear it will be torn to shreds for my implied suggestion that you all overwork yourselves. But, let's face it; it can be divided up into many days. Maybe even thirty, or so, parsing out so many hours for each depending on their priority. Lawn, garden, and landscape each want their do, and they shall have it.
Well, here is a partial list. I don't want to overwhelm you:
Move some of your houseplants, especially those used to a sunny window inside, to a screened porch or shaded location outside. Move out the rest in another week or two. Not into direct sunlight right away or you'll have major leaf scorch. But slowly and surely, they'll become accustomed and flourish for a couple of months of vacation like conditions.
My compost pile is active until frozen, and as soon as thawed, it is turned and added to. Do you save compost material in a freezer or in an animal safe container until ready to be added? Turn the pile again and again to aerate it. If there is no rainfall, remember to moisten it.
As lilac, rhododendron, and azalea blooms begin to fade, remember to remove them before they go to set seed. Otherwise seed set saps strength and will reduce next season's blossoming. This is also true for any of the spring flowering bulbs. Cut off the flower heads, and leave behind the foliage to replenish the bulb's energy for next year's flowers. It's also a good time to prune and shape the forsythia for next year, as they will form next year's flowers on this year's new growth.
Make plans to pick locally grown strawberries. If you're growing your own, protect ripening berries from birds with netting or row covers until you can harvest them.
If you have perennial flowerbeds, fertilize them with one pound of 5-10-5 or 5-10-10 per 100 square feet. Avoid getting it on the foliage. Fertilize annual flowerbeds and vegetable gardens the same, avoiding high nitrogen, to maximize flowers and fruit.
Mulch to reduce weeds, conserve moisture and reduce soil temperatures. This applies to annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs, vegetables and fruit and ornamental trees.
Now thru July is the best time to take softwood cuttings for rooting some of your favorites.
Needled evergreens at this time of year develop new growth knows as candles for their elongate-upright appearance. Cut or snap these in half to keep the trees and shrubs in preferred shape.
For any newly planted perennials, as well as established ones from previous years, put in stakes, ties, plant supports, and, of course, labels to provide all the necessaries. This is time well spent.
Mow lawn areas high (3 inches) and often and leave the clippings for extra nitrogen to the roots.
Set a rain gauge or two and monitor them closely before and after a rain event. Lawns, landscape plants, bedding plants, perennials and vegetables all require at least one inch of water a week, with two being preferred. If Mother Nature doesn't provide, you must.
If you grow groundcovers and are fond of spreading them, now is the best time to divide them and replant the divisions, making sure adequate water is supplied until they get established.
Spittle bugs are almost defined by their descriptive name: they are very tiny, hide beneath a self-created froth for protection that resembles spit, and they suck juices from host plants. There are twenty-three thousand species, they feed on a variety of grasses and evergreens, and they usually do not inflict and serious damage. They are easily removed with a spray from the garden hose. Once on the ground they are prey to a host of predators.
Got slugs? Place grapefruit, orange, cantaloupe, or honeydew melon shells on the ground around the suspect area at dusk. At dawn, go harvest out the slugs by scraping them out into soapy water. Beer traps every ten feet work, too. The beer evaporates, and rain dilutes it, so replenish as needed. Going on a hunt at night with a flashlight and a salt shaker or mild ammonia and water spray bottle will kill more than you can believe.
Thin out vegetables, especially root crops, so they will have enough room to grow properly.
If you have climbing roses, prune them back after their first bloom and remove dead and older canes closed to the ground. Fertilize other roses during their first bloom.
On fruit trees, remove some of the fruit in favor of a harvest of larger fruit.
It's past time to take down all your bird feeding stations and clean them thoroughly in preparation for fall. I hope the bears haven't started ahead of you. The exception is for those who enjoy feeding and observing the hummingbirds. I'm frequently asked if it's okay to use a honey solution. The answer is a resounding NO. It spoils quickly, is difficult for the birds to digest, can harbor botulism and can produce a fatal fungus. Sugar water is the way to go. Boil 4 parts of water to one of sugar. Fill feeder a little at a time keeping the reserves in the refrigerator. Keep feeders clean with a vinegar/water solution. No food coloring is needed. Tie a red ribbon nearby.
So, get out there, get some soil under your fingernails, and break a sweat. Being surrounded by lush vegetation is good for the psyche. Being immersed in nature makes one more at ease, lowers blood pressure, increases reaction time and productivity. It's a win/win and you get to enjoy the results, too.
The sweat of hard work is not to be displayed.
It is much more graceful to appear favored by the gods.
Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior, 1976.
The Garden of Ed. Submitted for publication in The Towne Crier on
June 18, 2008
© 2008 Ed Mues. All Rights Reserved.