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The Three W's of June: Weed, Water, and Watch

A brown moth sits on a blue flower
Summer isn't quite here yet, but we're already having days in the 90s. (Photo: Robert Kocher)

June is the time to weed, water, and watch. If a heavy mulch was applied earlier in the season, then the weeds should be at a minimum this time of year. If mulching did not fit into the busy spring schedule, then now is the time to get the weeds under control and mulch immediately thereafter, or start weeding weekly to stay ahead. Besides shading and crowding out intended plants in the garden, weeds consume soil moisture the ornamental landscape and garden plants need daily.

Which brings me to water. Water when needed by watching the weather, most plants need one inch of water per week. If unsure how to judge the soil moisture content purchase a water meter, either a manual one or an electronic one connected to your phone via Bluetooth. I use the old "stick my finger in the ground to feel for the moisture" method — it works for me! In the lawn, I use the old screwdriver method: if a screwdriver can be pushed into the lawn a few inches deep, then there is adequate soil moisture. To monitor the rain, I placed a rain gauge in a container I pass by daily.

Take a daily walk and watch for insects, diseases, voles, moles, ground hogs, squirrels, rabbits, and invasive plants that find their way into the garden or landscape. Catching an issue early makes it easier to address. Use resources available such as the local Cooperative Extension Office, or send a question with photo to VHG’s website to confirm the identification of what ails a plant. With the summer heat in the 90s, remember to read the label of any product used in the garden, even organic products, for temperature sensitive application warnings in the heat of the day. Remember: the label is the law, so please read it, even on organic products.

While it is not too late to plant a vegetable or flower garden in June, doing so will demand a bit more effort to succeed. Transplants will require more water until the plants become established so mulch them well and water often. Transplant stress can be reduced by creating temporary shade using a floating row cover with remay fabric, or anything you can fashion to shade the plant(s) until the transplants acclimate to the new location (this means they stop wilting every day).

Sowing seeds will require a thin layer of mulch and daily watering until they germinate. After germination, I avoid disturbing the soil around the plants I choose to grow on by cutting the unwanted seedlings off using a scissor.

In zones 7 and 6, June is a good month to plant heat-loving summer blooming plants such as dahlias, cannas, gladiolus, and herbs including sage, basil, oregano, thyme, and lavender. If kept moist until germination, June is not too late in the season to sow the seeds of cosmos, sunflowers, and some vegetables.

Read the information on the seed packets to seek heat tolerant cultivars of vegetables or those that mature earlier than is typical. For succession crop harvesting, plant a row of bush beans every 2-3 weeks until mid- August, do this for carrots and beets, too. Consider vertical gardening by trellising the vining vegetables such as cucumbers, summer and winter squashes, and melons. In the shade of the trellis, sow salad greens for continual harvest throughout the summer, including Swiss chard. Do not neglect working the indeterminate tomato vines onto supports to improve air circulation and reduce disease. Now that I mention them, it is not too late to include determinate types or early maturing tomato transplants in the garden this year, nor pepper plants. Pumpkins are great to sow in June for a jack-o-lantern in October, just allow space for their long vines. Even potatoes can go into the ground as late as June in cold hardiness zones 6 and 7 if growing Yukon Gold or Norland types. Consider planting another row of corn, there are fast growing cultivars such as Golden Bantom, Early Sunglow, or Orchard Baby that mature for harvest within 60-70 days.

Be aware of the soil moisture content when fertilizing plants: always use organic or slow-release fertilizers and apply when the soil is moist. Using salt-based fertilizers in dry soil will draw the moisture from the roots into the salty fertilizer which will kill the plants during the heat of the day. Again, fully read the label of the product you are applying, even if it is organic.

As the season progresses, continue to take weekly photos of the landscape and garden to document bloom cycles and locations. In the fall, these photos will guide decisions on what to plant where to fill in the blooming lulls with flowers, foliage, or fruit interest.

Happy Gardening!
- Peggy, Director of Park Operations and Horticulture at  Maymont