Dr. Vern Grubinger, Extension Associate Professor
University of Vermont
By June the big push is over. You probably have most of your garden planted, except perhaps for tender transplants and sequential plantings of crops like lettuce, and now it's time to start maintaining what you've put in.
This means staying on top of the weeding and watering. A good rule of thumb for watering both vegetable and flower gardens is to provide one inch of water a week, if the rain doesn't do it. It's better to soak the soil around plants heavily every few days rather than watering lightly to encourage deep rooting.
Try not to water in the evenings or late in the afternoon as this promotes foliar diseases because leaves stay wet all night. As plants grow older and get larger, they will require more water, especially as the weather gets hotter. If you garden on sandy soils, you may need to water nearly every day if there is a long period of time with no rain
If you planted thickly, thin rows of carrots, beets, and other vegetables and flowers when plants are still small to avoid damage to the roots. Allowing adequate space between plants provides better air circulation and helps prevent disease infestations.
In mid-June, when the soil has warmed up, apply a thick layer of straw, leaves, or black plastic mulch to control weeds and retain moisture. Weed the area well before laying down mulch. You can lay newspapers (at least 10-sheet thickness) under mulch or between rows to help with weed control. The paper will lay down easier if wetted first. Avoid colored or glossy paper. Regular newsprint contains soy-based inks, which should cause no problems in gardens.
If you don't have a compost pile, this is a good time to start one for next year's garden. Locate your pile in a convenient spot near your garden. The proximity to the planting area makes it easy to add compost to the soil in a year or two, when the pile has completely decomposed.
You can add any organic materials to the pile--leaves, straw, hay, or vegetable matter--but avoid diseased vegetable plants, grass clippings that were treated with herbicides, bones, and greasy kitchen scraps. You may want to enclose the pile with wire fencing to stop materials from blowing away and to keep the pile looking neat.
If materials are dry, soak each layer thoroughly, keeping the pile moist throughout the year. To hasten decomposition and add nutrients, mix one cup of nitrogen fertilizer (33-0-0) or a pint of dried bloodmeal (12-0-0) or complete fertilizer (10-10-10) per bushel of organic matter.
Turn the pile two or three times during the season if possible. Shredding or chopping up hard to decay materials will speed the decomposition process, making it more likely that the compost you start now will be ready for use next spring.
Early summer is the time to prune spring flowering plants that are past bloom such as crabapples, quince, and forsythia. Don't procrastinate. If you put the task off until later this summer, you may clip off the buds that are forming for next year's flowers.
The rhubarb curculio, a large blackish weevil covered with rusty yellow dust, may make an appearance in your rhubarb patch this month. It overwinters in piles of garden debris, emerging in late June to feed on rhubarb, thistle, sunflowers, and dock, and lay its eggs. Oozing sap and notches in the stem or leaves indicate feeding injury.
To control, handpick and destroy the beetles in early summer. During July remove all host plants near your rhubarb planting to prevent larvae from pupating in these weeds.
If you don't have room for herbs in your garden, you can plant them directly in a bag of quality potting soil. Cut several slits in the bottom of the bag to allow for good drainage. Place the bag in a location that receives at least six hours of sun each day. The sun will help increase production of the oils responsible for the herbs' flavor and fragrance. Water regularly to keep soil uniformly moist.
Other tips for June: include scarlet or pink flowers such as zinnias, sage, and begonias in your flower garden to attract hummingbirds and butterflies; sidedress long season crops such as onions, sweet corn, or tomatoes around the end of the month; seal leftover garden seeds in a glass jar or plastic bag and store in a cool, dry location for future use.