The approach of heat, humidity and regular thunderstorms signals we have hit June, and it’s time to think about June garden chores for gardeners in USDA Zones 3 and 4. Here are a dozen to get you started.
1. Enjoy your garden! You’ve done a lot of work already this season, and it’s been a tough year all-around, so take a some time every day to sit in your garden and just enjoy it. The smell of the peonies, the sound of the birds or bees you’ve attracted and the sight of all those plants just growing away are a source of peace and resilience for many gardeners. Take a moment and enjoy, then get on with your June garden chores.
2. Finish sowing warm season crops. It’s not too late to sow zucchini, green beans or winter squash or to plant out tomato or pepper plants, particularly in zone 3. Be sure to cage or stake your tomatoes when they are small to avoid sprawl in the garden.
3. Weed, weed, weed. The weeds love warmth and rain, which is what June is all about, so stay on top of it. Fifteen to 20 minutes a day of walking around and picking stray weeds will do a lot to keep most gardens relatively neat and free of weeds that suck nutrients and water away from your plants.
4. Cut back floppy perennials. This tip came from our former By Design columnist Don Engebretson. Perennials that flower late in the summer and tend to flop (Russian sage is a constant offender) can be trimmed back by one-quarter to one-third in early to mid-June. They will still flower but they’ll stay shorter.
5. Monitor rain. I consider a rain gauge an essential garden tool. In June, we often get quick storms and they may drop just a smattering of rain or a couple of inches. A rain gauge will tell you how much. Overall, you are looking for about an inch a week of rain now. If we haven’t had rain in a few days, it’s time to get out the hose, especially for container plantings and vegetable gardens.
6. Harvest cool season crops. Lettuces, broccoli and other cool season crops are looking good now, but they don’t like hot weather. Regularly harvest these vegetable and replace them in the garden with new starts or seeds that do better in warm weather.
7. Fertilize roses. Roses are heavy feeders, so if you have them, fertilize them after their first round of blooms.
8. Watch for Japanese beetles. While hardly the only garden pest you may see in June, Japanese beetles are among the most hated by northern gardeners, at least in zone 4. Many of our zone 3 gardening friends don’t have Japanese beetles yet. The advice for dealing with them is pretty consistent: pick them off plants early and often.
9. Prune spring-flowering shrubs. Spring-flowering shrubs that do not produce fruit, such as lilacs, azaleas and rhododendrons, should be pruned after they bloom. Pruning later in the summer may destroy next year’s bloom. Shrubs that produce fruit for birds or humans, such as virburnum and serviceberry, should not be pruned until late winter.
10. Deadhead bulbs. While you are out with the pruners, deadhead any spent flowers from your bulbs. Leave the foliage up until it dries up because it’s storing energy for next year’s bloom.
11. Look for blank spaces in your garden. Now is a good time to look around your garden and see where you have room for an extra shrub or perennial, or maybe there is a spot that’s calling out for some annual color. Alternatively, if things are looking too crowded, perhaps it’s time to edit the garden.
12. Shop the sales!! Late June is actually a great time to buy plants. Many nurseries and garden centers begin to put things on sale now. We don’t guarantee bargains—many of our discount partners report swarms of new gardeners this year—but it’s a great time to look for deals on annuals or even vegetable starts.
With good weather, these June garden chores are fun to do and result in a garden you’ll love to spend time in.