Finally on to Warmer Weather
June is here and the gardening season is in full swing - finally! No more frosts and no more snow. There is so much to share to guide you to success in your garden.
I cannot stress how important it is to take pictures of the garden every two weeks to use as a reference for planning in the future. Save them from year to year, and watch a garden or landscape flourish as the details are fine-tuned.
There is so much to plant in the vegetable garden in June: beans, vining squashes, gourds and melons, tomatoes, peppers, sweet potatoes and eggplant, plus okra. Looking ahead, June is also the time to plan the fall vegetable garden to keep every inch of your garden producing past frost. Many vegetables harvested in the fall are sown in July. To create a plan, check out this Virginia Tech site.
To reduce soil borne diseases, create a protective layer with mulch around your vegetables. This will also reduce weeding and conserve soil moisture. Straw or cut up leaves are great mulches, plus they nourish the soil. Leave the hardwood and bark mulch for the landscape.
Thank you for waiting for the daffodil and hyacinth foliage to turn yellow before cutting it down - I understand how difficult it can be. June is a great time to dig, divide and replant tight clumps that did not produce flowers this past spring. Do so before they disappear! Replant what you can then pass along extras to friends and neighbors to brighten their gardens as well.
Stop fertilizing the lawn for the summer months. Thick overgrowth reduces air circulation between the grass plants, creating conditions for soil-born fungal diseases, such as brown patch, to flourish. Remember to raise the cutting blade of the mower to 4” for the summer - the higher the blade, the deeper the roots grow. The deeper the roots, the less stressed the plant, creating a healthy lawn that is more drought tolerant and less prone to weeds. You can help save water by simply raising your cutting blades.
June is a great time to prune shrubs that flowered in the spring. Most of these plants set their buds for next spring in the late summer, so don’t put off removing the errant branch or those that are crossing and rubbing. Never remove more than ¼ of the bush per year - less is best. After pruning, apply a slow release fertilizer to the base of the shrub to encourage strong new growth and more blossoms for next spring. While you're at it, take the time to thin thick growing English Boxwood bushes by hand so sunshine and air can penetrate the body of the plant and reduce disease.
Remember: controlling diseases is an ongoing process. Most fungicides suppress bacterial and spore growth, so applications must be made all season long. Reduce the conditions for disease by lightly pruning a random branch here and there to open up the plant to enable air movement. Always do so lightly and in stages because once cut, it can’t be put back. Again, think the cuts through before making them. My favorite pruning phrase is “Walk Away," and I say it before I convince myself I need to make just one more cut!
Controlling insects typically takes a few applications of a product to reduce the population plus the next generation or two. While a cold stream of water can reduce spider mite and aphid populations, it takes hand picking to remove bagworms. At Maymont we follow I.P.M., Integrated Pest Management, which means we establish a threshold or population size we accept. When an insect population exceeds the threshold, we start control with the simplest of measures appropriate for the insect, such as those mentioned above. If the simple actions fail, we move on to the next level, which is typically an organic insecticide. Remember to always follow the directions on the label of all products you apply - it’s the law.
June gardens unveil something new each day. I encourage you to take a daily walk through the garden, harvest the herbs and home brew some tea, enjoy the sight of the first blossom or the first bean appearing, watch, listen and observe. Address any disease or insect before it impacts a plant, and your plants will thrive. Be proud of your garden or landscape and share photos to Show Your Grow on VHG's Facebook page so others can enjoy it as well. Stop for a moment and revel in the joy of it all as you watch plants grow, bloom and produce seeds, vegetables or fruit.