The soft days of June refresh my soul. They fill me with hope and energy for the future I am cultivating. They are also busy, so let’s get to work.
Rain, rain, is going away! (Or it will, soon!)
We average a little under 2” of rain for June. Things are warming up and drying out, but we need to make sure our little transplants don’t suffer drought stress at this tender point in their development. We also don’t want to over saturate our garden beds. This article, Six Ways to Water your Garden will demystify watering your garden.
Did you remember these May tasks?
- Thinning Veggie Seedlings:
- “It is hard to make yourself do this; it feels wasteful and murderous. Do it anyway.” Gardening from the Ground Up, by Maggie Stuckey.
- Orchard: Thin apples and other orchard fruits. This also feels wasteful and murderous. Do it anyway.
- Implement IPM strategies.
June is for Cherries and Strawberries
Harvest these beauties early and often and enjoy the first sweetness of summer.
- Harvest early, before peak ripeness to beat the slugs and bugs.
- For everbearing (day neutral) trim runners. You can replant these or pot them up for a friend. Your plants will produce much better if they aren’t supporting their runners.
- For June bearing varieties (Hoods anyone?) allow the runners to form a thicket and remove only those that jump out of the bed or are no longer vigorous producers. Pick early and often while they are producing.
- Strawberry plants produce well for about four years before their production drops way back, after they’ve produced for those four years, replace with younger (former runners) to keep your patch productive.
Warm Season Crops
What to Direct Sow (soil temp 55+)
- Pole Beans
- Bush Beans
- Summer cover crops: buckwheat, field peas, and oat blend.
Tips for direct sowing:
- Soak the seeds in warm water several hours before planting, or pre-sprout in a damp paper towel.
- Avoid watering with cold water. Instead use water from your rain barrel or from a watering can that has been sitting in the sun.
- Keep your slug control on point with beer traps and/or Sluggo or other Slug IPM techniques. There is nothing more delectable to slugs than tender young shoots.
- Pole Beans: Plant them in the morning about a hand-span apart. Pole beans are twiners and will need to wrap themselves clockwise around a vertical pole or string. Water them in with warm water. Then follow your Slug IPM. Slugs love baby beans. Once they are big enough to start climbing their stems become tough and slug resistant.
- Bush Beans: I like to give these about 6” to 1’ radius. They are also tasty to slugs and will be vulnerable until they put out several sets of true leaves.
Transplants: Nightshades and Cucurbits
- Harden off before planting. (A week or so of increasing time outdoors.)
- Soil Temp Minimum: 60 degrees
- Dig a hole as deep as the pot, loosen soil around the hole.
- Mix in some organic fertilizer and blend with loose soil.
- Sprinkle some fresh soil in the hole.
- Remove plant from the pot and gently open any circling roots (nightshades only, do not disturb cucurbit roots).
- Place the plant in the hole and replace the soil then press gently to remove any large air pockets.
- Encircle your plant with a little more organic fertilizer (called side-dressing) and water in with some lukewarm water that is spiked with nitrogen rich liquid fertilizer. Seems like a lot, right? But only the liquid fertilizer is available right away. Microbes have to work to break down the organic powdery stuff. But, organics are also less likely to burn your tender plants.
Tips for Nightshade (solanaceae) family of topic includes tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers. These are all perennial plants that we grow as annual in our cooler climate. Give them the sunniest spot in your garden.
- Plant deeper than they were in the pot. They will put out more roots.
- Indeterminate tomatoes have a vine-like growth habit. These can be spaced about 6” to 1’ apart and require a tall trellis. Prune away suckers.
- Determinate tomatoes have a bushing growth habit. No trellis needed, cage optional. Don’t prune suckers.
- Spacing one-two feet square for tomates. (More space for the bushy ones.)
- Peppers and Eggplant: 🍆🌶
- Space at least one foot apart.
- Both of these appreciate drying out between waterings. Peppers in particular don’t like wet feet.
Tips for Cucurbits: (melons, cucumbers, squash, zuchinni 🍉,🥒, 🎃)
Don’t break up pot bound roots. Please, really, don’t do it. It’s heartbreaking to see your vigorous little seedling flop over. Ever so gently place them in the soil and water them in well with lukewarm water. These plants have many delicate root hairs and don’t do well with root disturbance. I always start my curcurbits in plantable pots that decompose in the garden.
Cucurbits are happy to climb a trellis which can save you space and discourage fungal growth.
This family is oh so delicate. Except zucchini. Get one of those going and you can reliably feed your neighborhood. But cucumbers for example, want morning sun, plenty of heat, but protection from the intense afternoon sun. They need plenty of water and nutrients. They dry out and die. They are attractive to pests. They are susceptible to powdery mildew. In short, these primadonnas will break your heart. However, you feel pretty badass with a garden full of their tropical looking leaves and bright showy fruit.
General conflicting advice:
Some experts advise you to mix up your families so pests can’t zero in and proliferate. Other experts advise you to keep plants of a family together to simplify care and pest control measures since they will have the same basic requirements. So group them together but keep them apart. Got it? Got it. 🤷♀️
Cool Season Crops Tips
🥦 Broccoli: After harvesting the main crown, watch for side-shoots to continuously pop up. If they are almost flowering feel free to let them. Pollinators love them. However, my beds which are tightly packed generally need the room and when they are done sending side shoots, I will remove all but one for flowers.
- Spinach is good for harvesting leaves for a week or two into June then they want to bold when it gets hot.
- When harvesting your lettuces take larger outer leaves first as they mature, or if that feels too tedious, cut the whole plant leaving about an inch or two from the ground to regrow.
- Heat Tips: When we get those surprise 90 degree days, do a morning harvest and water in well. In the afternoon, cool the soil down with a bit more water. Without all of the leaves to support and keep cool, my lettuces generally fare very well and regrow. If the hot day turns into a week-long heat wave, adding a shade cloth can help your lettuces survive the stress. (A shade cloth can be a bed sheet stretched across lawn chairs.) (More heat tips from OSU Extension.)
- Has probably bolted by now. I leave one of each color variety to collect the seeds, but otherwise remove them at this point by cutting at the soil level. If they regrow, I clip and eat them, in such a way I have some three and four year old chard plants. Weird, right?
Pest Control Suggestions
During this peak season of pest activity I like to remind myself that my garden is part of the local ecology. Letting nature handle my pest problems saves me time, money, and angst. Of course, I should expect to have a harvest for my family. When faced with pest and disease problems I ask myself:
- What is this? A positive ID is a good first step.
- Will my plant survive this predation or infection on its own?
- Will nature take care of it for me?
- If it appears that my plant will die without intervention, I evaluate how much I want/need this plant.
- If I decide to intervene, I look for the easiest (read: laziest), least invasive, and least toxic solution. If it dies anyway, then I chalk it up to being the wrong plant for me and move on. (Anyone want to go to the nursery? Yes, please!)
Slugs and garden snails are still going to be a nuisance until the rain tapers off later this month. Soon the landscape will dry out and plants will be big enough to look after themselves. Until then check out my slug IPM guide.
Aphids: Wherever I first see aphids, I also find little golden clutches of ladybugs eggs. From them hatch their hungry, hungry, larvae. Convenient, right? I also find lacewings, wasps, certain spiders, and a surprising array of birds dining on them, (finches, bushtits, hummingbirds, chickadees, nuthatches to name a few). In fact, aphids in the garden are analogous to plankton in the ocean—so many species rely on them directly or indirectly for food.
However, if you are gardening in a hoop house or greenhouse they can get out of control fast, since having a fully functional ecosystem is not easy in an enclosed space. In that case spraying them off with a stream of water can be an effective control method.
Trap Crops: Aphids love calendula flowers, sunflowers, and nasturtiums and will set up house on them rather than your crops. Trap crops ensure a stable food supply for your beneficial insects. 🐞
Attracting Beneficial Insects: Most herbs and many flowers attract and provide homes for beneficial insects like lacewing, ladybugs, parasitic wasps, spiders. This OSU publication has a fantastic table showing which plants support which beneficial insects. Even large scale farmers are beginning to plant hedges of perennial native plants that I’ve heard referred to as a beetle berm.
Cabbage Moth Larva: Row cover is effective defense. They prefer brassicas like broccoli and also nasturtiums. These are usually able to handle some predation on their own. However, I once found ten or so on one broccoli plant. I picked them off and left them exposed in the middle of a pathway and birds took care of them for me. I have seen spiders, wasps, and birds eating them in my garden. I tried to give a spider a high-8, but she left me hanging. 🕷💚
Leaf Miners: Row cover is effective defense. I find leaf miners primarily on beets, chard, spinach, and purslane. They love their thick succulent leaves. If the leaf has a larva in it, I remove the leaf and step on it or bag it. On the other leaves, I turn them over and scrape off the tiny white eggs. The best method of cultural control is using row cover.
Spotted Wing Drosophila: The best methods for controlling this new comer fruit fly is to hang apple cider vinegar traps near your fruiting shrubs and trees or use row cover to keep them off. OSU Extension article on SWD
Codling Moths: One year I got two undamaged apples. Two. They were wrapped in a spider web. (Thanks spider! 🕷💚) The other several hundred pounds of apples were damaged or rotten. Some we salvaged for applesauce but most went in the bin. Since this bummer year, I have been refining my IPM plan.
The surest defense against these ravagers of apple crops are maggot barriers. Kaolin clay is helpful and reduced the damage, but I still lost the majority of the crop the year I tried it.
Put out pheromone traps to detect when they are active (they only catch males) then spray kaolin clay as soon as the first one appears. Then use maggot barriers (they are like pantyhose socks) when the apples are bigger. I plan to write a full IPM soon. There are other worthwhile cultural and physical controls, but the ones above are by far the most effective.
- Cut on a high setting. Taller grass keeps the soil cool and moist, shades out weed seeds, and has longer roots to bring up water and nutrients.
- Use the mulch setting. Lawn clippings break down fast and recirculate nitrogen into your soil reducing the need to do more fertilizer applications. Clipping don’t become thatch and actually help to rot thatch down naturally.
- Irrigate early in the morning. Check your weekly watering number on the regionalh2o.org website.
- If you are re-seeding or have seedling grass, water multiple times a day during hot-dry spells. The root system for seedling grass is very tender and shallow and needs consistent moisture until it is established.
Lilac, hydrangea, azalea, rhododendron appreciate being pruned right after they are done flowering. If you summer, fall, or winter prune, you risk cutting off next year’s buds and blooms.
Backyard Bird Care 🐦
Bird are Nesting
It is bird nesting season so hold off on any further tree pruning until late summer. Hummingbird nests are so tiny that you may not notice them. If you’re lucky, you will hear peeping and busy bird parents shuttling food to their nests. Often this food consists of garden pests. So please be extra cautious about spraying. 🐣💚
It’s still cool enough to provide suet for your bird friends, which is my go-to since it’s not as messy as the seed feeders that bring in mice and rats. Continue to clean and refill suet cages, finch socks, and hummingbird feeders every week. There’s lots of forage for most birds this time of year, so if you need a break don’t feel bad about taking them down. Take down suet feeders when temps rise to 80 degrees or more.
Some sources I’ve read say a water source will bring more feathered friends than a feeder. Their vigorous splashy baths are always fun to watch. Clean and refill every few days to keep algae down as well as contagious diseases. For a super easy clean, I flip my hose nozzle to jet and spray all the water out which also removes any gunk. Then I flip it back to shower and refill.
Window strike stickers are a great way to illuminate windows so your bird friends can see them.
If you see a cat stalking your bird friends, it’s best to take down your feeders and baths for a while. 😼
- GrowVeg Video – Natural Pest Control (Do yourself a favor and subscribe to Ben’s Videos. Always helpful, always entertaining.)
- OSU Extension Service – Monitoring Techniques for Spotted Winged Drosophila
- Portland Audubon – Make Your Yard a Haven for Early Nesting Birds
- Portland Audubon – Tips for Reducing Window Strikes at Home
- OSU Extension – Azalea and Rhododendron Care and Culture
- UMN Extension – When to prune hydrangeas for best bloom
- OSU EXtension – Managing Diseases and Insects in Home Orchards
- OSU Extension – Encouraging Beneficial Insects in Your Garden