Carol Mack shares important seasonal tips for gardening zones in New England/Maritime Canada, Mid-Atlantic, Southern Interior, the Gulf Coast, Central/Midwest, North Central and Rockies, Pacific Northwest and the Southwest.
Timely gardening tips for where you live.
ILLUSTRATION: DIANE A. RADER
Learn about current June and July seasonal tips for gardening zones in the U.S.
All traces of winter are behind us now. When the ground is warmed to 60 degrees, it's time to plant out tender seedlings like melons, pepper and eggplant. Fall peas must be in by mid-July; I plant them between my garlic rows and marvel over the transition from garlic to pea patch when the garlic is harvested several weeks later. Keep the grass mowed or mulched around the trunks of your fruit trees and watch for the telltale rusty frass of borers — these larval worms can be dug out with a sturdy wire. In July, direct seed or transplant Chinese cabbage and oriental greens for fall crops. Spinach planted in a shady spot late in the month will size up beautifully for fall harvest. The sun is high, the salad bowl is brimming and the days of pond hockey are far, far away.
Time to weed and mulch, weed and mulch, weed and mulch. The reward: tomatoes by July and every-other-day harvests of beans, peas, brassica, cucumbers and summer squash. In mid June, start planting fall brassica seeds in raised beds and water daily. To keep insects and the baking sun off the plants, bend some 3-foot pieces of 8-gauge wire into a U-shape and put a spun-polyester row cover over them, and a shade cloth over that. Dig early potatoes when they die back to the soil. Pull onions on a dry day as their tops fall, and garlic when four green leaves remain. While the garlic is curing, transplant 'Long Keeper' tomatoes. Keep planting beans and summer squash. In late July, start carrots, beets, radishes, kale, mustard, spinach and turnips.
June offers a chance to get ready for the bounty of your summer garden. Mulch any plants that need help beating the summer heat. Calculate planting dates for fall-harvested crops by knowing your average first-frost date and days to maturity for each variety. Most tomatoes need to be started in June and transplanted by mid-July. Sow another crop of pole beans and limas in mid-July, but wait until the last half of the month to plant cool-season veggies, including carrots, cabbage and collards. In July, replace any annuals that are no longer garden worthy, trim back perennials if they need it and prune any vines or shrubs that have finished blooming for the summer. Record notes on your spring garden, and get a jump on fall by placing orders for any perennials or bulbs that you will need.
The weather and the harvest are both heating up; consider sharing your bounty with a local food pantry or homeless shelter. It's time to seed those crops that demand warm soil, including okra, Southern peas and Malabar spinach. Try sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) where crops like bush beans have fizzled in the heat. They won't develop tubers until fall, but late summer is our major downtime, so you might as well have a low-maintenance crop in the ground instead of weeds. Remove spent flower heads from crape myrtles to encourage a second bloom, and fertilize roses. Consider putting in a low-volume irrigation system (drip, microsprinkler) and mulch everything! Remove brown-rot-infected fruit from the orchard; otherwise, it will be next year's innoculum. Also, don't neglect the trees for the rest of the year as they still need water and weed control.
Our gardens are in full swing now. Keep up with the harvest so that plants continue to produce; while you're away on vacation, ask a gardener-friend to pick and use the bonanza. That way, new fruits will await your return. Plant sweet corn in each of the first three weeks of June for multiple crops, and plant squash and cantaloupes up to June 20. Plant cool-weather vegetables such as beets, kale, lettuce, peas, radishes, spinach and turnips in late July, but keep them well watered and mulched. Controlling insects and fungus now will improve your fall harvests — daily hand removal of pest insects and infected vegetation is amazingly effective in the home garden. Because of our typically humid conditions, it is best to water your garden in the morning or early afternoon.
The first of June always brings a smile. Finally, the time has come to plant our frost-sensitive vegetables outside. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, corn and squash all get the nod (with covers in place or at the ready should frost threaten). The rest of the garden is starting to show signs of exponential growth. Be on the lookout for disease or pests — now is not the time to lose the hard-earned fruits of our labor. Many devices, techniques and chemicals have been created to help battle garden enemies, yet the most-effective, single thing we can do to ensure disease-free, bountiful harvests is surprisingly simple: Walk through your gardens every day and carefully inspect the plants. If you see signs of harmful insects, pick off the insects before they multiply; if you see signs of disease, control it before it spreads; if you see weeds, pull them before they grow large.
By June, the soil should be warm enough to get seeds in the ground for such heat-loving crops as corn, squash, beans, melons and cucumbers. As a general rule, a soil temperature of 65 degrees is adequate for these plants to germinate. If you're a basil lover, early June is a good time to set out plants. They benefit from regular cutting and fertilizing to promote vigorous branching (see "Basil," page 79 of this issue). Enjoy the harvest from spring plantings — salads are a wonderful addition to a summer dinner. Because Northwest summers are dry, applying an attractive mulch is the best way to conserve water, move nutrients into the soil and suppress weeds. And just when you are ready to kick back and watch your garden grow, it's time to start most of your winter vegetable varieties.
As spring shifts into summer, days are heating up and harsh western winds can prevail. Harden off transplants by increasing exposure to sun and wind for at least 10 days prior to planting. To reduce shock, spray foliage with a seaweed/compost tea mixture after transplanting. Water is a precious resource — conserve by using mulch and irrigating in the morning or evening. Get corn and root crops in now for fall harvest, and continue planting salad greens in partial shade. Wait to seed beans until after mid June to avoid Mexican bean beetles. Monitor winter squash for squash-bug eggs under the leaves and squash vine-borer eggs at the base of stems. Remove both before they hatch. Keep up on weeds before the monsoons hit and they go wild. If an inch of garden is open, fill it with cover crops such as buckwheat or sorghum.
Our thanks to the following for their contributions to the Almanac: Roberta Bailey, Fedco Seeds, Waterville, Maine; Cricket Rakita, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Mineral, Virginia; Dean Lollis, Park's Seed Company, Greenwood, South Carolina; William D. Adams, Burton, Texas; Connie Dam-Byl, William Dam Seeds, Dundas, Ontario; Matt Barthel, Seed Savers Exchange, Decorah, Iowa; Bill McDorman, Seeds Trust, High Altitude Gardens, Hailey, Idaho; Josh Kirchenbaum, Territorial Seed Company, Cottage Grove, Oregon; Rose Marie Nichols McGee, Nichols Garden Nursery, Albany, Oregon; Micaela Colley, Seeds of Change, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
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