June is here! The 10:30 pm sunsets are so gorgeous – last night the sky to the north was apricot, orange, and purple at day’s end. “This part of the season represents a turn towards upkeep (weeding) and managing what we worked so hard to start from seed,” Tam Andersen, our Farm Owner, tells us. “For me, it’s a joyous time. Stage one is complete. The plants are in the ground and now we have to guide them through their life cycle.”
June on the farm is when we see lots of flowers emerge, and the first overwintered onions and French Sorrel varieties are harvested for our Community Support Agriculture (CSA). “With the majority of our direct sown and transplanted seed crops in the ground, the farm vision is truly starting to take shape,” Tam says. “There are tens of thousands of bed feet beginning to come to life!” This week we are transplanting the remainder of our cucumber and squash varieties. A late spring frost can be nerve wracking – so we keep a super close eye on the long-range weather forecast.
Over at our garden centre, Farmer Laurel Andersen notes the new perennials and ornamental trees and shrubs are looking really nice after last night’s thundershowers.” In the coming weeks, Laurel says, “we’ll be irrigating lots to keep the plants healthy during the anticipated hot days ahead, and I’ll begin picking the heirloom Tomatoes for our Farm Market and trellising the Cucumbers in the next week or so.” Indeed, much of what we do on the farm in June holds true for the home gardener.
With that in mind, here are a few home gardening tips for the month:
In June, we continue to succession sow fast maturing crops and sow for fall harvested crops. The best way to ensure a harvest all season is to keep sowing all season. Take advantage of all the space in your garden.
Veggies like Bush Beans and Peas, herbs like Basil and Cilantro, and flowers like Calendula and Bachelor Button are space-efficient and easy to grow. Additionally, it might be time to plant some crops you may not have gotten around to yet, like Summer Squash. Beets, Broccoli, Carrots, Collards, Cucumber, fast-growing Cabbages, Fennel, Swiss Chard, Lettuce, and Scallions can all be transplanted in June in our region.
In fact – although the cole crops like Broccoli and Cabbage can be planted earlier because they are frost hardy, we often delay planting until after the saskatoons have finished blooming. This is a sign from nature that tells us that the voracious flea beetles and root maggot flies have stopped the early stage of their life cycle, and have disappeared, making it safe to plant our little cole transplants now – happily avoiding the nasties!
Most established seedlings need about an inch of water per week. While the easiest way to keep track of moisture levels is to invest in a rain gauge, you can also just stick your fingers down into the soil to test for dryness. At this time of year, it’s better to water deeply, so that the roots of your plants will reach further down into the soil where there tends to be more moisture. The same is true for freshly planted trees, fruits, and shrubs.
Whether you are watering by hand or have an irrigation system, just be sure to water as close to the roots as you can, and leave foliage dry if possible. Overhead watering increases the chance of fungal disease. Also, be mindful of your container garden: plants in pots tend to dry out much faster than those in the ground.
Tam says, “With most of our vegetable varieties transplanted and direct sown, we shift into cultivation mode to keep up with weed pressure. We are also hand weeding the Carrots, strawberries and other direct sown beds.”
At home, pulling weeds out of the ground before they’ve had the chance to establish is infinitely easier than waiting. Pull out all the small weed seedlings that have sprung up recently. Save yourself trouble later and give your seeds and seedlings an edge by doing some hand weeding or scuffle hoeing. Find snips and weeding tools here.
Need help distinguishing the weeds from your seedlings? Browse this resource from Rutgers University.
Shredded leaves, wood chips, grass clippings, straw, and even newspaper and cardboard can be used as mulch. Mulch maintains moisture in the soil and helps support fungal networks that assist plants in nutrient uptake. Adding organic matter like compost can also improve moisture levels.
Or, try a living mulch! Living mulches are just plants that cover otherwise unoccupied spaces much like standard mulches. For home gardens, we like filling in the gaps with flowers that can be eventually be turned under like a cover crop. Lacy Phacelia, Borage, Calendula, Bachelor Button, and Nasturtium are all fast-growing, pollinator-attracting varieties that do double duty as living mulches.
Keeping on top of weeds is actually one of the best natural strategies for pest control, as is eliminating other critter habitats, like old piles of wood or debris. We use row cover to protect many of our plants from flea beetle damage. If you need something a bit more on the defense, we find a treatment of soapy water can deter many pests, including aphids and box elder beetles, and shallow pans of beer works for slugs. Removing pests by hand can also be effective for home gardeners.
Ideally, you’ll have plenty of beneficial insects like ladybugs, praying mantises, and spiders that prey on the less welcome inhabitants of your garden.
While growing is a rewarding activity in and of itself, we can sometimes get so busy putting our gardens in that we neglect to harvest as our gardens grow. So, visit your garden every day to get a return on your investment. Whether its a bunch of rhubarb, a bowl of leaves for braising, the last of the radishes before the summer heat, squash blooms for stuffing, cut flowers for the table, or fragrant herbs. Cultivate this habit and you’ll also stay ahead of birds, bugs, and blights.
June is filled with magic: the garden is putting on lots of new growth and what we only imagined in our minds in early spring is becoming reality before our eyes. It’s a month worth celebrating, as we enjoy the long days of summer.