It is June! The start of summer! Except the weather here in Santa Rosa has made me feel it is more like November, and I’m sure I’m not alone in finding it hard to be motivated. I think my garden feels the same way. It seems like my peppers and tomatoes are frozen in time, and firmly standing still until the weather gets warmer. The sunflowers or zinnias have yet to bloom, leaving my garden void of color. Thankfully, the dreary weather has made it possible to stretch the time between watering. I have hopes that summer will come through soon, and I’ll be motivated to do this month’s gardening tasks.
Northern California Gardening Checklist: June
- Plant! We still have time to put in a summer garden or plant another round in your current one, but now is about your last chance. From seed, plant beans, carrots, squash and radishes. From starts bought at the nursery, transplant corn, cucumbers, eggplants, melons, peppers and tomatoes. Look for varieties that will be ripe 150 days or soon, which is about what we have left until the first projected frost of fall.
- Protect ripening fruit from birds by covering trees and bushes with netting, or try hanging old cds or other shiny things. A popular method in my neighborhood is to attach streamers made from plastic sheeting to the top of a very high pole. It seems to work well to scare off the birds, but only if there is a breeze blowing.
- If you notice the leaves on your plant are yellow with green veins, it likely has cholrosis, which is an iron deficiency. Common in citrus, azaleas, rhododendron and jasmine, my tomatillos also seem to be suffering. Apply chelated iron.
- If you have uncovered south or west facing windows, move away any houseplants to prevent sunburn.
- Feed roses.
- Keep downy mildew in check. This common plant fungal disease found on plants in the shade or caused by wet, damp weather can be controlled by spraying leaves with neem oil. One of my gardening books suggests a homemade brew of 1 tablespoon baking soda, 2 1/2 tablespoon veggie oil, 1 teaspoon liquid soap, and 1 gallon of water.
- Pinch off flowers from basil and other herbs to promote more growth.
- Keep an eye on growing plants and stake, tie or otherwise direct on trellises to keep order (and pathways clear) in the garden.
- Weed. If you don’t have time to dig up the whole plant, at least pull off the flowers so they can’t set seed. I’m on the constant battle to control bindweed in my yard, so I pull off any of the white morning-glory like flowers that I see.
- For summer color, plant drought tolerant plants like gaillardia, lions tail, penstemon, salvias and yarrow.
- Harvest garlic. If you fall planted, your garlic is likely ready. If you haven’t stopped watering, now is the time. I’ll be doing a post later in the month on harvesting and storing garlic, but here’s a quick summary: when the tops are about half dead, stop watering for about a week, and then dig up. Resist the urge to pull up plants by the stalk, instead lift out with a spade or a fork. Brush off any surface dirt, but don’t wash and don’t cut the tops off. Leave in a dry, shady area for about a month to dry and cure.
- Harvest potatoes. If you planted in February or March, your potatoes are likely ready. If the plant is flowering, you can dig up “new” potatoes, which are eaten fresh and not stored. Once the plants start dying back, hold off on watering and harvest about a week or 2 later.
- Watch summer squash closely. Don’t be a victim of the dreaded baseball bat zucchini, and check your plants frequently to see if you have fruit of harvestable size. Look under leaves and thoroughly inspect the plant. It seems like a joke, but I check in the morning and the evening, as they have the capability to double in size overnight, and they must be shy because they like to hide out of sight. I like to pick mine around 6-8″.
There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart. ~Celia Thaxter