June Stepping Stones

Weather note: Panhandle gardens can be battered by serious hail during June. After plants take their beating, prune back the damage. In most cases, new growth will emerge quickly. Boost plants with compost tea, liquid humate or other organic foliar spray for disaster relief. Plants need special emergency care to quickly spring back and look their best during the remainder of the growing season.

Week One and Two

Turf

Mulch mow the lawn when the grass blades reach the upper height for your turf type. For buffalo grass, do not mow more than once a month, and that often only for show lawns.

May, June and July are prime months for establishing or re-seeding warm season grass turf areas.

Appropriate Plants

If you must do some planting, you might still enjoy success, depending on summers severity. Buy your plants in gallon containers or larger. The little 2-inch container plants may not survive when planted in the heart of summer’s heat. When purchasing plants in the larger container, purchase a larger root ball. Be sure to check the root ball to insure it’s not root bound.

The type of plant purchased during the summer makes a difference too. Drought tolerant, heat-loving plants do well planted during average hot summer months, even when purchased in the smaller containers. Medium and high water-use plants need to be purchased in larger containers.Purchasing a larger root ball offers better survival chances. Sub tropical and tropical plants will also survive nicely (but these are usually sold in larger containers). Fortuitous timing plays an important hand. I’ve noticed increased success with plantings in amended beds when it rains ½ inch to an inch shortly following planting, anytime during the growing season, including mid-July and August. A cool spell helps too. Planting results during extreme summers similar to 2011 and 2012 have not been successful, for the majority.

One mid-summer planting tip I learned to increase survival rates with new plantings involves roots and container mixes. If the newly purchased plant is sold in a peat mix, wash the peat out of the roots before planting. Wash out the peat in shade and during a cooler part of the day and plant immediately. Be careful not to damage roots. Once peat dries out, it is difficult to re-wet, even when planted. After the new transplant is in the ground with the peat mix around it, and it dries out, even though you think you’ve saturated the root zone, it may not be. Peat is not easily re-wetted.

Mulch

Keep mulch thickness replenished. Having encouraged one to keep a good mulch layer, does this mean it’s something that should do every month? It depends on the type of mulch being used. Fine shredded organic mulch will decompose much faster than thick bark mulch. I’ve used composted cottonseed hulls, and like it’s rich, dark color, but it decomposes faster than my pocketbook and available time permit replenishment. Choose the best mulch that fits your time and budget.

Check containers for mulch layers too. Coir fiber makes an attractive and beneficial container mulch that re-wets easily. Coir fiber is available in compressed bricks at nurseries and mail order garden suppliers.

Efficient Use of Water

With the landscape hydro-zoned, different areas are on different watering cycles. New planted beds require more monitoring than the established areas of the garden. Vegetable beds need more attention both in water, nutrients and weeding.

Perform summer maintenance on the drip and other irrigation system. Flush out lines and clean the filters, back flow preventers and emitters. Look for wilted or stunted plants. Insure coverage is adequate and adjust the lines as needed.

Maintenance

In early morning light and when the sun lowers on the horizon, walk through the garden and observe. Are any plants struggling or infested? Practice the principles of integrated pest management and apply the least harmful solution first. Be sure to note any problems in your garden journal.

While making daily rounds, look over individual beds with an eye to improving the composition. June is an important month for this summing up while the plants are up and blooming. We’ll be able to rectify some deficiencies or errors in the fall. Take notes. Take pictures. Our mind soon forgets all the changes we’d like to make. Some gardeners may find it helpful to start a second notebook for “changes I would like to make in my garden”.

Continue to weed, turn the compost pile.

Be a Plant Explorer

For the best flower blooms for your buck, visit the Denver Botanic Gardens in June (or any time mid-April through September). Explore the 23 acres of fragrance and foliage at 1005 York Street, almost downtown Denver, containing over twenty theme gardens and a tropical conservatory. The Denver Botanic Gardens is among the top 5 botanic gardens in the United States, and is within a day’s drive of Amarillo. Additional sites of the Denver Botanic Gardens are at Chatfield, a 750-acre wildlife and native plant refuge in Littleton, and Mt. Goliath, a high altitude trail and alpine rock garden on the Mt. Evans Scenic Byway. All this for only $8.50 for a day in gardener’s heaven (if you’re a member of The American Horticultural Society, bring your membership card and get in free – I did). The research-minded can enjoy the Helen Fowler Library at Denver Botanic Gardens that house one of the premier collections of plant-related resources in the United States. It contains more than 28,000 titles, including books for all ages, videos, software, magazines, nursery catalogs, slides, rare books, and the plant inventory of Denver Botanic Gardens. Wear a hat, bring a camera and plan to spend the day; refreshments may be purchased at their outdoor café.

Weeks Three and Four

Amend the Soil

It is not recommended to fertilize the lawn or other beds during June, July or August. However, give them a boost with an organic amendment or foliar spray of fish emulsion, liquid humate, compost tea, aerobically activated compost tea, and or horticultural molasses, etc or by adding composted cottonseed hulls, alfalfa pellets or meal, worm castings, and cottonseed meal. Brew compost tea for container plants.

Continue to maintain the landscape as you’ve done the first two weeks.

Appropriate Plants

Seems like an odd time to think about bulbs with the tulip foliage just dying back, but June and July is the time to plant the fall blooming bulbs you ordered in April or May. Crocus (some species, refer to April or May maintenance), Colchicums, Lycoris and Zephyranthes are the most likely fall bloomers.

Dig up and divide irises or buy more at the annual iris sale at the Amarillo Botanic Gardens. Iris’ can be dug and divided through September.

Maintenance

By the end of June, some of the spring blooming plants have finished their season, or have become overgrown and ungainly. Spring-to-fall blooming plants need some maintenance -- it’s time for a little garden trimming and cleanup. Engelman’s daisy and chocolate flower can be sheared back; they’ll quickly re-grow and re-bloom throughout the summer without sprawling. There may be many others in the garden whose appearance will be improved by cutting back. Thin out seedlings if they’ve grown in too dense. Allow individual plants enough space for their mature growth. Some medium and higher maintenance plants will need to be dead-headed to encourage continued blooming during the summer.

Not really sure about maintenance of individual plants? Two books I have found to be of great help are Plants for Natural Gardens by Judith Phillips for low water-use plants and natives, and The Well-Tended Perennial Garden, by Tracy DiSabato-Aust, for the more traditional medium and high water-use plants. Tracy DiSabato-Aust’s book is about the best on the market and discusses the maintenance of over 150 traditional perennials we can grow, clueing gardeners in on when, how to and if cutting back and pruning will benefit the garden.

Deadhead and feed roses.

Clean up after any weather related disasters such as hail, strong wind or tornado damage. Any of these can visit our area starting in April through September. Prune out damaged stems and branches and add them to the compost pile. Replant where necessary.

Many herbs are ideally suited to our climate and are mature enough now for harvesting. Cut off no more than 1/3rd of the foliage for drying and storing. Re-cut and dry as the herb continues to grow.

Shear back chrysanthemums and asters by the end of June. This will increase the bushiness of the plant and promote increased blooms. This also prevents too early bud formation. I’m set in my ways and just think chrysanthemums shouldn’t bloom until September.

Extras

  • Install landscape lighting.
  • Host a Midsummer’s Night Eve Party. By this time, your garden is glorious! Show it off to your neighbors, family, work associates and friends. Your evening in the garden can take any form you wish, wine and cheese, tea and desserts, or backyard supper. Keep it simple and repeat as desired.
  • Enroll in an Internet gardening class. The American Horticulture Association, in conjunction with the Gardening Institute is currently (2005) offering 3 online courses: The Art and Science of Container Gardening, The Art and Science of the Smartgarden®, and Herbaceous Perennials: Identification, Culture and Garden Attributes. Click on www.gardeninginstitute.com for complete information. These classes will qualify for re-certification credits for Master Gardeners in certain areas.

Keep it Up

  • Continue mulch-mowing, weeding and watering.
  • Add plant debris to the compost pile and turn it every two weeks. Moisten the compost pile if necessary.
  • Continue to record climate garden information in your garden journal.
  • If you’ve volunteered for a gardening project, don’t neglect it during the summer. If you haven’t, it’s not too late to start one. Find someone in need of a gardening angel.

Don’t and/or Oops!

Since you’ve gone to all the trouble of raising vegetables, once vegetable plants do start to produce, take a tip from the garden and relate it to the harvested vegetables. Warm season crops of tomatoes, peppers, melons and eggplant are damaged when placed in cold temperatures of the refrigerator. Keep them out to avoid the soft watery lesions of peppers and the soft watery tissues that develop in tomatoes. Produce is best eaten fresh: use them, or lose them.

Angie Hanna

Other Stepping Stones Articles