The June Gardener

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By Pete Prown

The temperatures are already beginning to climb, and accordingly, our plants and accompanying weeds are shifting into high gear for summer. Let’s go over the monthly checklist.

Mulch it up. By this time, we have most of our new plants in the ground or potted up, but don’t neglect a layer of mulch. An inch or so of fresh, clean mulch will help your plants stay healthy and retain moisture for the scorching weather to come. They will be grateful.

Lots of pots. Containers can spice up any planting scheme, whether it’s on a patio or set within the border itself (some gardeners even sink tender potted plants in the ground for the summer, and then bring them indoors come fall). Try mixing annuals with herbs in pots and experimenting with other new combinations. Just remember to water them regularly, as containerized plants will become more stressed than terrestrial ones in hot weather.

Stay ahead of pesky weeds. The weeds and invasive vines are coming fast and furious in the garden and we have to stay on top of them. Create a pleasant little regimen for yourself so that weed maintenance becomes a simple, regular task instead of an onerous battle against an overgrown foe.

Deer ticks. June is one of the peak months for the black-legged tick, the scourge behind Lyme disease, and you must be self-aware if you’re going to be outdoors. Ticks often sit on low foliage and latch onto our legs as we brush by — check yourself when you go inside and, if you find a tiny deer tick, remove and destroy it immediately. Do not wait. Also be alert for the persistent itch and raised bump that signify that a tick has latched on.

Cover up. Beyond staying alert to ticks, you should be aware of sun exposure if you’re in the garden too long. Use sunblock, a hat, and light long sleeve shirts and long pants, as needed. Your dermatologist will thank you.

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In the veg patch. Tomatoes, peas, and beans will be shooting skyward this month, so be sure to stake them securely. There’s nothing worse than finding a treasured heirloom tomato keeled over after a rainstorm. In case of such an emergency, there are great farmer’s markets all over the area to fill the gap, notably in Swarthmore on Saturday mornings.

Reshaping ornamentals. Now that azaleas and most rhododendrons are done blooming, you can prune larger specimens back to a manageable size, just as the flowering has finished for the year. Don’t wait, or you risk cutting off the buds that contain next year’s blooms.

Tabletop charm. One of the purest joys of summer is cutting flowers for the kitchen table. Almost anything is fair game — not only annuals and perennial flowers, but also ornamental shrubs, interesting branches, and foliage. Be creative and experiment to your heart’s content.

Garden with your senses. Though we generally think of gardening as a visual medium — involve all your senses. Certainly, the fragrance of June’s roses are one of life’s great pleasures, but also use touch to feel unusual flower, foliage, and bark textures (avoid the thorny locust and hawthorns!), and your ears to listen to abundant bird, mammal, amphibian, and insect life around you.

And don’t forget taste, as you enjoy the herbs and veggies from your own plot, as well as mint leaves in iced tea or your preferred cocktail.

What better way to spend a quiet evening in June?

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