What to do in the vegetable garden in June

How’s your garden growing? Are you busy planting and harvesting? Here are some tips and reminders for what to do this month.

It’s summer now, at least according to the weather forecast, and likely you’ve put in many of your crops. If not, no need to worry; you still have plenty of time. Here’s some of what can still go in:

  • All the cucurbits (squash, cucumber, melon, etc.) can be direct-seeded or transplanted through most of June and even into July. These plants really like warm soil and warm weather, so planting now is ideal.
  • Beans can be planted into July. Bush beans grow faster than pole beans but you will need several succession crops to get the same yield.
  • On HGIC’s Vegetable Planting Calendar, okra is listed as best planted in May, but given our warm autumns I’d say planting in June is a safe bet.
  • Corn does not need to be knee-high by the fourth of July; it can be a baby sprout then too and still produce fine.
  • This is a great time to transplant sweet potatoes, which love heat.
  • It’s also not too late to put in your tomato, pepper and eggplant transplants.
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Eggplants grow in containers; yellow mizuna flowers in the background signal the end of spring

This is definitely a time for plants that prefer to mature in warm weather. Cool weather plants are nearing the end of their spring season; we can think about them again for fall. (Tune in this time next month for a post on fall planting.)

Some of those spring crops may have been planted a bit too close together – it can be hard to avoid when you’re putting seeds in the ground. If you haven’t already thinned out your carrots, beets, chard, onions, leeks, or anything else that’s looking crowded, now is definitely the time! (I will confess I just thinned my beets this week.) An easy way to decide the distance between plants, especially root crops, is to visualize the size they’ll be at maturity and act accordingly. If you want your beets to be at least three inches across, make sure the plants are more than three inches apart. Et cetera. Remember that the thinnings are in most cases edible. Yes, even carrot tops.

It is hard, isn’t it, to consider the mature size of plants when they are tiny? But looking into the future is what gardeners need to do. When you plant a tree, you think about how big it’ll get in twenty years; with tomatoes, that’s more like twenty days. And they get BIG. So make sure you have something in place to hold them up: a strong stake, a good solid cage, or some other method for supporting a plant that could be six feet tall and loaded with fruit. Same goes for vining plants like cucumbers or pole beans, or squash and melons if you want to convince them to grow vertically. It is much harder to retrofit supports for plants that are already flopping all over your garden. Believe me, I’ve been there. Put the supports in when you put in the plants, even if they look ridiculously huge in comparison.

Put watering and weeding on your task list. And help cut down on both those jobs, along with some plant diseases you don’t need to deal with, by covering your soil with mulch. If you’re growing in containers, you’ll need to water more often; plants in the ground should be watered until the soil is thoroughly moistened several inches down, and you’ll probably only need to do that once or twice a week (if it doesn’t rain). Get used to sticking a finger in the soil to gauge whether watering is needed. Don’t wait for your plants to wilt.

June is Pollinator Month! Support your local pollinator insects, and help yourself to bigger crops, by planting some flowers in your vegetable garden.

Unfortunately beneficial insects aren’t the only ones visiting your garden. This month you’re likely to spot some pests chowing down on your plants, or maybe you’ll just see the damage they’ve done. HGIC has lots of resources to help you deal with these pests. Remember to identify and investigate before acting. Many pests can be dealt with by nontoxic methods like floating row cover or hand removal. Have a bucket and a bottle of cheap dish soap ready; knocking pests into soapy water is satisfying and often more reliable than spraying pesticides, especially if your garden is small.

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These harlequin bugs were dispatched this week by MGs Audrey Hankinson and Robin Ritterhoff in Audrey’s church garden. Photo by Robin.

June is a month for harvesting spring crops and watching summer crops grow. Brutal heat and humidity are occasional inconveniences rather than constant drags on your energy, which means it’s a good time to get ahead of problems that may happen later in the summer. Read up on the crops you’re growing so you know what to expect, and you can spend July and August harvesting your bounty. Okay, and watering, weeding, and knocking insects into buckets, but it’ll be all worthwhile!

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By Erica Smith, Montgomery County Master Gardener

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