Wow. What a spring. I’m a native Western North Carolinian and this was a spring for the records. It’s been a stunning show, but as with all good things, there is an end and a cost. It’s time to clean up spring’s pastel bounty for summer’s bold, colorful displays. Sharpen the deadheaders and pruners, and put on a hat, June's first chore is deadheading.
Pruning and Deadheading
June is the month for deadheading spring's flowers. Deadheading is simply removing spent blooms. It helps promote new blooms and stops plants from setting seed, which is necessary for plant growth, and next year's flowers.
All those spring bloomers—roses, peonies, irises, and spring-blooming bulbs require deadheading or shearing. (Don't cut back bulb foliage of daffodils, alliums, and others until it has completely turned yellow.) Some perennials, like gaura, are continual bloomers and need deadheading only to clean them up. Some, like 'Walker's Low' catmint, will re-bloom sporadically, holding color through the season if deadheaded regularly.
Shearing perennials is cutting them back to plant size. When the weather turns hot, 'Sweet Kate' spiderwort starts to look tired and gets tip burn from the heat. She needs shearing, which results in another flush of bloom in late summer to early fall.
Foxgloves will continue to bloom into June and July if deadheaded, as well as roses and spirea. Your Knockout roses don't need deadheading, but it doesn't hurt to do a little clean-up of spent blossoms and prune out yellowing leaves. Now is the time to prune spring flowering shrubs like rhododendrons, mountain laurels, lilacs, and azaleas. Wait until after July 4th and you risk the blooms for next season as these set their buds on old wood (this year's growth) if the shrubs don't need pruning, just deadhead for a cleaner plant.
For those shrubs that need controlling, check out this blog post on whether to hand prune or get out the electric shears. And don’t forget to prune the clematis after it’s the first flush. For the how-to with clematis, read here.
If your garden is full of perennials, it helps to have a perennial reference book to flip through when determining which plants will keep blooming through the summer, which ones need a good haircut, and which ones will need division soon.
The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden by Roy Diblik is a good place to start for maintenance and perennial design tips.
One chore you'll see every month is weeding, but you knew that. The bad news is there is no easy-peasy solution for getting rid of weeds. Keep mulching, yes, with no more than 2”-3” of mulch, including last year's mulch, but make a weekly run through of the vegetable garden and ornamental beds with your weeding tool of choice, and stay determined. Now is not the time to coast because July is coming.
Weeds compete with plants for water, nutrients, and light (and they're an unsightly mess), so out they go. Knowing your weeds is the best defense. Again, reference books are handy to keep in the garden shed.
Try this book for identifying your weeds, which is the first step in controlling weeds in the garden. Weeds of North America by France Royer and Richard Dickinson.
I know. It seems like winter, and early spring was one long monsoon and us gardeners should never have to water again. But we’ve gone over 21 days without rain and had an unexpected heat wave. So, while you're planting, and as the weather continues to warm up, the weekly watering chore increases. Best advice: get a rain gauge. Plants need an inch of water a week in our zone 7a (Asheville proper is 7a. The higher up you live, the lower the zone range, 4000 ft mountain tops can be zone 5.)
When watering, root drenching is the goal. That means, water at soil level, and go around the base of the plant, ensuring the entire root ball gets wet. The job of the roots is to anchor the plant and serve as a conduit bringing water and nutrients to the rest of the plant, so establishing the roots is the gardener's first job. Irrigation is a plus, and soaker hoses work well too—though a soaker hose is considered supplemental watering—either way if you’re using a watering system, double check every couple of days to ensure that all plants are getting the proper amount of water, some need more, others need less. Adjust the irrigation as needed, and water by hand where necessary.
4. Succession Sow More Vegetables
IIt is time to plant those bush beans, but also time to succession sow (or use transplants) some of the early season crops like lettuces (chose heat-resistant varieties), radishes, carrots, and beets to keep vegetables coming on. Want pumpkins for Halloween? Plant pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers, lima beans, and sweet potatoes now. And don't forget to fertilize.
For reference on vegetable gardening for beginners and advanced gardeners, download or read here.
5. Summer Bloomers
If spring was stunning, but the summer garden is missing something, consider summer blooming perennials or shrubs to spruce up a few spots. Our gardens tend to have a lot of bloom in spring, but can be a bit lackluster in summer and fall. Try annuals for all season color. Clethra is a fragrant, summer-blooming shrub, one the hummingbirds love that blooms in July and August. Click here and here for lists of some our favorite shade and full sun perennials. As long as you keep watering, you can keep planting.
If you haven’t planted your containers, you still can. Our annual department is overflowing with color and staff is happy to help you design. Be sure to water your containers, once to twice weekly, depending on plant material and fertilize blooming annuals with a bloom booster every 7-10 days.
Written by Cinthia Milner, Garden Coach, and blog writer.
BB Barns serves all of Western North Carolina, upstate South Carolina, and Tennessee.