June Chores: Cleaning Up Spring's Bounty

Spring's what? Don't I mean soggy plants, weed buckets overflowing with rainwater, trenches in the mulch, and seeds scattered everywhere from what is evidently now our monsoon season? Well, yes, that too. But even though the peonies gave up and are literally laying on the ground, it's still time to clean up spring's soggy bounty. Sharpen the deadheaders and pruners, and put on your raincoats, June's first chore is deadheading. Oh, and try to stay out of the beds. Mucking around on the wet soil compacts it. Okay. Get moving.

'Walker's Low' catmint has a lavender-like spring bloom that is really showy. It then blooms sporadically the rest of the season. The spring blooms last 4-6+ weeks. So worth a spot in the real estate. When blooms begin to look spent, shear back 2/3 for a fall bloom. 

Pruning and Deadheading

1. Deadheading. June is the month of 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 blooms.

All those spring bloomers, roses, peonies, irises and spring blooming bulbs need deadheading or shearing. (Don't cut back bulb foliage until it has completely turned yellow.) Some perennials like gaura are continual bloomers and need deadheading only to clean them up. 'Walker's Low' catmint or 'Sweet Kate' spiderwort, will rebloom 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 is one of these. Towards the end of June, she starts to look tired and gets tip burn. Shear her back completely for renewed fall bloom. 

Now is the time to prune rhododendrons. These bloom on old wood (this season's wood) and so, need time to grow and set buds for next season. The sooner you prune, the more blooms next year.

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 shrub. 

For those shrubs that need controlling, check out this blog post by Jenny Luczak who works with our landscape department. Full of good information on whether to hand prune or get out the electric shears. 

2. Weeding

Shrub roses that bloom all season give great color. Use a once-a-month fertilizer to help keep shrubs blooming prolifically. Keep deadheading spent blooms and prune when necessary to keep shrub in check and remove diseased leaves or broken/dead shoots.

Shrub roses that bloom all season give great color. Use a once-a-month fertilizer to help keep shrubs blooming prolifically. Keep deadheading spent blooms and prune when necessary to keep shrub in check and remove diseased leaves or broken/dead shoots.

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, 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 they gotta go. Knowing your weed is the best defense. A good place to start is a book that should be as handy as all your other garden books, Weeds of North America by France Royer and Richard Dickinson.

3. Watering (Say What?) 

Obviously, you get to ignore this chore, at least for this week. While you're planting, and as the weather warms 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, but as the elevation goes up in our mountains, the zone changes from 7 to 6 and 5). Root drenching is key. That means, water at soil level, and go around the plant, watering the entire root ball. 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 systems are great, and soaker hoses work well too, but a soaker hose is considered supplemental water. Whether irrigation system or soaker hose, it is still best to 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 system as needed, and it may be necessary to water some by hand.  

4. Succession Sow More Vegetables.

The spoils of summer are coming. Sweet bell peppers, hot jalapenos, okra, tomatoes and more. Continue to weed, water and fertilize your vegetable garden. If you don't have room for a vegetable garden, remember the farmer's market, a great way to support local farmer's and get fresh produce. This year, consider helping the farmer's out as many of their crops have been destroyed, and fields are under water. 

It 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 crops coming on. Want pumpkins for Halloween? Plant pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers, lima beans, and sweet potatoes now. And, don't forget to fertilize. 

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 or our favorite shade and full sun perennials. As long as you keep watering, you can keep planting.  

Helenium 'Mardi Gras' attracts butterflies and blooms non-stop from mid-summer through fall. 

But before the chores, the Holiday. Take the day to rest and relax, relishing in the freedoms we Americans have because of the anonymous sacrifices of so many. There is always work to be done in the garden, but there are also days to just enjoy the garden. Maybe from the porch between rain storms. 

Happy Memorial Day and thank you to any veterans or active military reading this. Your service is appreciated by BB Barns and we hold you in our hearts.

Written by Cinthia Milner, Garden Coach, OSA, blog writer.

BB Barns serves all of Western North Carolina, upstate South Carolina, and Tennessee.