Thursday, June 14, 2012

Gardening Tips for June

By Master Gardener and Village interpreter Pat Kriener

Vacation Time is here and as a gardener even the word VACATION can strike terror in me. How is the garden going to survive without me? To ease my mind on vacation I use many of the tips & tricks listed throughout this month's Garden Tips.
  • Watering – The key to that summer vacation is training your plants to a 7-day watering cycle if we do not get any rain. Your plants and lawn are already on the schedule so when you leave for that much-needed vacation they are no worse off than if you were at home. Water in everything heavier than usual just to ease your mind. Always water in early morning with soaker hoses or hose ground watering for best results. If you will be gone longer than seven days, invest in timers. 
  • Annuals – Plant heat loving annuals that require very little water; Comos, Impatiens (shade), Begonia (green leaf shade – bronze leaf sun), Lantana, Moss Rose, Purselane, Scabiosa, Sun flower, Texas Bluebells, Vinca & Zinnias. Again water, fertilize with liquid seaweed, top-dress & mulch plants to help combat the intense heat 
  • Bulbs –You can still find container grown summer bulbs in the nurseries. Bulbs such as ginger, crinum, gloriosa lily, achimenes, oxalis, caladium and society garlic create a beautiful show in mid-summer.  If you did not plant any this year, put them on your list for next year. As always do not cut foliage back until they yellow. To disguise, plant annuals in front. Once your gladiolas die back, dig them up and store in cool dry place. 
  • Compost Bin  – Works just as well as when you’re gone as when you’re at home.
  • Containers – Cut up sea sponges and add to your soil when you plant or add later. The sponges will help hold in moisture between watering. Another trick is poke very small holes in the sides of the 1 gal plastic milk jug or plastic pop bottle above the upwards curve, then fill it with water. This will slowly water your larger pots. Use smaller containers for smaller pots. Do this before you go on vacation to see how long it takes until they are empty. Mine usually last 2 days with very tiny holes. You can also place them by plants that struggle in the heat or new planting that need extra watering.
  • Greenhouse – Hopefully your shade cloth is up. Next create a way to keep the extreme west sun off your plants.  My green house is located on the north side of a pear tree and a permanent plywood wall cuts down on the extreme heat from the west. Usually this time of year I am propagating very little but because of these changes the past few years I continue to propagate herbs, vegetables, perennials and annuals throughout the summer. Add buckets with water to use for spot watering and help with humidity.  Cover the top of the buckets with window screens and large rubber bands. When I go on vacation, I add misters or soaker hoses on timers.
  •  Herbs – Harvest flowers & leaves, preserve by drying or freezing, sow seeds, take softwood cuttings, pinch out flowering shoots to promote leaf growth.  Don’t forget to take your dried herbs on your camping or fishing trip, in labeled-baggies to save room. Basil, lemongrass, fennel, dill, rosemary and oregano are great herbs to have for salads, soups, chicken, beef or fish. A good watering before you leave is usually all they need & follow tips above for your container herbs.
  • Lawn – They plant summer lawns all through our intense heat, but realize that you will be watering several times a day and you might want to wait on this project for late summer, early fall or spring..  Also it is very important that the sod be laid soon after it is harvested for best results.  This is chinch bug season for St. Augustine especially in dry weather. Mowing regularly at recommended heights with sharp blades is one of the best things we can do for a healthy lawn. Water every 7 days unless it rains and, before you leave on that much needed vacation, water heavily.
  • Mulch – Think of mulch as that much needed plant-sitter, it helps the ground stay moist & cool. 
  • Perennials – The garden centers still have perennials that can be planted but if you were leaving on a vacation I would wait until you get back to purchase. Water existing plants and fertilize with liquid seaweed, top dress with compost, earthworm castings or humus, in combination or singular.
  • Problems –Mosquitoes a problem?  Standing water is a great breeding ground for mosquitoes.. Dump all standing water, cover buckets or rain harvesting barrels with window screening, add Mosquito dunks to all water sources such as ponds, birdbaths or other water features. Encourage bats to your yard , 1 little brown bat can eat 1000 mosquitoes. Fungus gnats are horrible this year. Set out traps  (sugar water in a pickle jar), keep all fruit & other food put up, do not over water inside plants or let them stand in water, add Venus flytraps or pitcher plants to your kitchen.
  • Prune – Prune dead foliage and limbs off all flowers, shrubs and trees so they are not stressed by supporting them   Do Not Prune Oaks until it is over 100 degrees.
  • Rainwater – Hurray we have been getting rain and I have to say I am thrilled that all of my rain barrels are full. If you don’t have rain barrels put out buckets, plastic containers, pots with small holes in your beds and pots to catch rainwater to be released slowly. 
  • Roses – Plant EarthKind Roses because once established very little care or water is needed.
  • Trees – Hopefully your newly planted trees are now on the 7 day watering cycle and you can leave with a light heart. If not, invest in a tree water bag or tree ring waterer, fill with water and it slowly releases it over a period of time. Remember to water-in heavily with a hose and add mulch.
  • Vegetable Garden  Everything in the vegetable garden is doing wonderful and I am still planting odds and ends as one crops finishes I plant another in its place. PLANT NOW:  Amaranth, Black-eyed peas, cantaloupe, collards, eggplant, luffa, okra, peppers, pumpkin, Southern peas, sweet potatoes, Swiss chard & watermelons.  Watering tips for any garden – save your 1to 5 gal. pots that have drainage holes. Dig holes next to your plants almost the depth of your pot. Place your pot in the hole & back fill with dirt on the outside of the pot. Put a little cow manure or humus in the bucket then fill with water. Use soaker hoses on timers when on vacation.
  • Wildflowers – Don’t forget your North American Wildflower book on your vacation to help identify the native wildflowers as you speed down the highways of America. I always try to take plant I.D. books or Pocket Guides for the area where I am vacationing. Digging up wildflowers to transplant rarely works, it’s better to wait and harvest the seeds after it blooms. Remember  if you take all the seeds or kill it by digging it up we damage our flowers for next year.
  • Wildlife in the Garden – Encourage Bats to your yard by adding Bat Houses or Bat Gardens. Create a garden that attracts night insects gardenias, evening primrose, stock,  For more information about bats, visit

From June to August is a great time to vacation because the major gardening chores are done but the destruction we find when we return due to the heat almost makes it not worth the trip. So my best vacation advice is to find gardening friends and neighbors that have the same problem and create a gardening co-op so when you go away someone who understands can stop by and check on your gardens.

Enjoy your VACATION!