June in the garden


June announced its arrival with a couple of windy, rainy, flower-smashing storms. Big fat peony blossoms, weighted down with water, bowed to the ground. A clump of blooming Jupiter’s Beard was flattened. The green beans dawdled, waiting to see the sun so they could start their climb towards it.

Then, on Wednesday summer arrived. The peonies dried off and picked themselves up. The Jupiter’s beard got some supportive stakes and twine and are now upright and in recovery.

The dawn of a sunny day also felt like a celebration for another reason: On Tuesday night, the Tumwater City Council, local Tribes and an outpouring of citizen protest finally persuaded the city’s mayor to back away from her rush to cut down the Davis-Meeker Garry Oak tree.

Cottonwood trees filled the air with a bumper crop of white seed-fluff, like a natural form of confetti to celebrate the victory for their old oak cousin.

But as much as we had been craving heat and sunlight, now it’s suddenly time to ask ourselves: Are we ready?

Here’s what we need to do:

  • Be prepared to be amazed by how fast everything is growing. As we near the solstice, the momentum of growth accelerates wildly, for weeds and “our” plants alike. You may need to quit your job to keep up with it all.
  • Get ready for heat. June isn’t usually the hottest month, but the deadly heat dome of 2021 came at the end of June, and the trend is towards hotter, longer summers. We will need to have shade cloth and be ready to protect plants from scorching afternoon heat. You can buy purpose-made shade cloth online, or search for it at a nursery . . . or use old sheets. A trip to a fabric store might also be in order. Even if June stays mild, it’s a good time to prepare and to build the structures that will hold the shade cloth above the plants, not on them.
  • Thin your plants, so they don’t become overcrowded. This can be hard to do; most of us hate to pull up any plant we grew from seed, or nurtured from the time it was a baby in a little plastic pot. Harden your heart and do it anyway. Crowded plants are more prone to pests and diseases and provide more places for slugs and snails to hide. Also, you will harvest more broccoli from plants that are two feet apart than those that are ten inches apart

    There are exceptions. If, for instance, you are going to harvest the big outer leaves from plants like Swiss chard, kale or collard greens regularly throughout the season, you can get away with planting them about a foot apart. Ditto for most kinds of lettuce.
  • Keep an eye out for early signs of pests and diseases. This year, powdery mildew has gotten an early start; it more typically comes later in the summer. It is a white powdery fungus that appears on leaves of squashes and many other species of both vegetables and flowers. It spreads fast, so it’s best to thwart it as soon as you see it. A copper-based fungicide spray, applied once a week or so, works fine, but shouldn’t be used if you are near a lake, saltwater, or a stream. A tablespoon of baking soda mixed with a gallon of water and a tablespoon each of oil and soap also works. In fact, there are many recipes for home remedies, using ingredients like diluted milk, vinegar and even mouthwash.
  • Revel in the month of June. No matter what the weather does, the days will grow deliciously longer, and everything in the green world will reach for the light. June is the most alive time of the year.

    I was even going to say it’s the best month of the year. But a couple of days ago someone asked me what my favorite flower is. I blurted out “whatever is blooming now.” Maybe there’s a similar psychic trick about which month is the best, and my June-induced euphoria will be outdone by July, or maybe September.

Jill Severn writes from her home in Olympia, where she grows vegetables, flowers, and a small flock of chickens. She loves conversation among gardeners. Start one by emailing her at  jill@theJOLTnews.com


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  • FirstOtter

    And don't forget to keep pulling the weeds. I swear, the chickweed and forget-me-not are on steroids this year. Plantago and Hairy cats ear are right up there with it.

    Monday, June 10 Report this