Monday, June 18, 2012

June Maintenance Mode

June is an anticipatory middle month. The early spring blooms have burnt away to allow the mid season blooms a place in the sun: large sprays of roses, colorful salvia, yarrow, lavender, and other assorted butterfly-loving flowers. The early wildflowers have recently been removed to may way for the squash and pumpkin. The tomatoes are flowering and bringing forth hard, green fruit. There are no tomatoes to eat just yet and I hope today's sunshine is evidence of more warmth to come.

This odd lull in the garden has left me with only the simplest of tasks, mainly deadheading. Many would ask: Why cut the blooms off a flowering plant? Truth be told, a gardener who removes the almost spent blossom encourages the plant to produce a bevy more of them. I have deadheading my roses down to a scheduled science. On days I water (usually Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday) I remove spent and on the cusp of spent blooms and remove leaves infested with orange rust. I think I will be forever doomed to fight orange rust, but I find that if I attack in short battles over the course of time, I have more success (and more beautiful roses) than if I try to wage an epic battle once a month. As with all work in a garden, it is a war of attrition, the pests and blight never truly defeated but rather staved off for another day. Deadheading isn't just for roses; I use the tactics on annual flowers, lavender, salvia, and yarrow. The tactic does not seem to work on jasmines; they bloom profusely, then like a switch, shut down for the season, leaving me to miss their lovely scent.

The Yellow Pear (left) is taller than me!
Other simple June task include (as always) weeding, watering, and checking for powdery mildew and treating it, THE EARLIER THE BETTER. And yes, I am shouting that last provision. I didn't treat my yellow crook necked squash early enough and now I am afraid they cannot be salvaged (into the dumpster they go)! The tomatoes, zucchini, and pumpkins will take their medicine on a regular basis. There are many options to choose from at your local nursery and many of them are organic. Weeding is still necessary but begins to lull after the end of the spring rains. I am fighting spotted spurge and spider grasses rather than thicker stemmed varieties such as dandelions. Weeding is another war of attrition, the more weed-free the garden, the less likelihood of weed seeds spread far and wide. But vigilance always, for the next infestation is on the wind.

Butterfly Garden
Watering responsibility requires keen observation in June. The overcast marine layer of “June Gloom” blots out the sun in the mornings (and sometimes all day). I still usually water 3 days a week, but I skip a day as needed if the ground still looks damp. Over watering can kill just as much as under watering, and it brings a higher risk of powdery mildew.

My happy place

After puttering in the garden in the cool weekend mornings, completing these smaller tasks, I can afford to relax in the afternoon, sipping an iced coffee underneath my new patio canopy. I enjoy whiling a way an hour or two reading my gardening magazines or watching the birds, waiting in anticipation for the tomato crop to turn to the magic colors of ripeness: red, orange, yellow, and purple.

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