What to do in a Southern California garden in June

What to do in a Southern California garden in June

June is the lush month. June is the jungle month, particularly toward the end. The days are at their longest and they are warm, so the garden begins to look verdant and tangled in a most wonderful way. Squash vines overtake your walking paths. Corn stalks tower overhead. Cherry tomato plants drip with red fruit. Cucumber and beans climb up their cages and strings (pictured above).

I make sure to take pictures of my garden around the solstice in late June since it never looks more bountiful.

But there’s also a sense of urgency this month. It is your last chance to plant most of those warm-season vegetables. Put them in now or you’ll have to wait until next year because, planted in July, they won’t have enough time in the heat of summer to mature a crop. (The main exceptions are corn and beans, which can be successfully planted in July.)

Below are details on doings in the vegetable garden, some fruit tree thoughts, and a few other uniquely June opportunities:

Sow and plant

– Sow or plant these vegetables: basil, beans, corn, cucumber, sweet potato, tomatillo, celery, chard, chives

– Plant seedlings of these vegetables: eggplant, pepper, melon, pumpkin, squash, tomato; if seeds of these vegetables are sown in June, especially later in the month, there’s a real risk of only getting a small crop before it cools too much at the end of the year since they take a long time to grow from seed to harvestable fruit

– Don’t bother planting cilantro; sorry to rain on your salsa parade, but cilantro is not well-suited to growing in the summer in Southern California; you’d think it would grow well with other salsa ingredients like tomatoes and peppers, but it won’t; it will start to flower fast because of the warm weather and, in my opinion, it’s not worthwhile; cilantro naturally grows in the cooler weather of late summer through the winter and spring

– Sow or plant pole beans to be used as temporary, summer shade on east- or west-facing walls or windows by growing them up strings under an eave; you can also use grapes for the purpose of shading a house

– Consider growing your own Halloween pumpkins and decorative fall corn; now’s the time to plant those in order to harvest by late October; last year, I grew the colorful corn variety called Glass Gem, which I posted photos of here

– Plant avocado and citrus trees; they feel right at home in the warmth of early summer and soon prove it to you with a flush of new leaves, which gives you an immediate sense of success that you won’t get when planting in most of the rest of the year; if you plant one, see my post “How to water a new avocado tree”

Harvest and eat

corn harvest in June

This Jubilee corn, photographed on June 7, is about two weeks from harvest.

– Eat these vegetables (had you planted them): tomatoes, tomatillos, potatoes, corn, greens, onion, garlic, peas, lettuce, beets, carrots, peppers

– Don’t fret over tomatoes that have blossom end rot (rotten bottom of the fruit); it happens often to the first fruits of May and June but not to the later fruits of summer, and there’s nothing you can do about it despite what someone selling a product might claim (it’s just a symptom of the cooler weather of spring/early summer); incidentally, if you do apply a product for blossom end rot, you’ll find that — voila! — it worked: the placebo effect

– Eat these berries and fruits (had you planted them): blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, grapes, avocados (Hass, Lamb, Reed), Valencia oranges, lemons and limes, Pixie and Gold Nugget mandarins, apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums, passion fruit

Reed and Lamb Hass avocados size comparison

June avocados: Reed on the left, and Lamb on the right

(Why do I mention what you could be harvesting and eating? So you can plan. If you want to be harvesting tomatoes next June, for example, then plant them next March. Or if you want to be eating avocados from your yard in June, then plant a Hass, Lamb, or Reed tree.)

Miscellaneous

– Water plants for “thrival” not mere survival; don’t make the mistake that I have in some past summers of being stingy with water on vegetables and fruit trees, which lowers production and defeats the point; if you scratch into the dirt around the roots of your plants, you’ll know for sure how much water they have access to, as I wrote about in this post

– Appreciate and observe the summer solstice (June 20): Have a late dinner out in the yard while you notice where the sun sets — isn’t it fascinating how far northwest it falls below the horizon on this day?

– Give some deciduous fruit trees a haircut; soon after you harvest the fruit from a tree is a great time to bring it down to size and remove some branches wherever it’s crowded; you’ll have less work to do in winter, and more sunlight will reach lower branches for the rest of summer, making them more fruitful

Snow Queen nectarine tree in June

Snow Queen is a delicious white nectarine whose fruit is ripe starting now in early June. I will prune it at the end of June once we have eaten all of the fruit.

 

You might also like to read:

How long to run drip irrigation on vegetables

Can you grow an avocado tree in a small yard space?

Oranges and mandarins fresh off the tree almost all year

Glass Gem corn, and Happy Thanksgiving!

glass gem corn

I try to grow some of our fall decorations each year, and this year, instead of squash, I focused on colorful corn. Doesn’t get much more vibrant than Glass Gem. 

A variety from Oklahoma that has a hopeful history, it is available from Baker Creek for about $5 a packet, which sowed a 10′ x 10′ block for me. I grew it with squash underneath and beans climbing the stalks, in a “Three Sisters” configuration.

The only mistake I made in growing this crop was planting it too late such that the ears weren’t dried and in full color until early November. I sowed on July 8. Next time I’ll sow in June so we can enjoy Glass Gem’s beauty from October onward.

When the ears are finished with their decorative work in the next few weeks I’ll feed some of them to the chickens. I’ve already been feeding ears that were badly damaged by earworms to the chickens, and they get so excited for the kernels, although I doubt it has anything to do with being impressed by the colors.

glass gem corn

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