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
– 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
(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.)
– 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
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