June gardening guide: what to do in your garden this June
June is planting time. Days are at their longest - from the dawn chorus to the summer solstice - which gives gardeners the most time in the year to look after and enjoy flourishing gardens.
Even with our unpredictable weather, it is safe to say that there is no risk of frost in June, but the weather can still surprise us.
June gardening guide: Planting
June is traditionally the time to plant out bedding plants which are so much part of the English summer.
When choosing bedding plants, it is worth remembering that some bedding plants need a lot of attention compared to others. Ice plants (mesembryanthemum), petunia, and verbena are high maintenance plants requiring a good deal of deadheading. Whereas geranium (pelargonium), nasturtium, and schemes that combine some perennials such as lavender and grasses with bedding plants are easier to manage.
The garden is frost-free by June, which means it is safe to plant out all remaining vegetables. Plant out peas, beans of all types, salad crops, rocket, carrots, and everything not yet planted out, including the more tender crops such as courgettes, squashes, cucumbers, French beans and tomatoes. All varieties of beans can be planted out now or seeded directly into the veg plot for later crops.
Do bear in mind that plants that are seeded or planted together will produce fruit together, i.e. all at the same time. And this will likely result in a glut. The best way to avoid this is to sow and plant regularly, and an easy to remember rule-of-thumb is to do this every fortnight.
Keep sowing and planting each fortnight until late in the season, depending on the vegetable. Seed packets will give a guide for last the planting dates, but adjust the dates for your garden aspect. Some vegetables grow more quickly and can be sown again late in the season, such as radish and lettuces. Others like squash, for example, need the whole season to fruit and are usually sown at the beginning of the year.
June is also the time to sow biennials - a group of plants that seed and grow one year and flower the next.
June gardening guide: Care and maintenance
Deadhead plants to keep them flowering
Deadheading for both annual and perennial plants is always worthwhile because removing spent flowers from the plant prolongs the flowering season. Plants produce flowers as part of their reproductive process; from the flowers come the seed. The cycle is complete once the seed is set, and a plant may reduce and eventually stop flowering.
Nip off the spent flowers to keep plants flowering for as long as possible. This is especially true of all bedding type plants, nipping the growth to make the plants bushy. Any plants you may want to self-seed, such as digitalis, or aquilegia, do not deadhead.
Deadheading is also suitable for perennial plants, although some plants will only flower once. Perennial plants that are suitable for deadheading include aster, campanula, delphinium and digitalis (may produce lesser, second flush), geum, hemerocallis, Lavandula, monarda, nepeta, Phlox, salvia, scabious, veronica, rosa, thalictrum. Not all will produce more flowers, but deadheading will improve the appearance of the plant once flowering has finished.
Cut back early-flowering perennials
Rather than deadheading, some plants are better cut back close to the ground. This will make the plant produce fresh foliage and sometimes a later flush of flowers. This method is ideal for plants whose foliage looks a bit tatty and tired as the summer progresses. Plants suitable to be cut back hard are alchemilla Mollis, geranium, Stachys and heuchera.
This is a safe time to prune shrubs that have already flowered like spiraea, choisya, camellia, dutzia, philadelphus. Prune to reduce the size, take out weedy branches, and reduce leading shoots to make the shrub bushier. Also, prune the bottom of the shrub to lift the branch canopy to allow more light and air for the plants growing around the shrub.
If needed, hard prune rhododendrons after flowering. That could be May, June or July, depending on the variety. If the shrub has grown too big, prune it back. It will look very bare and sorry for itself but after a few months will regrow.
June gardening guide: Wildlife and pests
Whatever you are planting, there will be weeds. It is a good idea to plant young vegetables or sow seeds in straight lines about a hoe width apart, so you can tell weeds from seeds. Weeds don’t grow in straight lines, so you can tell which are the baby plants or small seedlings and which are weeds. The easiest way to get rid of the weed seedlings is to hoe them off on a dry day.
Pigeons rarely sleep, or that’s how it seems, and they love munching away at the new growth until they are too fat to fly and just waddle off. The only way to prevent this is to physically protect the young plants with mesh supported by a frame. Otherwise, you are growing pigeon food.
You will also need to net strawberries and other soft fruit if you want to enjoy the crop. Pigeons love to peck at the new growth on onions and garlic, which causes the newly planted onions to be lifted out of the soil. The pigeons pick up the shoot just above the ground and lift up the onion, which you may find scattered around and will need replanting.
Strawberries are usually flowering well at the end of May and early June, and fruit will follow shortly. Birds love strawberries, and it’s necessary to cover them with a net to preserve the crop.
June gardening guide: Other garden tasks for June
- If you are growing potatoes and there is a dry spell, water regularly and earth up, both are important for a good crop as they help form more potatoes as the season goes on.
- Tomatoes need feeding and watering, and the side shoots removing regularly. The first (and possibly the second) sets of flowers will appear, which is a signal to start feeding.
- Thin fruit trees to improve the quality of the remaining fruit after the ‘June drop’, which is when the tree naturally sheds some fruit but not enough.
- Keep newly planted trees and shrubs well-watered while they establish.