The Edible Garden in June
Wouldn’t you know it, after a couple of months of touting the rollback of Hardiness Zone 7A’s final frost date to April 15-25, and gloating about the last frost way back in early March, we get frosts in early May. Apparently, it is getting warmer, but also more variable. Vigilance, vegetable gardeners, vigilance. I hope you were able to get your tomatoes, cukes, beans, etc. protected. Happy to say that my garden made it through with some last minute row covers.
If you’ve been following the planting schedule in Extension Publication 426-331, “Virginia’s Home Garden Vegetable Planting Guide,” you should be harvesting a nice crop of spring vegetables. As we move into June it is still planting time for beans, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, okra, peppers, pumpkins, winter and summer squash, sweet corn, sweet potato and tomatoes.
If your space is getting tight, you might want to try some intensive gardening techniques. These include vertical gardening, inter-planting and succession planting. There is some thought required to find complementary pairings of different plants and to arrange them in the most productive ways. Benefits include high production per available space and potential insect and disease management advantages. Check out the possibilities in Extension Publication 426-335, “Intensive Gardening Methods.”
Other suggestions for garden management this month:
Rotate crop locations to minimize the buildup of pests and pathogens. A 3-year cycle is commonly recommended.
Thin the seedlings of carrots, beets and other root crops to the recommended spacing to avoid crowding.
Now that the ground has warmed, apply organic mulches such as leaves, straw and clean grass to conserve water, suppress weed germination, and enrich soil as the mulch decomposes.
Repeat plantings of corn, beans, and other summer vegetables as the cool weather crops go to seed, to extend the harvest season.
Monitor soil moisture. As a general rule, vegetables require about an inch of water per week during the growing season. Soaker hoses or drip irrigation make the most efficient use of water during dry spells.
Water in the mornings and avoid splashing water and soil on plants to minimize the risks of mildew and soil-borne disease transmission. For the same reason, remove lower leaves on your tomato plants to prevent inadvertent soil contact.
Cool mornings are also the optimum time to pick vegetables for best texture and taste.
Asparagus –– stop harvesting when spears become thin.
Growing lettuce under a shade screening material will slow bolting and extend the harvest season. Also, try planting bolt-resistant varieties such as Muir, Sierra and Nevada.
Continue to mound soil up around potato vines to prevent the tubers from being exposed to the sun and turning green. You can also add a layer of straw or leaf mulch to help control weeds.
By June, our cole crops (cabbage, broccoli, kale, collards etc) will be invaded by a variety of cabbage worms, including loopers, imported cabbageworm moths, and the dreaded cross-striped cabbage worm. They are tough to control but can be managed. Holes chewed in leaves and dark excrement piles on leaves are the signs of attack. If hand picking, look for yellow eggs on the undersides of leaves as a start. Pull the caterpillars off leaves regularly; they do fast damage when uncontrolled. They can also be managed with row covers and with the organic pesticide Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt), available at garden centers. For more details review OMG What’s Eating the Broccoli from the June 2018 issue of The Garden Shed.
Compost heaps brewing inside former puppy pens
I always like to encourage folks to have some compost cooking. If you’ve saved some leaves and/or yard trimmings from last fall, combine them with grass clippings and kitchen vegetable cuttings to generate compost that you can apply to your beds prior to winter. I find that roughly equal volumes of grass clippings and mulched leaves is about right to achieve a hot compost batch. If it doesn’t get hot, add more grass and kitchen scraps. If it is slimey or gives off an ammonia smell, add leaves, wood chips, sawdust (not pressure treated) or other carbon source. Keep the pile moist but not dripping and turn it every week or so to keep it aerated. A second heap can take regular additions of materials as they become available throughout the summer. It decomposes a bit more slowly and less uniformly than the hot pile, but still produces a beautiful product in the end. It’s worth the effort! For more detailed guidance look at the article Backyard Composting with Practical Tips from the Pros in the January 2018 issue of The Garden Shed.
Collapsible puppy pens make a simple, inexpensive compost containment system (see photo). Clip the open ends together for containment. Unclip and swing open to turn the pile.
Herbs planted in average soil need no fertilizer. Too much fertilizer may reduce flavor and pungency.
The best time to harvest most herbs is just before flowering, when the leaves contain the maximum essential oils. Cut herbs early on a sunny day.
To control earworms on corn plants: apply several drops of mineral oil to the corn silk.
Thin overloaded fruit trees; this will result in larger and better fruit at harvest time.
Renovate the strawberry patch after harvest. Mow the rows, thin out excess plants and apply mulch for weed control.
For more tips on a variety of gardening topics, check out the Monthly Gardening Tips listed on the PiedmontMasterGardeners.org website under Gardening Resources.
Adapted from the Albemarle/Charlottesville VCE Office, “Monthy Horticulture Tip Sheets,” albemarle.ext.vt.edu/hort-tip-sheets/6-14-veg.pdf ; albemarle.ext.vt.eduhort-tip-sheets/6-14-fruit-nuts.pdf; albemarle.ext.vt.eduhort-tip-sheets/6-14-herbs.pdf
“Vertical Gardening Using Trellises, Stakes and Cages,” https://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/content/dam/pubs_ext_vt_edu/HORT/HORT-189/HORT-189-pdf.pdf