June means hot and dry weather, with occasional drops in temperature. Daytime temperatures average around 92°F daytime and 58°F at night. Expect almost 14 hours of sunshine per day, but don’t expect rain: June is historically the third driest month of the year. Without adequate snowpack and rainfall this winter and spring, we are in another drought year. We know how to keep our gardens healthy and growing with water-efficient practices and low-water-use plants. We will continue to learn what practices and plants make the most sense for our new climate, our new water availability here in the arid west.
Planting: Your ornamental planting should be finished by the middle of the month. If you must plant ornamentals as the weather gets into the really hot days, choose water-tolerant plants. In low-water-use gardens, this can be the many sage (Salvia), among them California native sage, California fuchsia (Epilobium), sage hybrids and cultivars like “Hot Lips,” and “Flame,” plus Yarrow (Achillea), Butterfly Bush (Buddleia), Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia), Bougainvillea, rosemary, yucca (Hesperaloe), Quail bush (Lentiformis) and Apricot Mallow (Sphaeralcea).
In the edible garden, you can still plant melon, winter squash and pumpkin, basil, corn, and okra. Edible gardening is a high-maintenance project and is not low-water. But as long as we don’t waste or overuse water and we maximize our harvest by controlling pests and diseases, we should not be afraid to keep our edible gardens and fruit orchards.
Maintaining: Lawns should be watered deeply and infrequently. Keep your grass at least three inches tall to help the crowns stay cool and not dry out between watering. Consider removing your lawn, or reducing the size and/or switching from a high-water-use species to a low-water-use lawn.
Monitor your garden, both edible and ornamental, for pest insects like scale, aphid, whitefly, stink bug, spider mite, and earwigs. In a well-managed garden, you will find a large number of beneficial insects like lacewings, lady bugs, pirate bugs and spiders of all colors and sizes. Monitor populations of pest insects and see if the beneficials, including birds, can keep the numbers manageable. If some help is needed, follow the “least toxic first” method of integrated pest management (IPM) practice before you reach for the kills-everything insecticide.
Other tasks this month are:
- Deep-water ground covers, lawns, shrubs, and trees, including fruit trees.
- Divide bearded iris once they finish blooming. First carefully dig up plants and discard old rhizomes and any diseased or rotted sections. Replant the healthy rhizomes, making sure to plant shallowly. Just barely cover the rhizome with soil before watering.
- Prune azalea, camelia and hydrangea after bloom.
- After harvest, clean up berry vines. Cut this year’s fruiting canes to the ground and tie up the new green canes in their place. Spread compost or fertilizer in the bed, then deep water.
- Prune apricot trees in the summer. You can also do a light summer pruning of other stone fruit trees. Beware of pruning too much, since bark that has previously been in the shade can be extra-sensitive to sunburn.
- Pinch asters, chrysanthemums, and sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ to encourage branching and more blooms in the fall.
- Lightly cut back any perennials that are becoming too leggy.
- Snip spent flowers from summer blooming annuals and perennials.
- Wisteria can be pruned aggressively now. Cut back to two nodes on the new branches, as this will keep the plant from unrestrained growth, while giving it time to put on a spectacular display of blooms next year.
- Manage mosquitoes by limiting standing water and using dunks containing Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (BTI).
For weed control:
- Crabgrass thrives in overwatered, over-mowed lawn. Change the lawn care and reduce this weed. If you use an herbicide, be sure to follow the directions carefully; don’t just throw it on by the handful.
- Nutsedge also loves overwatered lawns and planting beds. It’s tough to get rid of. Be diligent with hand pulling, hoeing, and spraying to remove it before it takes control of your garden or lawn.
- Spurge is often a sign you also have an Argentine ant problem and, in lawns, that you are mowing too short. This flat creeping weed with a red spot on the leaves must be hand pulled or hoed before plants set seeds. Also control the ants with baits, changing the active ingredient every few months.
Conserving: Conserving this summer is mostly about water. If you do only one thing, repair leaks! If you can do more, Save Our Water has easy to follow tips for prioritizing water use and conserving water (saveourwater.com/en/How-to-Save-Water/Around-the-Yard). Many of these tips are easy to make into a life-long habit, drought or no drought. If you are still a hold out, trying to save your water-thirsty lawn and England or New England type landscape, perhaps some of the new garden styles appearing throughout our valley will inspire you to modernize your garden and reduce the water needs of the ornamental landscape. If you planted a water-efficient landscape before or during the 2013-2015 drought, you may see some drought stress on your plants, but they are likely to survive the summer without serious injury—even with water reductions.
The Master Gardeners will be live to answer your questions on Saturday, June 4, from 8 to 11 a.m. at the Visalia Farmer’s Market in the southwest parking lot of Sequoia Mall. They can also be contacted between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays to answer your questions at 559-684-3325, or visit their web site at ucanr.edu/sites/UC_Master_Gardeners.