June Checklist:

This month's garden chores.

June is here and soon the fireflies will be lighting up our farm fields with their late night disco parties. Their bioluminescent displays arrive in the weeks flanking the summer solstice (which happens to be our own deadline for getting transplants out into fields). When the fireflies arrive, it feels like they’re celebrating with us. “This part of the season represents a turn towards upkeep (weeding) and managing what we worked so hard to start from seed,” Steven Crist, our Farm Manager, tells us. “For me, it's a joyous time. Stage one is complete. The plants are in the ground and now we have to guide them through their life cycle.”


June on the farm is when we see lots of flowers emerge, and the first overwintered Kale and Broccoli Raab varieties are harvested for seed. “With the majority of our direct sown and transplanted seed crops in the ground, the farm vision is truly starting to take shape,” Steven says. “There are thousands and thousands of bed feet beginning to come to life!”  This week we are transplanting the remainder of our cucumber and squash varieties, which entails lots of compost and soil amendments, mulch to create weed-free sprawling spaces, and hoops and row cover to protect the plants from cucumber beetles.

Over at our trials farm, Farmer Katie Wong notes the Alliums in bloom and the Irises "standing nice and tall after last weekend's hard rain." In the coming weeks, Katie says, "we'll be irrigating lots to keep the plants healthy during the anticipated hot days ahead, and I'll begin trellising the Tomatoes and Cucumbers.” Indeed, much of what we do on the farm in June holds true for the home gardener. With that in mind, here are a few home gardening tips for the month:

Keep Sowing

In June, we continue to succession sow fast maturing crops and sow for fall harvested crops. The best way to ensure a harvest all season is to keep sowing all season. Take advantage of all the space in your garden.

Veggies like Bush Beans and Radishes, herbs like Basil and Cilantro, and flowers like Calendula and Bachelor Button are space-efficient and easy to grow. Additionally, it might be time to plant some crops you may not have gotten around to yet, like Corn or direct-sown Summer Squash. Beets, Broccoli, Carrots, Collards, Cucumber, fast-growing Cabbages (like Early Jersey Wakefield or Red Express), Fennel, Kale, Lettuce, and Scallions can all be sown in June in our region.

Water

Most established seedlings need about an inch of water per week. While the easiest way to keep track of moisture levels is to invest in a rain gauge, you can also just stick your fingers down into the soil to test for dryness. At this time of year, it’s better to water deeply, so that the roots of your plants will reach further down into the soil where there tends to be more moisture.

Whether you are watering by hand or have an irrigation system, just be sure to water as close to the roots as you can, and leave foliage dry if possible. Overhead watering increases the chance of fungal disease. Also, be mindful of your container garden: plants in pots tend to dry out much faster than those in the ground. For more watering tips, see this post.

Weed


Katie says, “With most of our trial varieties transplanted and direct sown, we shift into cultivation mode to keep up with weed pressure. Mainly hand weeding the Carrots, Amaranth and other direct sown beds.”

At home, pulling weeds out of the ground before they've had the chance to establish is infinitely easier than waiting. Pull out all the small weed seedlings that have sprung up recently. Save yourself trouble later and give your seeds and seedlings an edge by doing some hand weeding or scuffle hoeing. Find snips and weeding tools here.

Need help distinguishing the weeds from your seedlings? Browse this resource from Rutgers University.

Mulch


Shredded leaves, wood chips, grass clippings, straw, and even newspaper and cardboard can be used as mulch. Mulch maintains moisture in the soil and helps support fungal networks that assist plants in nutrient uptake. Adding organic matter like compost can also improve moisture levels.

Or, try a living mulch! Living mulches are just plants that cover otherwise unoccupied spaces much like standard mulches.  For home gardens, we like filling in the gaps with flowers that can be eventually be turned under like a cover crop. Lacy Phacelia, Borage, Calendula, Bachelor Button, and Nasturtium are all fast-growing, pollinator-attracting varieties that do double duty as living mulches.

Prevent Pests


Keeping on top of weeds is actually one of the best natural strategies for pest control, as is eliminating other critter habitats, like old piles of wood or debris. We use row cover to protect many of our plants from flea beetle damage (see left). If you need something a bit more on the defense, we find a treatment of soapy water can deter many pests, including aphids and cucumber beetles, and shallow pans of beer works for slugs. Removing pests by hand can also be effective for home gardeners.

Ideally, you'll have plenty of beneficial insects like lady bugs, praying mantises, and spiders that prey on the less welcome inhabitants of your garden.  Fun fact: fireflies prey on slugs!  (Well, not so fun for the slugs.) For more critter counsel, click here.

Harvest

While growing is a rewarding activity in and of itself, we can sometimes get so busy putting our gardens in that we neglect to harvest as our gardens grow. So, visit your garden every day to get a return on your investment. Whether its a bowl of leaves for braising, the last of the radishes before summer heat, squash blooms for stuffing, cut flowers for the table, or fragrant herbs. Cultivate this habit and you'll also stay ahead of birds, bugs, and blights.

June is filled with magic: the garden is putting on lots of new growth and what we only imagined in our minds in early spring is becoming reality before our eyes. It's a month worth celebrating, as the fireflies well know.

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