Late June Garden Checklist

Here in the Southeast, June is an exciting time in the garden. Depending on your zone, you’ll be harvesting various crops like the last of the spring snap peas and broccoli and the first tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash of the year. It’s also a time where staying on top of the garden chores is critical for continued production into the late summer and fall. This late June garden checklist will help you stay on track and keep your garden healthy and productive. 

June Maintenance

The late June garden to-do list includes some general maintenance tasks to keep your garden growing strong.

Weed, Weed, Weed.

No one loves to spend time weeding, but this time of year is critical. Keep the weeds knocked back to ensure they don’t steal precious water and nutrients from your rapidly growing crops. 

Harvest Regularly

Staying on top of harvesting is essential. You want to pick and use or preserve produce at its peak and encourage continued production. Many crops like cucumbers, summer squash, and green beans will produce more if picked regularly. Allowing the fruit of these crops to fully mature, like you would to save seed, will tell the plant it’s time to die back and stop producing. Check out our previous post, Food Preservation Resources, for information on putting up your harvest.

Add Compost

Heavy feeding crops like corn, tomatoes, and peppers benefit from extra nutrients this year. Sidedressing these crops with good, finished compost can give them a boost to ensure good production. Sidedressing with compost when the plants are flowering is ideal.  

You should also add an inch or two of finished compost to a bed before sowing new successions. This will ensure your soil has enough nutrients to maintain good production.

Stay on Top of Watering

In the Southeast, the temperatures really begin to climb in June. This time of year and further into the summer keeping the soil cool and moist will improve production. A wilting plant is not the only sign of water stress. Deformed cucumbers are often a sign of too little water. Blossom end rot in tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers may also indicate water deficiency, as insufficient water can prevent the plant from taking up enough calcium. 

Remove Old Plants

Remove any plants that are no longer producing, like peas or plants past their prime. You can replace these plants with successions or cover crops, which we’ll discuss below.June garden checklist

Starting the Fall Garden

One of my mistakes as a new gardener was waiting too long to start a fall garden. If you live anywhere with a late first frost date, it can be easy to assume that you have plenty of time to grow crops in the fall. 

Unfortunately, it’s not just the temperature that affects how your garden grows. Dwindling hours of daylight slows crop growth in the late summer and fall.

To know when to sow summer successions and fall crops in your garden, take your first frost date and count backward by the days to maturity for a chosen variety plus an additional 14 days for cool-weather crops and 21 days for frost-tender crops (this accounts for slowed growth). 

For example, if your first frost date is November 15th and you want to grow another succession of Anne Arundel Muskmelons, you should plant your last succession by August 7th at the latest. To get that date, I started on November 15th and counted back 80 days (Anne Arundel’s days to maturity) and then counted back another 21 days to account for decreased daylight.

Late Summer & Fall Crops

Many crops can be planted in June, July, or even later, depending on your USDA zone. Some great options for late summer successions and fall crops include:

  • Snap Beans
  • Summer Squash & Zucchini
  • Cucumbers
  • Cabbages
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Turnips
  • Rutabagas
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Greens

When sowing and transplanting this time of year, you’ll want to take extra care to keep plants and seeds cool and moist. Transplant in the evening or on overcast days. Water often and use shade cloth or other plants to keep some afternoon sun off of cool-season crops like lettuce. Place seed trays in a root cellar or fridge to help seeds like cabbage and broccoli germinate in hot weather.

Heat-Tolerant Greens

As spring turns to summer, the last of the cool season greens are being harvested. Any leftover will soon bolt and turn bitter (pollinators love the flowers, though). Thankfully, there are a few ways to continue green production in the hotter parts of the year. 

Here are some great heat-tolerant greens to try:

Using row cover and keeping the soil moist can be especially helpful for lettuce.

Cover Crops

If you have empty beds that you aren’t going to fill with crop successions, it’s an excellent time to start some cover crops. Cover crops suppress weeds, keep the soil moist, and add nutrients and organic matter. Some cover crops you can sow in June include:

  • Buckwheat
  • Sorghum Sudan
  • Cowpeas
  • Soy
  • Millet

Check out these other Summer articles and tips:

Keeping up with summer garden chores is a demanding but rewarding process. Following this June garden checklist and completing these essential maintenance tasks, plus succession and fall planting, will allow you to keep fresh food on your family’s table through late summer and fall. 

Food Preservation Resources

Even a small home garden can produce a bounty of food. While this is a wonderful thing, it can be a bit overwhelming. Beyond trying to eat plenty of fresh produce each meal and sharing with friends and family, most gardeners preserve some of the food that they grow. Especially, if you’re new to gardening, food preservation can be intimidating.

Questions like what’s the difference between water bath and pressure canning, how long do you have to blanch green beans, and what the heck is fermentation are all easy to answer, if you know where to look. Here are some great resources to answer all your home food preservation questions.

Food Preservation Websites

Canning Jars (Food Preservation)Ball Mason Jars

Ball Mason Jars have long been experts on all things American food preservation, especially canning. Get started with their Canning & Preserving 101 page and find in depth instructions and recipes to help you safely put up the harvest for months to come. 

Food in Jars

From spicy winter squash soup to nasturtium seed capers and cherry jam, the Food in Jars blog is full of helpful and exciting recipes to fill your pantry. 

National Center for Home Food Preservation

The National Center for Home Food Preservation website now features easy to follow guides and recipes for a wide array of foods and techniques. Learn to can, pickle, freeze, dry, cure, smoke, ferment, and store your harvest safely and easily at home.

Canning Across America

Canning Across America is a “nationwide, ad hoc collective of cooks, gardeners and food lovers committed to the revival of the lost art of “putting by” food.” They have plenty of recipes, guides, and answers to FAQs to help you feel comfortable putting up food.  

Food Preservation Books

Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz

Wild Fermentation (Food Preservation)If you’ve been interested in food preservation or local food for very long, you’ve probably heard of Sandor Katz. He’s well known for popularizing home fermentation and has taught workshops across the US. His book Wild Fermentation, includes about 100 home recipes for fermenting vegetables, beans (ie. Miso), dairy, vegan alternatives, and sourdough and other grain ferments. 

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

We already mentioned the Ball Jars website, but their home preserving book is worth it’s own mention. It has over 400 recipes for classic favorites and 

Root Cellaring by Mike & Nancy Bubel

It wasn’t that long ago that most families stored fresh produce in root cellars. Learn how to build your own and store various crops using the naturally stable temperature with the Bubel’s book, Root Cellaring.

Putting Up: A Year-Round Guide to Canning in the Southern Tradition by Steve Dowdney

This guide provides 65 hand recipes, safety tips, and resources. Author Steve Dowdney also provides “stories and vignettes of a long gone agrarian south that filled the author’s youth and still fills his heart and memory.”

Put ’em Up!: A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook, from Drying and Freezing to Canning and Pickling by Sherri Brooks Vinton

The simple instructions and 175 recipes found in Put ‘em Up! Will help you use your fresh produce and fill your pantry. Learn to can, freeze, air-dry, oven-dry, pickle, and refrigerate food. 

Your Local Agricultural Extension Office

Local Extension agencies typically have a plethora of home gardening and food preservation resources. They’re often connected with a local university and stay up date on the latest safe techniques. 

Find an Extension Office Near your zip code here.

Food preservation doesn’t have to be scary! These home food preservation resources are great places for new and seasoned gardeners alike to find recipes, instructions, and helpful tips to put up their harvest. 

6 Ways to Improve Soil Fertility

As grocery, fertilizer, and other prices continue to rise, many backyard gardeners are digging deep to grow their own food. Whether you’ve been gardening for 20 years or planted your first plot this spring, maintaining or building healthy, fertile soil is probably a top concern. If you’re on a budget, purchasing fertilizer or other organic garden amendments can be a strain or even out of reach entirely. Thankfully, there are a few affordable or even free ways to improve soil fertility. 

Start composting. 

In a previous post, I referred to compost as black gold, and I wholeheartedly believe that good finished compost is one of the best garden amendments you can have. It adds fertility, improves soil structure, encourages beneficial fungi and bacteria, and more. Composting also helps keep unnecessary items out of landfills. 

Here are a few of the items you can compost and keep out of a landfill:

  • Vegetable Scraps
  • Stale or Moldy Bread, Crackers, Chips, etc.
  • Egg Shells
  • Grass Clippings
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Tea and Tea Bags
  • Leaves

If you want to learn more about composting from what bin or system to use, maintaining your compost, and what to put in it, visit our post, Black Gold: Making Compost.

Water with compost, comfrey, grass-clipping, or manure tea.

If your plants need a fast-acting boost, watering with a bit of one of these DIY liquid fertilizers may do the trick. It may sound a little gross and can be a bit smelly, but it’s easy to do and worth it!

All you need is compost, comfrey leaves, grass clippings, or manure, a five-gallon bucket or another similar container, water, and some material for filtering like an old pillowcase or cheesecloth. 

Get the details from our post, DIY Compost Tea.

Bag and use your grass clippings.

While I’m all for going no-mow whenever you can and using alternatives like wildflower plantings in place of lawns, I do understand that mowing some areas is nice or even necessary. Whether you’re mowing around your garden to keep the grass from creeping in, a play area for your kids, or just around your home, you can put those grass clippings to good use!

A mower with a bagger will allow you to collect and use grass clipping as mulch or ingredients in compost or liquid fertilizer. However, you may not want to bag your clippings all the time. Just like grass clipping add fertility to your garden, they help keep your yard fertile and grass looking nice as well.Cover Crops to Improve Soil Fertility

Grow cover crops. 

Cover crops aren’t a quick fix, nor are they free, but I think their benefits still outweigh their negatives. Cover crops add fertility and organic matter to the soil, help keep down weeds, provide habitat for pollinators and other beneficial insects, and prevent erosion. They’re also more affordable than buying fertilizer over the long term. 

Different cover crop species come with different benefits, and you may want to do a bit of research before selecting one. 

Some cover crops like buckwheat are “winter-kill,” meaning they die back with frost. Some no-till gardeners use these as mulch for the following spring. Just rake the dead plant material back to seed or transplant your crops.

Clover and other cover crops in the legume family are nitrogen-fixers meaning that they take nitrogen from the air and add it to the soil as they grow. You can read more about how nitrogen fixation works in our post, What’s a Nitrogen Fixer?

If you have a hardpan or compacted soil, you may want to look into cover crops like Deep-Till radishes. These and other large rooted, tough cover crops will help break up compacted soil and hardpan, aerate the soil, add organic matter and allow water to soak in faster.

Here are a few great cover crop options:

While many cover crops are planted in a rotation, leaving beds free of crops for a year or in seasons when beds are not in use, there is another great option, especially for no-till gardeners. You can grow a crop like white clover in the paths between permanent beds. White clover will tolerate being walked on and mowed, providing a great path and source of mulch.

Look for people getting rid of “mulch hay” or straw.

Sometimes, you can find old or “mulch” hay or straw listed for cheap or free on sites like Facebook Marketplace. Often, these are bails that have gotten wet, moldy, or are just no longer fit for animal feed or bedding, but they’re perfect for the garden! 

Use old hay or straw to create lasagna gardens, mulch around plants, add to your compost, or create hugelkultur mounds.

Talk to the farmer you’re purchasing or getting the hay from and make sure it’s not from a field that has been treated with herbicides. Some folks also don’t like using hay because it contains weed seeds. Straw is the stalks from a wheat harvest and is generally free of seeds.Woodchips for Soil Fertility

Search for free wood chips.

Wood chips are another great source of organic matter and work well as a mulch, helping keep the soil cool and moist and blocking weeds. They’re slower to break down than other mulches like grass clippings, hay, or straw but will eventually turn into good quality soil. They’re also an excellent habitat for beneficial insects.

It’s often easy to find free wood chips in the summer when power companies are cutting trees and limbs away from power lines. Contact your local company or stop and ask workers you see. Sometimes, they may even be willing to dump a whole truckload at your home for free if they’re working nearby. Occasionally, local garden or hardware stores will source wood chips from electric companies, and you can go and fill coats or a truck for cheap or free. 

Avoid using the dyed black or red wood chips that come in bags from hardware or big box stores. These aren’t organic and are generally much more expensive.

Improving your garden starts with the soil. Using these methods and amendments, you can add fertility to your soil on any budget. They’re great for your garden, good for the environment, and generally pretty simple. How do you add fertility to your organic garden?

Saving the Past for the Future