Garden Detective: June chores

June is dahlia-planting time. June is dahlia-planting time. Photo Credit: AP

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Jessica Damiano Jessica Damiano, Newsday columnist

Jessica Damiano is a master gardener and journalist with more than 20 years experience in radio, television, print

Ah, June -- my favorite month! School is out, the sun is shining and the garden is popping! Summer officially kicks in, bringing with it chores for the future (pull those weeds and plant tomatoes), as well as the past (remember those tulips? Clean them up!). Here's a to-do list to help you stay on track.

1. Apply mulch, taking care not to allow it to come into contact with plant stems or tree trunks. Two to three inches deep is enough.

2. It's not too late to plant tomatoes and join the 2012 Tomato Challenge! Email plant details and your name, photo and town to jessica.damiano@newsday.com for possible publication.

3. Plants growing in containers will need more frequent watering than their in-ground counterparts, so check soil moisture daily.

4. Clean out birdbaths once a week to keep bacteria from flourishing.

5. Remove wilted yellow leaves from bearded irises to help prevent borer infestations.

6. Secure vines and climbing roses to supports as they grow.

7. Mound up soil around potato plants every time exposed stems reach 6 inches tall.

8. Plant dahlias. Set stakes an inch away from bud-bearing roots now to avoid damaging them as plants grow.

9. Deadhead faded spring-blooming shrubs like rhododendrons and lilacs.

10. Stay ahead of mosquitoes; don't allow standing water to puddle, even in small amounts.

11. Fight mildew by spraying susceptible plants with one tablespoon each of baking soda and ultrafine horticultural oil diluted in a gallon of water.

12. Go on a hunt for weeds and pull them out as you see them. They're not only unsightly, but they rob desired plants of moisture and nutrients.

13. Fill gaps left by early spring bloomers with summer annuals.

14. Plant short perennials or groundcover under clematis to keep their roots shaded and cool.

15. Fertilize houseplants at half strength with every second watering.

16. Protect strawberries from birds with floating row covers.

17. Happy Father's Day! Give dad a break and mow the lawn today.

18. For better-blooming, stockier plants, trim the top third off chrysanthemums, Joe Pye weed and Heliopsis.

19. If you seeded or sodded your lawn this spring, continue watering twice daily until the grass is 4 inches tall.

20. It's summer! Make your own plants by taking cuttings of new growth from Buddleia, rose of Sharon, roses and weigela. Pot up in peat and vermiculite, and transplant when rooted.

21. To increase tomato production, remove "suckers," small stems that grow in the crotch between the main branch and stems.

22. Fertilize peonies after flowers fade to keep plants strong for next year.

23. Use only low-nitrogen fertilizer on vegetables or annuals; otherwise you'll end up with lots of leafy growth and no crops or flowers.

24. Inspect trees and shrubs for scale. If chemical treatment is necessary, avoid using hose-end sprayers; they don't dissolve, mix or apply evenly.

25. Go on a search-and-destroy mission against Japanese beetles. Pick them off by hand and drop into a bucket of soapy water.

26. Deadhead annuals as their flowers fade to encourage more blooming.

27. Harvest herbs at around 10 a.m., just after the dew has dried, for the best flavor.

28. When the first tomatoes appear, give plants a nutritional boost by showering leaves with fish emulsion.

29. Harvest cool-season crops like lettuce, spinach and peas.

30. Stop fertilizing trees and woody shrubs. You can feed them again next spring.

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