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LifestyleColumnistsJessica Damiano

Garden Detective: June chores

June is strawberry harvest time! (June 16, 2012)

June is strawberry harvest time! (June 16, 2012) Credit: Randee Daddona

June has always been my favorite month, at least partially for self-centered reasons. My birthday falls in June, and my name starts with J, so subconsciously I must be biased in favor of this month, which also is the setting for joyful occasions like summer vacation, graduations, weddings (including my own, 25 years ago) and, of course, the emergence of roses, peonies and strawberries.

June is also when weeds take off and insects begin to ravage vegetables, so there's plenty to be done between beach days. Here's a calendar of chores to help keep you on track.

1. Cut the top third off plants in the Aster family -- Chrysanthemum, Eupatorium and Heliopsis -- to increase flowering and improve form.

2. Monitor plant containers for water daily; their soil dries out more quickly than the garden's.

3.Snake soaker hoses through perennial and vegetable gardens. Roots will benefit from direct irrigation, plants will suffer less disease and you won't waste water.

4. Clean birdbaths at least once a week.

5. Standing water creates a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Don't let puddles collect in trash can lids, gutters, pot saucers, spare tires or on play sets.

6. Place paper cups with bottoms removed at soil level around stems of tomatoes, peppers and eggplants to prevent cutworm damage.

7. Remove wilted yellow leaves from bearded iris plants to help prevent iris borer infestations.

8. Plant dahlias and set 4-foot stakes an inch away from bud-bearing roots. Secure plants as they grow.

9. Fasten rambling and climbing roses to their supports as they grow.

10. Protect strawberries from ravenous birds (and squirrels) with netting or floating row covers.

11. Fight mildew on roses, phlox and other plants by spraying with a tablespoon each of baking soda and ultrafine horticultural oil diluted in a gallon of water.

12. Join the 2013 Tomato Challenge! Send an email about your tomato plants to Include your hometown and photo.

13. Plant short perennials under clematis to keep their roots shaded and cool.

14. Thin carrot seedlings now to an inch apart, and again when their leaves touch, to 3 inches apart, to allow space underground for growth.

15. Fun fact: Set your sundial at exactly noon today for accurate timekeeping all year long. (Just set the gnomon to face north; there will be no shadow.)

16. Happy Father's Day to all the great dads out there! No mowing the lawn today, Garden Detective's orders.

17. Cut another third off Asteraceae plants (see June 1).

18. Fertilize houseplants at half strength with every other watering.

19. Continue watering newly planted sod and seed daily until fully established.

20. Harvest all but one of your cool-season lettuces before they bolt and turn bitter, then take seeds from the bolted one for planting next year: free lettuce!

21. It's the first day of summer! Fertilize spring-flowering bulbs and peonies after the flowers fade.

22. For a better harvest, pinch out suckers, small stems that grow in the crotch between the main branch and stems, on tomato plants.

23. Pinch back vining houseplants.

24. Deadhead annuals to ensure an abundance of recurring blooms.

25. Inspect trees and shrubs for scale. If chemical treatment is indicated, don't use hose-end sprayers; they don't dissolve, mix or apply evenly.

26. Keep an eye out for Japanese beetles. Pick them off in the morning or late evening, when they're at their slowest, and drop them in soapy water.

27. Harvest herbs in the morning, just after the dew has dried, for the best flavor.

28. When the first tomatoes set, apply a generous shower of fish emulsion to foliage to give plants a nutritional boost.

29. To increase fruit and flower production, fertilize vegetables and annuals with a low-nitrogen product.

30. Deadhead hybrid tea and grandiflora roses.

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