It's June -- time for strawberries and weddings, peonies and picnics, and roses and graduations (including my daughter's.) Beach days are looming, and the garden is reaching its peak as summer officially begins.
With all these wonderful harbingers comes more time in the garden tending tomatoes, pulling weeds, cleaning up spent tulip foliage and mowing the lawn. Here's a chore for every day of the month to keep the garden at its best. Enjoy it!
1. It's not too late to plant tomatoes and join the 2015 Tomato Challenge. Email photos, growing tips, your name and town to firstname.lastname@example.org for possible publication.
2. Fill gaps left by early spring bloomers with summer annuals.
3. Cut the top third off plants in the Aster family -- chrysanthemum, eupatorium and heliopsis -- to increase flowering and improve form.
4. Deadhead faded spring-blooming shrubs like rhododendrons and lilacs.
5. Apply 2-3 inches of mulch, and push it away from plant stems and tree trunks to avoid rot.
6. Fasten rambling and climbing roses to supports as they grow.
7. Plant dahlias and set 4-foot stakes an inch away from bud-bearing roots.
8. Protect strawberries from birds and squirrels with netting or floating row covers.
9. Plants growing in containers will need more frequent watering than their in-ground counterparts, so check soil moisture daily.
10. Remove wilted yellow leaves from bearded irises to help prevent borer infestations.
11. Mound up soil around potato plants every time exposed stems reach 6 inches tall.
12. To prevent mosquitoes from breeding in your yard, don't allow standing water to collect in trash can lids, gutters, pot saucers, spare tires or on play sets.
13. To combat mildew on roses and phlox, spray with a tablespoon each of baking soda and ultrafine horticultural oil diluted in a gallon of water.
14. It's Flag Day! Hang Old Glory and host a red, white and blue-themed garden party.
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. Cut back chrysanthemums, Joe Pye weed and heliopsis by another third (see June 3 chore).
17. Plant short perennials under clematis to keep their roots shaded and cool.
18. Thin carrot seedlings to an inch apart, and again when their leaves touch, to 3 inches apart, to allow space for underground growth.
19. Snake soaker hoses through perennial and vegetable gardens to provide water directly to roots.
20. Continue watering newly planted sod and seed daily.
21. Two reasons to celebrate today: It's Father's Day -- and the first day of summer. Enjoy the day outdoors with Dad.
22. Fertilize spring-flowering bulbs and peonies after the flowers fade.
23. 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!
24. Fertilize houseplants at half strength with every other watering.
25. Clean birdbaths at least once a week to keep bacteria from growing rampant.
26. Keep an eye out for Japanese beetles. Pick them off by hand and dispose of them in a bucket of soapy water.
27. For best flavor, harvest herbs at around 10 a.m., just after the dew has dried.
28. To increase tomato production, remove "suckers," small stems that grow in the crotch between the main branch and stems.
29. Stop fertilizing trees and woody shrubs. You can feed them again next spring.
30. When the first tomatoes set, drench foliage with fish emulsion to give plants a nutritional boost.