June Garden Checklist
Learn what to plant this month, get maintenance advice and troubleshoot your gardening challenges.
By Kelly Young
What to Plant
PALMS–Embrace the heat by transforming your landscape into a tropical resort with the addition of a variety of palms. Senegal palm (Phoenix reclinata) is a clumping type that can reach up to 30 feet in height, while the Pindo palm (Butia capitata) forms a single trunk up to 20 feet tall. Keep in mind that most palms prefer well-drained soil. To check your yard’s absorption abilities, dig a hole, fill it with water and wait for it to drain completely. Fill the hole with water a second time and check back 24 hours later. If there is no standing water in the hole, you have good drainage.
WARM-SEASON VEGETABLES–Transplant sweet potato slips in a location where the vines have room to spread undisturbed until harvest in the fall. Sow seeds of Malabar spinach, Armenian cucumbers, yard-long beans, cowpeas and muskmelons. The hot, dry weather will make keeping the soil evenly moist for optimal germination a challenge, so you may need to gently water the seedbed once or twice each day until seedlings emerge.
Middle and High Elevations
ORNAMENTAL TREES, SHRUBS AND PERENNIAL VINES–Plant crabapple (Malus sp.), honeysuckle (Lonicera sp.) and lilac (Syringa sp.) now, and enjoy the color and fragrance they offer next spring. Dig a planting hole twice the width but no deeper than the container to promote healthy roots.
WARM-SEASON VEGETABLES–Transplant tomatoes, eggplants and peppers. Sow seeds of bush beans, melons, cucumbers, squash and okra. Promptly cover new plantings with floating row covers to protect them from whiteflies and birds.
June is a stressful month for gardens due to high temperatures, dry air and intense sunlight. Bear this in mind that if your plants don’t appear to be putting on new growth or otherwise looking their best. Native plants cope with the region’s extreme weather by hunkering down and slowing growth until the monsoons bring relief in the form of cloud cover and higher humidity.
PRUNING–To avoid adding stress, don’t prune woody trees or shrubs for another month or two, unless a limb is likely to pose a hazard to people or property if it falls. Leave dead branches on older citrus trees, as they provide some shade to interior stems, which could sunburn without protection.
INCREASE IRRIGATION–Plant water requirements are the highest of the year this month, so be sure to give your garden a deep drink each time you irrigate. Use a soil probe to check how far into the ground applied water reaches. The probe will easily penetrate moist soil and stop when it hits dry underlying soil. Turf, vegetable gardens and flower beds should be irrigated to a depth of 1 foot; shrubs to 2 feet; and trees to 3 feet.
Middle and High Elevations
BE FIREWISE–Protect your home from wildfire by creating a “survivable space,” an area around outdoor structures that is less likely to burn and is accessible by firefighters. Reduce potential fire fuel by removing dead trees and shrubs. Prune out dead limbs to a height of 15 feet. Decrease the amount of accumulated pine needles and cones to no more than 3 inches deep. And clear out dead, dry wildflowers and weeds greater than 8 inches in height. Learn more by downloading “Homeowners’ Firewise Guide for Arizona” at fs.usda.gov.
TEND ROSES–Feed with specialty rose fertilizer, following label instructions to avoid burning roots or foliage. Remove spent blooms to promote continuous flowering throughout the season.
SCOUT FOR PESTS–Inspect garden and landscape plants for insect pests or the feeding damage they cause. Contact your local Master Gardeners for help identifying pests and determining the best solutions for your area. Find the Master Gardener office in your county by visiting extension.arizona.edu/locations.
Pro Tip: The Irrigation Audit
By Ryan Jerrell, co-owner, Dig It Gardens, Phoenix
- Here in the Southwest, the most important part of summer plant survival is a proper watering schedule and fully functional irrigation system. Conducting your own yearly irrigation audit is crucial to ensure that everything is up and running before the heat sets in. If you’re not a DIYer, consult your irrigation company for assistance in getting everything ship shape for summer.
- Valve gaskets can crack and leak over time. To check, turn your system on, open the valve box and look for any leaks around the top of the valves. If you spot signs of trouble, your local irrigation supply store can walk you through replacement instructions and assist with buying the correct parts.
- Inspect the solenoid (the black cylinder with wires located on top of the sprinkler valve) for any cracks, which can cause issues with wiring and how the timer communicates with the valves. A damaged solenoid can cause the system to start running at odd times or stay on for long periods of time.
- Inspect individual drip emitters, replacing any that are missing or nonfunctional and cleaning debris from those that have become clogged or are not emitting the proper amount of water.
- After the system has been running for about 10 minutes, walk your landscape and take note of any areas that appear wet, but are not near emitters. This may be the sign of a leak, which can occur at unions, such as elbows or tees where two pieces of pipe are joined together.
The man who pruned our Mexican fan palms wore spikes on his shoes, which allowed him to climb the trees to reach the fronds. Now there are ugly gashes along the trunks. How long will it take for the wounds to heal?
The spikes the tree worker wore to climb your palms are called “gaffs.” They give the climber traction. The good news is that palms do not produce bark or form annual growth rings, therefore the gaff wounds will not interfere with the tree’s growth or ability to absorb water and nutrients. However, the wounds may provide an entry point for pests and disease, and they will continue to be visible indefinitely. In the future, consider hiring a certified arborist to prune your palms, and request that he or she use an aerial work platform, sometimes called a “cherry picker,” to safely access the fronds that need to be removed.
When I cut into an apple I recently purchased from the grocery store, I discovered the seeds had started sprouting inside the fruit. Can I plant the seedlings in my garden?
Seeds may germinate while still inside fruit that was harvested after it was already overripe. It can’t hurt to try and nurture the seedlings as a fun experiment, but the odds are against them ever maturing into fruit-bearing trees. Your seedlings are unique genetic individuals and are not likely to bear the same characteristics as the mother tree that produced them. Furthermore, most grocery store apples sold in Arizona come from Washington and are adapted to different soil and climate conditions.
I was told that you shouldn’t put meat into the compost, but my neighbor insists it’s OK. In fact, she puts all her kitchen waste into her pile. Who is correct?
Technically, all organic matter, including animal products, is decomposed by soil microorganisms and therefore compostable. When meat rots, it is being decomposed by microorganisms that produce a terrible smell as a byproduct. Flies are attracted to decaying meat and will lay their eggs on it, which will then hatch into maggots. Most of us are not willing to endure the stench of rotting meat and millions of flies in our gardens. To learn more about backyard composting, download “Small Scale Composting in the Low Desert of Arizona” at extension.arizona.edu.