A Lucky Seven Must-do Garden Things for June

My friend Helen, a garden consultant, wrote this article about getting organized in the garden (and not feeling guilty if you haven't started yet). It's full of great tips for making your outdoor space green and beautiful.

by Helen Battersby

1) Stop feeling guilty about not planting your tomatoes. If you missed the "traditional" Victoria Day planting frenzy, don't fret. Tomatoes and their cousins, eggplants, need warm soil on their roots. And, even in the warmest of Toronto springs (unlike Spring 2016, until recently), they'll thank you for waiting till the first week of June before you transplant into a sunny spot in your garden.

Tip: Tomatoes can root anywhere along their stems and healthy, extensive root systems can mean healthy, productive plants. To give them a firm footing, plant them right up to their bottom leaves.

2) Look for "blind growth" on your tulips. Any bulb from other seasons that puts out only a single leaf will not flower. If your country estate has the luxury of a nursery bed – where ripening (aka yellowing) foliage can fatten up the bulb for next year out of sight, by all means transplant it there. Otherwise, treat the tulip as an annual. Cut off that straggly leaf, and consider it an opportunity to diversify.

Tip: If you pick one colour scheme for your bulbs, and stick to it every year when you add new types and varieties, your garden will always have a finished look.

3) Take pictures now, for spring bulbs later. Print your shot on bond paper and draw circles where you want to add bulbs in fall. It's easy to forget as seasons change.

Tip: Look for spots where later emerging leaves from plants like hostas or grasses will hide the dying (aka ripening; see above) bulb foliage or the blanks spots bulbs leave when they go back to sleep beneath the surface.

4) Add spot colour with containers. Many of us in Toronto have shady gardens. As soon as the leaves appear on the trees, it seems our gardens fade to green – if we're lucky. Rather than fighting with tree roots, give your shady corners a blast of colour with an attractive potscape. Just remember to water it!

Tip: Container design is easy when you choose a thriller, a spiller, and a filler. For example, in shade you might choose colourful elephant's ears (Caladium) or Rex Begonia as your thriller, a fern as your filler, and ivy as your spiller. Unify your pot collection by using similar materials or colours – a paintbrush can be handy here.

5) Give your houseplants a summer vacation. You're outside more often, so let your indoor tropicals keep you company. They're an easy, inexpensive way to dress up a porch or deck, and the increased sunlight will give them a boost in growth.

Tip: Plants get sunburn, too. To avoid it, gradually increase light intensity by first setting houseplants in a shady spot. Some (such as mother-in-law's tongue or Sansevieria) prefer shade all summer long. At the end of summer, you'll need to train some (such as the benjamin fig or Ficus benjamina) to accept lower and lower light levels by moving them back into shade before returning indoors. Carefully inspect them all for buggy hitch-hikers, too.

6) Feed the soil. No matter what type of soil you have, in sun or shade, an annual dressing of compost or well-composted manure is the best thing any gardener can do for their garden.

Tip: No need to go wild with it. A half-inch to an inch (1-2 cm) or compost or manure is perfectly adequate. It's often affordable to order compost or manure by the cubic yard or meter. Garden too small? Get together with your neighbours and share!

7) Mulch to conserve water. Yes, it will get hot. Perhaps you've noticed? When the weather heats up, you don't want to be working hard in the garden – you want to be chillaxing in it. A couple of inches (2-4 cm) of shredded cedar mulch now can keep moisture in the soil and also capture more rain before it runs off the soil surface. Less watering for you; less money spent on water. More chillaxing. Tip: Lay mulch around the base of plants, not on top of them. Most important, avoid it touching the bark of trees or shrubs. Those so-called "mulch volcanoes" – tall, tight collars of moisture-trapping mulch – can damage bark around the whole trunk, killing your trees with kindness. Some say you should add it in a donut shape. I'd go further: think the wide circle of a yeast donut rather than a compact cake donut. And on that topic, remember that gardening burns calories for bathing-suit weather.


Helen Battersby is a garden coach with Gardenfix.me and, with her sister Sarah, writes the blog TorontoGardens.com. Follow them on Twitter at @Gardenfix or @TorontoGardens.