June in the Backyard Vegetable Garden
June has arrived and with it the beginning of winter proper. This is the month of the winter solstice, mid-winter Christmas and snuggling indoors by the fire dreaming of Spring. There will of course still be lovely days where if the southerly is not blowing then the air will be warm and the true gardener in us all can’t help herself – she or he will have to get outside to see what’s going on. And there’s always something going on.
Traditionally of course it is garlic planting time. You can use some of your best and biggest corms from the last season, buy some in from specialist seed growers or from our local garden centres. Garlic is one of those must-haves in the garden. It doesn’t ask for much space but it will take up to 6 months to grow, so allow for that when thinking about where to plant. It needs the chilling of winter to get the bulbs forming. Prepare your beds as soon as you can buy removing any weeds and digging in manure and compost. You don’t have to plant straightaway but get the bed ready now. When you are ready, mark out the rows and plant pointy end up about 5 cms deep and about 10 cms spacing. Mark your row and mulch. Make sure you can how easily down the rows for ongoing weed management.
How much to grow? Well if you think your family can use a bulb a week, then plant at least 52 – one for each week of the year. Then add a few more to give away and as seed stock for the next year. Garlic can be expensive to buy and a lot of what we have in our shops is imported. Growing your own ensures supply and ensures you know what has gone into it so you can avoid potentially dangerous sprays.
If you haven’t done so already, turn your attention to perennials such as rhubarb, asparagus and strawberries. My rhubarb must have felt the mildness of May as it is only just dying down now. We’ve enjoyed the last delicious stewed rhubarb for breakfast. Pull off any dead or dying foliage, weed any sneaky weeds and then give a good dressing of manure and straw to take it through winter. If it has been in the same space for more than 3 years then dig up, divide and replant into well manured deep soil then water well and mulch as described. Similarly for asparagus, chop back foliage, weed and mulch well with seaweed and straw. Prepare any new asparagus beds now ready for late winter or spring planting by weeding thoroughly, flling with manure and seaweed then backfilling with good soil. Should be just right for planting in a month or two. New strawberry plants can be replanted from now on.
Keep liquid feeding your green leafy crops, broad beans and celery and leeks. Those last two along with stored root crops will provide the basis of your winter soups. Keep planting a couple each of brassicas every 2 weeks or so to keep up a supply. Remember you can still sow or plant winter greens such as rocket, mesculun, corn salad, mustard and some lettuces. If you haven’t got a suitable warm well drained spot in the garden then plant in pots and pull inside when frosty. Chop or pull of leaves as needed – the most nutritious way! Herbs also can be potted up and brought closer to the house for ease of use.
Pruning season is coming up so get your tools ready by getting them cleaned and sharpened ready for a dry day to get to work on your fruiting plants. So always something to do if you want to but always a good time to be inside and think about next season while eating the preserved produce of this last season’s harvest.
Jobs for June
Sow indoors; brassicas such as broccoli, cabbage, cauli and winter greens.
Plant: Garlic and Shallots. Broad beans – sow another row as the last row emerges. Plant brassica seedlings such as broccoli and cabbage, cauli and bok choy for spring eating. Strawberry plants can go in now as well.
Cultivate: Use liquid manure to feed your leeks. Keep weeded and mounded up. Cut back asparagus fern, weed and mulch crowns. Split big clumps of rhubarb and replant. Keep weeds hoed, green crops sown and mulches laid.
Harvest: Silverbeet and spinach, broccoli,