June Garden Sustainable Maintenance Practices for the Southeast

To a bee a flower is the fountain of life, and to the flower the bee is a messenger of love. Kahlil Gibran

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Welcome to June, friends! June is better since I made it through May, the season of green. That sounds strange, even for me. The weather during the first part of the month was some of the best I’ve experienced in my 30 years living in Raleigh, North Carolina, and the last week some of the hottest.

Each year, I strive to improve on a collection or a season, yet May remains green. No matter what I do, I don’t see sufficient color until June.  There’s always next year, I suppose.

Ah, but in June, color rushes in at a juggernaut speed.

June is a good month in the south; the humidity has not yet arrived (for the most part), the days are long and the kids are out of school, putting us on summer-time. Our routine has changed—a change that is welcome indeed! Summertime also brings garden-time, fresh-food time and, and al fresco dining time. Here are a few things to do in Southeast gardens in June.


If you want to learn how YOU can help the Monarch butterfly and grow milkweed, their only host plant, check out our first online mini course. Includes a download with ten of the most common native milkweeds we can grow. To learn more, click HERE!

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Salvias, Phlox, Ruella (perhaps too much so!), coneflowers, milkweeds, plus annuals are filling out especially the petunias!

‘Jacob Cline’ Bee Balm

‘Jacob Cline’ Bee Balm

Prune now, benefit later. Do you find it frustrating when all your  Bee Balm, Monarda didyma  ‘Jacob Cline’ bloom at once? By pruning some of your Monarda now, you will delay the bloom time of those plants. Deadhead regularly for continuous blooms. I also leave some seed heads for the finches to enjoy.

Deadhead flowers. Keep your flowers blooming longer by removing faded blossoms from your cannas, roses, daisies, and more. As for the seed plants, such as black-eyed Susans, phlox, and coneflower, leave the flower heads for the birds. Once the birds have picked them through, it’s time to deadhead.

Not so much grooming, but I’m clearly cutting back several plants to making stouter (less leggy) and delaying bloom times so they don’t all bloom at once. Bee balm is a good on to do this delay tactic with. Up to before the flower heads begin to form, cut back about half the plants (I do cut back the ones in the front of the group) to about half. As the back half finish their bloom, the front half will almost be ready.

Other plants we cutback up to the Fourth of July include, salvias, chrysanthemums, sunchokes, and others in the sunflower family. They tend to get too big, and a haircut in June helps the fall flowers look for stately and upright.


 Herbs. As an edible, don’t let your basil (Ocimum basilicum) go to seed or even flower. The stems become woody, and the leaves lose their flavor. Prune basil regularly. However, having said that, as a wildlife plant, let them go to flower! The bees love this!

Harvest lavender blooms before it gets too hot. The lavender flowers are at their peak when the bottom of the bloom is just opening; cut the stem down to the foliage. Gather the stems and tie them together. Suspend upside down in a hot, dry, dark location, such as an attic or a closet. Within 10 to 14 days, the lavender will be ready to use.

Select and pre-order your spring-blooming bulbs now while supplies are plentiful. Don’t put off today what will be gone tomorrow. The most unusual bulbs sell out fast. I can say this now because I’ve already put my in order. Try something fun such as the species tulip, Tulipa clusiana.

Harvest vegetables as needed. Most of what’s growing in your vegetable garden are annuals–tomatoes, beens, peppers, etc.  Soon, they’ll soon be looking a little wrung out. As plants end their production cycle, remove them from the garden; otherwise, they may attract insects and disease to the plants that are still productive.

I only every want to speak from experience; these are the fruits I grow in the Bee Better Teaching Garden.

The blueberries are in fruit, getting bigger each day. I’ll be lucky to get them before the birds do.

The raspberries are harvestable! I never have to compete with the birds for these, for some reason.

The blackberries are almost past! Figs are flushing out, and there are crabapples on the tree, as well as my first ‘Santa Rosa’ plum!


Mosquitoes are out, these are buggers one never gets use to.

Echinacea purpurea is a pretty pollinator in Southeast gardens. After it’s finished flowering, keep the seed heads for the birds to feed on.

Prune now, benefit later. Do you find it frustrating when all your Monarda didyma ‘Jacob Cline’ bloom at once? By pruning some of your Monarda now, you will delay the bloom time of those plants. Deadhead regularly for continuous blooms. I also leave some seed heads for the finches to enjoy.

Waterwise:  With a waterwise design, watering in the absence of rain is a breeze.  My garden at home, the Bee Better Teaching Garden was designed with waterwise principles. I have very little watering to do, and what I do have is a choice. My boxwood collection is contained. But the watering is smart. These containers are near a watering source, so moving around a hose isn’t a big deal.

On the wild side. Milkweed is the only host plant for the Monarch butterfly. Asclepias tuberosa is one species of milkweed that is also a pretty addition to the garden; expect (and hope) it to be eaten to a nub. The female Monarch will lay her eggs here. Soon you will see tiny caterpillars that will slowly mature as they feed on the milkweed plant. The adults also enjoy the nectar.

As the foliage fills in, the mulch you laid in late winter should be barely visible. Be thankful, we have our summer heat-protecting mulch down, even if we can’t see it.

Pest Control
Good bug or bad bug? 


This is a black widow spider. Be careful when pulling out stored pots to make your season’s container gardens — there may be more lurking there than fond summer memories.

Click here to learn more about safely controlling mosquitoes.

Summer rose care. 

Japanese beetles will be here before you know it. One approach to keeping them off your roses is a technique referred to as “keeping them in the green.” This means cut your roses and bring them inside, because Japanese beetles are attracted to bright and happy colors

Roses can be propagated by layering as late as mid-August. Long, flexible canes are the easiest to propagate because they bend freely into place. Use a clean knife to remove two thorns near the top of the stem and bend it toward the ground. Make a couple of small cuts into the bark between where the thorns were. This is called wounding the cane. Hold the wounded area in good contact with the soil with landscape pins and cover with soil, leaving the growing tip of the stem uncovered. It’s also a good idea to put a brick or stone over the covered and wounded cane to give it extra hold.

Next spring, you should see new growth emerge. Once you see new leaves on the rooted stem, carefully remove the entire stem from the parent plant, and recut the stem just beneath the new root mass. Now you are ready to plant your new rose bush.


Cut flowers. Remember those zinnias you seeded in May? Seed more in June, July, and August. The will last through first frost. Be sure to cut some to enjoy inside.

Remember, if you are trying to figure out a horticulture word, you can reference the Bee Better Teaching Glossary. We have been adding to this for a decade now, and have quite the list. Bookmark it for easy reference!