Gardening in Des Moines: Hope for June gardening

by Liz Sanborn
King County Master Gardener

June has arrived and with it hopefully some warmer weather. I am writing this on May 22nd. And there is no sun to be had in Des Moines and the morning was very wet!

My hope for June gardening is that the pace will be slower and there will be fewer chores. This means more time for browsing nurseries and plant sales and less time with a sore back. This is the perfect month to spend some time in the garden making a note of areas that need filling in with a great new perennial or shrub. Sometimes you need an excuse to get out to the nurseries and a bare spot in the landscape is as good a reason as any.

I had the time to make a trip to Swanson’s Nursery in Crown Hill this weekend and it was worth the trip. Swanson’s has an excellent selection of plants – including lots of hard to find, unusual tropical for the garden. Years ago I bought a Tetrapanax Steroidal “Giant” there and it has happily taken over a corner of my garden. I thought this tropical would be short lived but I cut it back hard to the ground every year and it comes back with a vengeance. The leaves are enormous – some 24” across and fuzzy. This plant reminds me of something from the time dinosaurs roamed the earth – your kids will love it.

Another semi-tropical that I purchased at Swanson’s years ago is Melianthus Major. Striking foliage and an unusual smell- peanut butter of all things- make this a fun addition to the garden. There is also a purple variety that is gorgeous.

Swanson’s also has a beautiful gift shop and café. My daughter Kiara and I had a light lunch there and the food was excellent. Take the Sunday paper with you and you have a perfect spot for relaxing with a coffee while the kids watch the Koi in the indoor ponds.

I am getting distracted with my trip to Swanson’s. Back to gardening – if you planted any early lettuces go ahead a pull out any that have “bolted” and add another row of seeds. Spinach and lettuce are short-lived in the garden once the temperatures start to rise – but having them on hand all summer is priceless. Now is the time to plant basil as well – this plant loves warmer temperatures and will thrive now thru the end of summer – a companion plant to tomatoes – they are inseparable in the kitchen. A Caprese salad with tomatoes, basil, mozzarella and a drizzling of olive oil and balsamic make the perfect light summer meal when it is too hot to fire up the grill.

June is also a great time to plant trees in the garden that have been potted at the nursery. Just be sure to spend some time digging a very large hole and planting the tree at the correct height. Water generously all summer. Our summers in the northwest- especially July and August – can be very dry. New trees and shrubs will thrive if given lots of water their first season in the garden. Some of my favorite trees for residential gardens are the Sourwood, Gingko, Katsura and Styrax.

Enjoy the garden in June. Many of the plants in the garden are at their peak in June so take the time to relax in the garden with your favorite beverage…

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