June: No better time to celebrate gardening
By Katie Jackson
Summer officially arrives on June 21, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and the day that myriad cultures have, for thousands of years, celebrated as the Summer Solstice. However, that’s only one of many days in June that are cause for celebration, especially for those who love to garden or love the bounty of summer gardening.
Actually, the whole month of June is chock full of garden-related celebrations. June is not only designated as National Rose Month, it’s also National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month. In addition, there are numerous June days set aside for special celebrations such as National Gardening Exercise Day (June 6), Red Rose Day (June 12), Fresh Veggies Day (June 16), Eat Your Vegetables Day (June 17), Butterfly Day (June 19), National Fried Okra Day (June 25) and The Great American Backyard Campout day (June 28). Oh, and let’s not forget June 15, which lends itself to another garden-related celebration opportunity—Dad—or Father’s Day, that is.
Whether the dad in your life likes to garden or not, you can incorporate a little garden in your Father’s Day plans. Take him on a special outing, maybe even with lunch included, to a nearby public garden or park or on a shopping trip to a local home and garden center where he can choose his own gift, be it for the garden or for any other manly pursuit.
If you have a garden-loving dad, give him a handsome watering can—or wheelbarrow if you want to make a big statement—filled with hand tools, gloves, a hat, seeds, plants, a bag or two of compost or potting soil and other items that can keep him safe and protected from the elements (sunscreen, poison ivy lotion and insect repellent come to mind). Or go all out and buy him that giant composter, super-powered hedge trimmer, quirky garden sculpture, luxurious birdbath or other extravagance that he has been admiring from afar. If you’re short on funds, offer to do some yard work for him.
Dads and granddads can also organize their own celebrations by making lasting memories: Take the children and grandchildren for a day in the woods or at a public garden with a picnic, or spend a day helping members of the family’s next generation plant a garden of their very own.
By the way, don’t assume that plants and flowers are only for moms. Many men appreciate getting botanical gifts ranging from things they can plant in their yards and gardens to house plants to, yes, even cut flowers. Though white and red roses are considered the official flowers of Father’s Day (white roses are worn in honor of deceased fathers, red roses for living fathers), there are many other beautiful flowers that are still masculine enough for even the most stoic father figure.
And they can also convey special meaning. For example, daffodils signify chivalry, gladioli symbolize preparedness, strength and stability and delphiniums represent boldness.
Speaking of meaningful ways to bring gardening into celebrations, tap into those amazing summer blooms to decorate or adorn any June wedding event or for use in bridal bouquets and other floral adornments of the wedding party. Many summer-blooming flowers convey special meanings of their own: Daisies say “share your feelings;” gardenias stand for love, purity and joy; hydrangeas represent friendship, devotion and understanding; roses symbolize love, joy and beauty; and ivy represents wedded love, fidelity, friendship and affection.
And don’t forget the garden as you buy gifts for the newlyweds. They may well need lots of gardening tools and equipment as they setup housekeeping together, plus plants as gifts symbolize the couple’s ever-growing love.
As you pick plants for any gift-giving event, though, take care to choose ones that are easy-care and that don’t convey any negative cultural meanings. A quick Internet search or trip to the library can help determine the best options and the various cultural meanings of each plant or flower, or ask your local florist or nursery operator for help.
Certainly these special days and occasions are great ways to get summer off to a festive start, but really, do we need an excuse? We can simply revel in the bounty of the summer garden season, which even non-gardeners can celebrate by visiting the roadside stands, u-pick operations and community farmers markets that have opened across the state.
Whether you’re longing for the first fresh local tomato of the season or a carton of plump blueberries, honey from your neighborhood bees, fresh herbs and cut flowers or even locally made breads, jams and cheeses (June is also National Dairy Month, after all), they’re likely to be showing up this month at one of the state’s many farmers market outlets. According to the Alabama Farmers Market Authority in Montgomery, there are now more than 150 farmers markets in the state to choose among, so finding one where you live or as you vacation is easy. Visit www.fma.alabama.gov for a complete listing.
With so many ways to celebrate it may be difficult to narrow down the options, but whatever you do just make sure to relish these long days of summer, even if it’s just sitting on the front porch with a cool drink and watching the birds fly by or the grass grow.
*Pinch back leggy annuals or tender perennials and deadhead flowers (gently pinch off spent flowers) to prolong blooming.
*Check roses for signs of disease or insect damage and immediately treat any problems.
*Trim back dried and dead foliage from spring flowering bulbs. Divide and thin daffodil bulbs.
*Fertilize rhododendrons, camellias, azaleas and other flowering shrubs as soon as they have finished blooming.
*Thin the number of fruits on apple, pear, peach and other fruit trees.
*Keep an eye out for weeds, insects and disease in all your garden areas and also on houseplants.
*Make sure potted plants are kept sufficiently watered. They dry out more rapidly than in-ground plants.
*Mow lawns weekly, or often enough so you don’t clip more than an inch off the height at each mowing.
*Fertilize the lawn and treat for dandelions and other lawn weeds.
*Plant seeds for beans, field peas, melons, pumpkins, squash and corn. Set out transplants of tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.
*Keep an eye out for insect and disease problems on all your plants—vegetables, flowers, shrubs and lawns. Treat outbreaks immediately before infestations or infections get out of control.
*Water landscape, garden and lawn plants with long, less frequent soaking.