June - What's in Katie's Garden?



In My Garden (Zone 7-8)

Katie Elzer-Peters
Katie Elzer-Peters is the author of Beginner's Illustrated Guide to Gardening, Carolinas Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, Southern Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, and many other vegetable gardening books. She lives in coastal North Carolina, where she enjoys four-season gardening. 

We’re midway through the year so it’s time for a bit of “garden grab bag.” A few design tips, some maintenance tasks, and an update on my new cutting/prairie/wildflower/shrub garden. It’s a busy time of year. Let’s go!

DIY Design Tips
In my main flower garden I leave some spots where I can slot in new annuals from season to season. This ensures that I have fresh, continuous color all year. It’s fun to try different combinations. I always find some new treasures—plants that really love the growing conditions in my garden—and a few duds—plants that want nothing to do with living in my yard and spend the season limping along. I have a coleus that I’m on the fence about, growth-wise, but it is doing a good job in its function to tie various parts of the garden together. I often use coleus for that—to echo the colors present in different plants to unify the overall look.

The burgundy highlights in this coleus echo the burgundy leaves in the loropetalum next to it.

My vegetable gardens factor into my design scheme, too. There are annuals I like to grow—primarily marigolds—that don’t really “go” with the rest of my garden. I just plant those along the edges of my raised beds. They do triple duty: attracting pollinators, deterring pests, and adding some color to the beds.


Summer Maintenance
Here’s your garden maintenance checklist for the summer!

  • Check vegetable plots daily and harvest what’s ripe. If something drops before you get to pick it, throw it in the compost heap.
  • Scout for pests. If you catch problems early you can sometimes hand-pick the pests to remove them or use a strong spray from the hose to blast the insects away.
  • Pinch tomatoes to keep plants compact and productive and to remove any non-fruiting suckers.
  • Deadhead annuals and perennials to prolong flowering.
  • Fertilize annuals and vegetables.
  • Water as needed. Do not let tomatoes, peppers, or eggplants go through extreme wet/dry/wet/dry cycles.
  • Thin aggressive perennials and re-seeded annuals. (See below.)

I have a bit of a “situation” in my front garden bed. There is one area where nothing would grow, so I planted Ozark sundrops. I knew full well, before planting, that these were aggressive little suckers, but I did it anyway. Now I am paying the piper. I will be spending some time early this month yanking out the plants crowding out my sweetspire plants and giant rudbeckias. I’m ok with that. Just because something’s a monster doesn’t mean you shouldn’t grow it. You just have to be realistic about the maintenance time you’ll have to put in to keep it in check.

Wildflower Garden Update
Last month I dug up the garden that I refer to as “the giant mess” and made it less messy. It’s now an organized sort of chaos. There are a few shrubs that I dotted in here and there, some new perennials that I purchased in multiples of three, and “volunteers” or perennials that grew from seed I planted last summer. All in all, I’m judging it a success. I think it was a good idea to throw a bunch of seed into the garden last summer, see what came up this year, and then work around it.

I also have lots of cosmos and zinnia volunteers from last summer’s flowers, which makes me so happy! Don’t overlook seeds just because you can’t plan what happens exactly. Sometimes you’ll end up with happy accidents. I sure did!

Wildfloer and shrub garden, six weeks after planting.





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Gardening Tip of the Day

  • "There are several crocus-like autumn flowers. Their bulbs must be planted by mid August to bloom in October. So order now.
    Autumn crocus, sternbergia, and colchicum flowers all resemble popular spring crocuses. Plant them in a sunny spot in well-drained soil.
    Because of their late-season bloom time, the foliage of these fall bloomers has an unusual schedule. Colchicum leaves emerge in the spring and die down in early summer long before the colchicum flower (leafless) appears in the fall. Sternbergia foliage appears with the bloom, lasts all winter and dies in the spring. The foliage of autumn crocus emerges well after the flowers and lasts into spring.
    Saffron, collected from the fall crocus (C. sativus),is the orange stigma of the plant."