June Is Bustin’Out All Over
—Rogers & Hammerstein, Carousel, 1956
Like the title of the song, June is bustin’out all over. We eagerly anticipate our annual rains to start mid-June. We celebrate the Summer Solstice on June 21, 2023. Our gardens are all abuzz with new pollinators busily working, and the plants all seem to have blooms and buds that have seemingly sprung to life overnight.
When I was a boy of six years, I lived in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. When my father graduated from the University of Guadalajara as a civil engineer he built my mother their first home on a plot of land, way out in the country area known as Providencia. Providencia is now a thriving area of Zapopan in the grand city of Guadalajara. Back then, I would roam the rural countryside to collect fireflies, ride horses in the Colomos area, and play with my friends in what appeared to us a vast nature area. My tio Javier would accompany us sometimes, he being a nature lover as well. One day he found a Mayate, more commonly known as a June bug or fig beetle. It’s beautiful iridescent green wings mesmerized me. My uncle took a bit of string he had in one of his pockets and tied it to the June bug’s leg. He released the bug and off it flew, just as far as the string would allow. After a while I pleaded with my uncle to release the poor bug, empathy having won me over.
June bugs are actually beetles in the scarab family. Escarabajo verde de junio, Cotinis mutabilis is what we call a Mayate. It is native to Mexico. They feed on very ripe or soft fruits since they cannot bite hard matter. They are still one of my favorite insects in the garden.
Animals are thought of in very diverse ways in Mexico. Some are bred and raised to be work animals or food sources. Others are thought of as guard animals. And the lucky ones are loved as pets or mascots. Growing up in Mexico, seeing how animals were treated always confused me and made me question a human’s place in the world and what our responsibilities are to other creatures. I had always observed animals in my mother’s garden, fascinated with the webs they wove or the way they burrowed into the ground. As summer started they seemed to be at their peak of activity in the month of June. As an adult I question best practices and ask how to ease the burden we place on our fellow creatures, big and small.
What to plant in June
Dahlias, all types of begonias, impatiens, verbenas, rudbeckia and flor amarilla are at the viveros. It’s a good time to put in ferns. Stag horns will be very happy if they are kept moist and out of direct sun. All types of lilies will be blooming now. Some flower seeds to plant in June are cosmos, marigolds, sunflowers and zinnias. Disbud dahlias for larger blooms. Stake tall plants before the rains begin. Plant beans, beets, peppers, okra, sweet corn and tomatoes. Water frequently, as the soil in pots dries out faster. If you have not been spraying for pests, now is a good time to start. As an effective spray for most insects a bit of dish soap in water in a spray bottle will do. It is a good deterrent for mild cases of white fly. Weeds are growing faster now so keep up with them. Keep deadheading regularly.
What to do in the garden in June
Sow or transplant lima and snap beans, celeriac, celery, chard, cucumbers, eggplants, oak leaf and other heat-tolerant and bolt-resistant lettuces, melons, okra, peppers, pumpkins, New Zealand spinach, summer and winter squash, and tomatoes. Sow beets, carrots, corn, sweet potato slips and radishes directly where they’ll mature. Transplant seedlings close enough so that the leaves of mature plants will shade the soil between the plants. This will keep plant roots cooler, and the sun won’t bake the soil. There’s less evaporation, so you’ll have to water less.
Plant the last batch of corn this month, as later plantings will probably have smut problems (those big, grey and black puffs of fungus in place of kernels) when harvested in September. Or you may choose to inoculate your corn with the fungus. It’s a delicacy in Southwest and Mexican cuisine called Huitlacoche.
Pinch back herbs, especially fast-growing basil, to encourage bushy, more delicate-flavored growth through the summer. Pinch off any blossoms that start to develop to keep the plants developing more fragrant foliage.
Mulch the soil with organic matter such as compost, leaves or grass clippings to temper the drying and heating effect of the sun. Irrigation will be more effective with less water frequency and quantity.
Container plants and hanging baskets need daily watering now that they have established themselves and the temperatures have risen. Water perennial plants, vegetable gardens, and shrubs deeply and frequently. Ensure that your drip irrigation system is set up correctly and is in good working order.
We are really feeling the heat, so plan to get out in the garden early and get your garden chores done before the sun becomes too intense.
“It is better to be a young June bug than an old bird of paradise.”
– Mark Twain
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