Hands in the Dirt: MLT Gardening Tips for June 2021

In a rare turn, June actually feels like summer this week. Most garden veggies can be planted now without extra protection. Basil, cucumbers, and both summer and winter squash can all still be direct sown early in the month, and can even outpace seeds sown last month that may have stalled in cooler weather.

With the warmer weather, it’s time to be water conscious – not only of your water bill, but also of the needs of your new seedlings. Seeds need consistent moisture to break their dormancy, so be sure to maintain damp soils where seeds have been direct sown. I have grown to realize I’m a forgetful gardener and can’t keep soil moist enough for most seeds, so I’ve transitioned to starting most seeds in trays and transplanting – even those that “shouldn’t be transplanted” like squash and cucumber. Rules are made to be broken, right?

Continually picking herbs like thyme, mint and oregano will lead to bushy plants with lots of new growth. These plants all send out new branches from leaf nodes (aka the plant’s armpits). This is also called “pinching” when applied to plants when you don’t use the harvest, and can be done to lots of flowers. We recommend pinching cosmos and mums, among others, to get more blooms.

Are you a new tomato grower? Here are three tips to help you out this year.

1 – water from irrigation or rain can splash soil up onto the leaves, which can lead to diseased leaves. You can prevent this by pruning off the lower leaves as the plant grows.

2 – indeterminate tomatoes send out suckers from the nodes between each leaf and the main branch. You can let these grow, but they end up being a drain on the rest of the plant, and depending on variety, can lead to smaller tomatoes. If you are going for giant slicers for tomato sandwiches, pinch those suckers! Suckers can be removed by pinching with your fingers when they are small, or snipping with clippers when larger. (Note: suckers larger than 5 inches or so can be planted separately and will root and become a new tomato plant!)  Double check before pruning smaller suckers – you don’t want to snip off a fruiting branch on accident.

3 – most tomatoes benefit from trellising. There are many ways to trellis tomatoes, from the standard tomato cages found at any hardware store, to stakes and twine, to hanging string from an overhead post, to weaving the plants through mesh trellis. The right trellis will depend on your growing setup, but a simple cage or tall stake will work for most home gardeners.

We have started hosting garden work parties again! Watch our Facebook page for announcements.

Have a question about gardening? Ask it on our Facebook page.

About the BOG

The Ballinger Organic Garden (BOG) is a volunteer-led effort to develop a community garden at Ballinger Park. The BOG, in partnership with MLT Recreation & Parks and the MLT Senior Center and funded by a grant from the MLT Community Foundation, is currently in “Phase 0” while larger construction activities (creek restoration and trail installation) are completed.  Phase 0 includes maintenance of the existing raised beds and a garden plot on the south side of the MLT Senior Center in Ballinger Park. Phase 1 will involve installation of a larger garden with plots available for community members to maintain.  Want to volunteer, or have an idea of what you want to see in the future garden? Please let us know.

To stay up to date on what is happening at the BOG, including what’s growing, work parties, and events, follow us on Facebook  or Instagram.

— By Robyn Rice

Robyn Rice grew up in Eastern Washington, pulling weeds and picking up rotten fruit as dreaded chores assigned by her Master Gardener father. Today, Robyn is a fisheries biologist for an environmental consulting firm, and has been gardening in the Seattle area since 2010. Her science background leads to endless research about the “correct” way to do things, but her enthusiasm and sense of adventure leads her to garden fearlessly because hey, what’s the worst that could happen?



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