This week brings the first official day of summer and gardens are exploding with color. Birds, butterflies and bees are buzzing about. After the mad dash to get everything planted in spring, it is tempting to sit back and just watch it grow, but June is when maintenance gardening begins. This can be the best month of gardening as you tend to your plants and reap the rewards of your vegetable garden before the heat and humidity take over. Here are a few gardening tasks to add to your June to-do list.

As your trees and shrubs finish blooming, prune them and continue to deadhead them to focus their energy on strong growth and next year’s blooms. Shear your hedges while the new growth is tender and easy to shape. As with every plant in your garden, monitor for insects and diseases regularly. Look for black spot and powdery mildew on roses and other plants. Remove and destroy any diseased foliage to avoid spreading diseases to surrounding plants. Mulch your shrubs to help them hold in moisture and keep weeds at bay as the days heat up.

June is a perfect month for picking a few new perennials and adding them to your landscape. These plants are blooming now, so shopping is more fun as you can see exactly what they will look like in their full glory. You can plant your tender bulbs like dahlia, cannas, elephant ears, gladiolus and tuber begonia now for a summer full of fabulous color. You can succession plant your gladiolus to create a longer season of blooms in your garden. Stake those that are leggy and need extra support and trellis climbing vines before they are unmanageable.

Annuals are a wonderful way to add bursts of color throughout your garden in beds and containers. They can bring you a full summer of blooms by deadheading them as blooms are spent. Pinch back any leggy annuals to encourage branching. Fertilize every couple of weeks with a balanced or bloom-boosting fertilizer to keep them thriving. Container gardeners should be watering every day or two to keep their plants looking vibrant. Remember that containers will dry faster, especially when in full sun, and should be monitored daily.

If you have not already, it’s time to harvest the cool-season vegetables like onions, spinach, cabbage and broccoli. May 15 is generally our earliest time to plant warm-season vegetables, but mid-June is not too late to get them in the ground. In fact, you can find a few bargains at local garden centers with half-price vegetable plants and herbs. They may be a little pot-bound and will need to be planted immediately, however they also may have fruit already growing on them, giving you a bit of instant gratification. Basil, cilantro, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, beans and squash will take off quickly with the warm weather. Install trellises, stakes or cages for vining vegetables and those that need a little extra support. Keep your vegetable garden evenly and regularly watered for the most productive crops. Inspect them for insects often so you can attack problems early and avoid major problems. Weeds will compete with your vegetable plants for nutrients, so be vigilant in pulling them. Add a few annuals like marigolds and zinnia to attract good bugs.

For more June gardening tips, you can contact your local extension office. Atlantic County residents can contact the Master Gardener Helpline at 609-625-0056. Cape May County Residents can call 609-465-5115, ext.3607.

Events: Atlantic County Master Gardeners will be available to answer gardening questions and take samples for plant identification or diagnoses throughout the county this summer. You can find us at the Ventnor City Farmers Market on July 19, and Aug. 8; Galloway Green Market on June 27 and July 25; Brigantine Farmers Market on June 15 and July 13; Atlantic County 4-H Fair on Aug, 8-10; and Brigantine Green Fest on Aug. 24.

Do you have a gardening related question you would like answered here? Please forward your questions to Belinda Chester, Master Gardener Program Coordinator, Rutgers Cooperative Extension Office, 6260 Old Harding Highway, Mays Landing, NJ 08330. You can also submit mquestions at Rutgers-atlantic.org/garden or email them to currents@catamaran.com; please include “garden question” in the subject line.

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