May 19, 2023

In the June garden, get ready for a warm, dry summer

Are you still waiting for the sun? While May brought inland gardens warmer temperatures, the coast was still cool and gray. Let's hope June brings sun, not gloom, to the coast, too.

Despite winter's abundant rains, we still live in drought. This summer's long-term forecast for July and August is warmer than normal. That translates to dryer soils and more heat stress on plants. So don't be tempted to ease up on your water conserving practices. We are in it for the long run.

Except right along the coast, it is too late to plant drought tolerant trees, shrubs, etc. Here's what to plant instead:

Vegetables: tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, tomatillo, cucumber, squashes, pumpkins, melons

Annual herbs: basil, cilantro

Subtropical fruits: citrus, avocado, banana, passion vine, mango, etc.

Subtropical ornamentals: gingers (Heliconia, Zingiber), canna, angel trumpet (Brugmansia). Since these are thirsty plants, plant them sparingly and in a location with high visibility.

Now that nighttime temperatures are well above 50 degrees, move houseplants outside for summer. Place them in a sheltered spot with lots of indirect light, like a bright patio or covered balcony:

- Orchids

- Monstera

- Pathos

- Sansevieria

- Dracaena

- Spider plant

- Ficus

- And more

Grass is the thirstiest plant in our gardens. With diminishing water resources, we can't continue to support lawns. Check your local water agency for their current rebates for removing your grass. It will take several months to remove the grass completely, so start now and plan for what you’ll plant in its place:

Prepare to support birds and bees through the warm weather.

Insects and other tiny garden critters can be unnerving but seldom a problem. A few pests in the garden ensure their natural predators stick around. Your goal is to support the natural cycle to keep your garden in balance.

Remember: Plants are not perfect. They aren't supposed to be.

Celebrate National Garden Week (June 4 to 10) by helping a friend start a herb or vegetable garden. Earn bonus points if that friend is a child!

Fertilize vegetables:

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Sterman is a garden designer, journalist and the host of "A Growing Passion" on public television. She runs Nan Sterman's Garden School at