Make and Freeze Pesto
For the healthiest, most productive basil, it's important to cut plants back by half several times during the summer. The classic basil sauce, pesto, is a good way to use up large quantities. Pesto is always best used fresh, but it can also be frozen. Try the recipe from The Ball Blue Book of Preserving by combining 1 cup toasted pine nuts with 4 cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves, 2 cloves garlic, 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, and 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil in a food processor. Place in freezer-safe containers, leaving 1/2-inch head room and drizzling a thin layer of olive oil over the top. Seal, label, and freeze.
Order Spring-Flowering Bulbs
To get the best selection, order spring-flowering bulbs now. Plan on planting the earliest-flowering bulbs, like snow drops, chionodoxa, and eremus, by late September. Other bulbs can be planted up to Thanksgiving, progressing with flowering times. Be sure to include some of the large-flowered ornamental alliums, like 'Gladiator', as they make a spectacular show in the garden. While ordering, also try some fall-blooming colchicums and crocuses.
Dried hydrangea flowers are wonderful in winter arrangements, wreaths, and other crafts. Success is a 50-50 proposition, but for best results remove all leaves and recut the stems as soon as you get indoors. Hold the bottoms of the stems over a flame for 20 seconds, then submerge in cold water up to the bottom of the flower head for 2 days. Next, pour off all but a half inch of the water and let the rest evaporate in a warm, dry place.
Plant Cool-Season Vegetables
Watch weather reports, and just before rain is predicted, plant seeds and transplants of vegetables that grow best in cooler weather or tolerate frost, such as turnips, kale, collards, spinach, radishes, lettuce, and cabbage. To get the longest harvest, plan on ways to extend the season, such as with frost-protective fabric or plastic tunnels. If the weather is especially hot, water the area regularly and consider using shade fabric.
Control Beetle Grubs
The Japanese beetles that ravage roses, raspberries, and other garden plants can be controlled somewhat with regular sprays of the organic pesticide neem. Another option is to control the larval stage of this insect, which lives in the soil as a grayish white, C-shaped grub. This is best accomplished by applying one of several controls through the end of August as the new grubs hatch. Milky spore is a nematode-based biological control, and several synthetic insecticides are available that are selective for grubs.