Even though perennials grow and bloom year after year, many benefit from being divided every three to five years. Dividing perennials helps to control the size of the plants, rejuvenates them, and offers an opportunity to remove weeds. Plus, you get more plants! Plants that are best divided in late summer to fall include bee balm, campanula, cranesbill, blackberry lilies, black-eyed Susans, phlox, hostas, daylilies, iris, yarrow, coreopsis, and coneflowers. Water plants well a day or two before dividing, dig up the plants, separate pieces, shorten top growth, and replant immediately.
Give Butterflies a Treat
Besides filling the garden with the nectar-rich flowers that feed butterflies, think about other sources of food, water, and minerals. For some kinds of butterflies, damp areas or shallow puddles are essential. Create a puddle area with a plant saucer, some sand, and water. Add a bit of salt occasionally. Make a homemade nectar feeder with red-and-yellow plastic kitchen scouring pads moistened with a solution of 4 parts water and 1 part sugar; put the pads in a shallow dish supported on a post just above nearby flowers. Rotten fruit also attracts butterflies, but, unfortunately, sometimes other wildlife as well, such as raccoons.
Trim and Deadhead
Flower beds can look a bit bedraggled by now. Although there's no magic formula for instantly making them glorious, there are some things to do. First of all, notice when you have gaps in flowering and where. Make plans to add plants next spring that will make up for this deficit. Meanwhile, clip off spent blooms and remove unsightly growth. Remove weeds and renew mulch, if necessary. Blooming chrysanthemums and asters will soon be available, so plan on adding some of these soon.
Collect, Save, and Sow Seed
Many old-fashioned flowers and herbs, like cleome, love-in-a-mist, larkspur, feverfew, four-o'clocks, nicotiana, cilantro, dill, and chervil, have remained popular favorites because they readily self-sow. If you don't want all of the seedlings in the same place next year, gather the seed heads as they dry. Place them upside down in small paper bags, label with the plant name, close bags with paper clips, and store in a warm, dry place until the seeds have fallen to the bottom. Discard the seed heads and store the seed in a clean, labeled envelope. These can be planted later this fall or next spring.
Redolent gazpacho not only makes a cooling, no-cook summer meal, it also uses up garden bounty. There are many versions, but a simple one combines 2 pounds of peeled, cored, and finely chopped tomatoes with 1 pound peeled, seeded, and finely chopped cucumber, 1 cup finely chopped onion, 1 cup finely chopped green and/or red sweet pepper, 4 to 5 cups tomato or mixed vegetable juice, 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, hot pepper sauce or minced hot pepper to taste, 1 minced garlic clove, and salt and pepper to taste. Chill thoroughly before serving.