Pull and Fluff the Mulch
Rainwater rolls off crusty mulch. While you're removing the occasional weed that's pushed through, pull mulch 4 to 5 inches away from all stems, trunks, branches, and crowns of plants. Also fluff mulch by using a cultivator to break up the crust. I like a long-handled tool, such as a triangular hoe or three-pronged cultivator, to carefully avoid damaging plants.
Experiment with Edible Flowers
Anise hyssop, basil, borage, daylilies, dianthus, hibiscus, hollyhocks, lavender, mint, nasturtium, rosemary, sage, and thyme have edible flowers. Sprinkle them on salads, garnish sandwiches and dinner plates, freeze them in ice cubes for a beverage surprise. Remove pistils and stamens; pollen may cause an allergic reaction. Remove the sepals of all flowers except violas, Johnny-jump-ups, and pansies. Only the petals are edible on calendulas, chrysanthemums, lavender, and roses. A petal's white base may taste bitter so remove it from chrysanthemums, dianthus, marigolds, and roses. Be sure to harvest only from pesticide-free plants.
Prune and Share Herbs
Rosemary, oregano, thyme, tarragon, and basil are thriving in the summer sun and likely outgrowing their designated spots. Feel free to clip back stems. Use bypass hand pruners for rosemary and basil, pruning off each stem separately. As the oregano, thyme, and tarragon cascade or form a blanket, use long-bladed shears to trim handfuls of stems quickly. Gather and share the fragrant, flavorful herbs.
Cut Back Browning Poppies and Bleeding Heart
Oriental poppies and bleeding heart are dying back, leaves and stems turning yellow, then brown. These perennials have stored food in their roots for next season, so it's fine to cut stems back to 3 or 4 inches. Put dead foliage in the compost pile unless it's diseased or has pests. Plant annual flowers nearby to brighten the empty spots.
By now most roses are through their first flush. To encourage further flowering on repeat bloomers, prune off the dead flowers like so: Disinfect bypass pruners by wiping blades with alcohol or other disinfectant to reduce risk of carrying disease to the next plant. Clip just above a leaf with five leaflets. Prune at a 45-degree angle sloping away from the leaf juncture (node).