Some perennials, such as catmint, yarrow, many campanulas, and delphiniums, can be encouraged to keep blooming or to have a second blooming if faded flowers are removed regularly. Fertilizing also helps. Even for perennials that bloom just once a year, it is beneficial, to say nothing of more attractive, to removed spent blossoms. Fertilizing them also will help them make strong growth for next year.
Homemade Insect Repellent Spray
In a spray bottle, combine one cup of liquid witch hazel, one tablespoon of cider vinegar, and two 4-inch sprigs of fresh rosemary. Let stand overnight. Spray your skin and the area around you every 30 minutes or so. The mixture keeps about two weeks. (Adapted from Healing Secrets of the Seasons, by Judith Benn Hurley, William Morrow and Company, 1998, $27.00)
Rescuing Squash Vines
If squash, cucumber, or melon vines suddenly wilt, look for a hole in the stem where the wilt starts. Use a knife to slice open the stem lengthwise and destroy the tunneling white larva of the squash vine borer. Sometime the damaged stem will root if buried. Destroy severely infested plants. There's still time to plant another crop this year.
Sow Early-ripening and Biennial Seeds
Biennials, such as Canterbury bells, dame's rocket, and foxgloves, as well as early-ripening perennials like columbine and dianthus, have seed on them that is ready to plant now. The lazy person's way is to just scatter the seed around your flowerbeds, which gives that cottage-garden look. More ambitious types will sow seeds on a deeply prepared bed. Cover the bed with burlap to protect from heat and maintain moisture. Seedlings will be ready to transplant in September.
Japanese Beetle Patrol
The Japanese beetles have been chomping away for several weeks now. If you haven't already, go out early in the morning and brush them off plants into a bucket of soapy water. Neem is a botanical insecticide that is fairly effective as a repellent yet is biodegradable and relatively nontoxic to pets and wildlife. Treat lawn areas with milky spore disease, a bacteria that kills beetle grubs.