Always keep a pot of soil handy by your front door. Countless times I’ve walked around with a gifted or not-so-gifted plant in my hand, gotten home, and set it in a “safe” place. Three days later, it’s either totally limp or totally crisp*. If only I’d had a pot of soil ready, said plant would be flourishing right now. A plastic bag in the pocket is also a must-have as a temporary safe place. Of course it must be removed before laundry day. (Don’t ask.)

* notable exception is a succulent my son rescued, still perfectly fine after months in the car’s ash tray.

Freak out over pillbugs. Partly as a response to the wet weather, pillbugs, Armadillilium vulgare, or roly polies, are everywhere in the garden at ground level. These wood crustaceans usually feed only on dead plant material, in damp places. But because everywhere seems to be damp, they have upped their numbers, and are wandering into the live plants. To avoid damage, get your fruits up off the ground on trellises, or at least on fluffed-up straw. Pull larger populations away from crops by putting garbage fruit (banana peels, cantaloupe rind) on the ground at a distance. Then scoop up the hoards and dump them in the compost bin, where they will do some good.

Check out the wild mushrooms. But never eat one until you’ve seen an experienced forager eat it in front of you -- and you’ve spoken to that forager the next day. Remember the adage: there are old mushroom hunters, and there are bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old, bold mushroom hunters.

Celebrate Community Gardens Day, sponsored by the Neighborhood Gardens Trust. Visit community gardens around the city June 15. For a map of open gardens, go to

Sally McCabe is associate director of community education at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society ( and winner of the AHS Great American Gardener Jane L. Taylor award.