Check for ticks. Faithfully. It’s that time of year, they come in all shapes and sizes, and they like to hang out in tall grasses and woodland borders. I find the deer ticks are especially itchy, so don’t just sit there scratching — investigate.

Repurpose a cooler. While you’re in the middle of the summer holiday, chances are good you have a cooler to ditch; the lid is missing, the plastic is cracked, it’s so gross inside that your neighbors fear food poisoning at your gatherings. As long as the drainage hole is clear, it will make an excellent planter. Especially if it’s on wheels, and can be moved around on a whim. Neutral colors show all the dirt, but the brighter ones add a touch of color as long as the contents don’t clash. Fill with a mix of potting soil and a bit of compost, and add a bunch of sweet potato vines and coleus cuttings.

Catch up. Because the soil is so warm, seeds are bursting out of the ground. Plant a last crop of vegetables like beans or squash, water well, and stand back! Wait four days and they’ll already be sprouting. Just make sure you plant a little deeper, and water the hole well before putting in the seeds. Then cover with soil and water again, lightly this time. And don’t be afraid to plant some last-minute tomatoes. Garden centers are practically giving them away, so grab a few, and just be sure to remove any fruit and flowers. Dig a deep-enough hole that you can plant them up to their necks, water the hole, plant, then water again. Assuming we’ll still have a warm September, you’ll be getting a beautiful crop while everybody else’s have peaked and passed on.

Weed, water, and mulch!

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.