Plant tender summer bulbs (caladium, dahlias, etc.). For strong dahlias, dig holes a foot deep; set tubers in and cover with soil only partly. As the shoots grow, gradually add soil to the hole, always leaving the growing tops exposed; when the shoots are 3 inches above ground level, the holes can be completely filled. This presumes excellently drained soil, or the dahlias will drown.
Continue sowing a few green beans at a time - to allow continuous harvests later. Last chance to plant these vegetables: limas, cucumbers, eggplant, squash, and pumpkins.
Sow chervil and cilantro repeatedly all summer to compensate for their tendency to bolt fast (produce flowers). Sow more quick-growing annuals like cosmos and nasturtium.
Prune early-blooming clematis, such as C. montana, if desired to reduce the size. Pruning now will allow the subsequent new growth time to mature before winter, and be ready to bloom next spring.
Prevent unnecessary death. Promptly plant nursery stock purchased earlier in spring. Wait until direct sun has left the site for the day; if torrid conditions are forecast, rig artificial shade for a couple of days (a beach umbrella, a sheet over poles). Be generous with water for the rest of summer.
Put cages or stakes around tomatoes, even if the plants are dinky. You'll be glad later.
Know what a flock of starlings pecking at your lawn means. They most likely are there because the lawn is infested with grubs, the larvae of Japanese beetles and other creeps that eat the roots of grass. The chemical halofenozide (marketed as Mach II, an ingredient in lawn insecticides) is effective at this time of year; it has been ranked on the relatively mild side for chemical ill effects, but should not be used near bodies of water. Biological controls include BioNeem (effective in late spring), beneficial nematodes (mid to late summer) or milky spore (which can take a year to be effective, and then only against Japanese beetle grubs).
Deadhead columbine that have finished blooming to prevent seedling takeover next year. (Or leave one or two pods on the most attractive plant to ripen and self-sow at a reasonable rate.)
If chrysanthemums and asters have grown enough since the last pinching, do it again. There should be at least two, preferably three, nodes (junctures on the stem from which new side shoots will emerge) remaining after pinching.
Keep the lawnmower on a high setting. Cutting long grass too short runs the risk of "sunburn."
Keep the compost cooking, not stinking. All the green matter (grass clippings, celery trimmings, corn shucks) needs dry material if it's not to get rank. If you don't have dry tree leaves from last fall in some corner, leave a mowing of grass on the lawn. Allow to dry fully, then rake up and mix in. If desperate, buy a bale of straw (not hay, full of seeds) and mix into the compost, or use some noncompacted output of a paper shredder (avoid slick paper with lots of color ink). In all cases, the dry matter must be mixed in with the green.
Search out a linden tree, now coming into bloom, and enjoy its fragrance and intriguing flower-and-bract configuration. Perhaps you have room for one? Look for cultivars of the little-leaf linden, Tilia cordata. This is what the English call "lime tree," as in the famous lime allee of Sissinghurst.
- Michael Martin Mills