What to do in your garden now.

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Thomas J. Story

HARVEST

For lasting bouquets, snip flowers early in the morning. Use sharp pruners and immediately place each stem in a bucket of cold water set in the shade.

Freeze excess vine-ripened tomatoes for winter use. After washing them, cut out the core, cut the tomatoes into quarters, and place them on a cookie sheet so the pieces don’t touch. When they’re frozen, transfer them to bags or containers for use as desired. The peel will slip off easily when the tomato pieces begin to thaw.

MAINTAIN

Don’t use rock mulch under trees, where leaf litter eventually covers it, making the bed difficult to weed. Use bark mulch there instead.

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If you use overhead sprinklers, water very early in the morning so leaves dry out during the day. Foliage that stays wet overnight is vulnerable to fungus and diseases. Plus, watering before dawn reduces stress on the municipal water system (usage typically peaks from 6 to 9 a.m.).

When you mow, let clippings drop to the ground. They contain enough nitrogen to reduce the amount of lawn food you need to apply every year.

Layer chopped green matter (like spent flowers and vegetable waste) with brown matter (like dairy manure or straw) in a four-foot mound. Water weekly and turn the pile every two weeks for finished compost in time for fall planting.

PROTECT

Deep-water potted plants. In the heat, they’re more vulnerable to stress from lack of moisture than plants in the ground.

During hot weather, check drip systems around wilting plants. If emitters aren’t clogged, switch to higher-output emitters or extend watering time. Plants are most stressed if they’re wilted in the morning.

If you’ve worn a trail through your lawn or flower bed, turn it into a real path. Dig out the top six inches of soil; fill with four inches of crushed rock; water and roll or tamp it firm; then top with two inches of crushed quarter-minus gravel.

Reduce the risk of fire danger by clearing debris from your yard, pruning any tree limbs closer than 15 feet from the roof, and maintaining a buffer of low-growing, irrigated plants around your home.