Aug 11-17: In the garden, it's time to…

Mary Mantey, a horticulturalist and house gardener at Bartram’s Gardens, tends to perennials.

Prop up the perennials.  Right now, a lot of our perennials are blooming their heads off. Unfortunately, sometimes those heads are a bit high above the ground or get beaten down by heavy rains. You can buy fancy peony holders or grow them in tomato cages or tie them up onto bamboo stakes — but remember those election signs I talked about in May, those heavy wire frames covered with cardboard I encouraged you to harvest? Well, now they would make very good props for your bendy friends. Stick them in the ground and shape them appropriately. Use more than one if necessary.

Denude the grapes. In early spring, I sprayed my grapevines with a fungicide. In late spring, I removed all the leaves from a section to keep the black-rot fungus from spreading from the leaves onto my fruit. Well, now all of the fruit is done, but new leaves are showing evidence of the fungus once again. So off they come, and into a trash can far away from my grapevines.

Plant root crops. With the exception of sweet potatoes, all the root crops can stand a little frost. Although frost is probably the farthest thing from your mind right now, it’s important when it cuts short the growing season of anything we might want to plant this late in the season. Carrots, turnips, rutabaga, red beets all will happily grow sizable roots by Thanksgiving if planted from seed now and won’t mind a bit when cooler temperatures arrive. Because it’s still hot, though, plant the seeds a little bit deeper and water the trench well before you drop them in.

Sally McCabe is associate director of community education at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society ( and a co-owner of Cobblestone Krautery (