July 21-27: In the garden, it's time to …

You can still plant squash, cucumbers — even early-girl-type tomatoes.

Crunch some numbers. People keep asking me if it’s too late to plant. Generally, they’re talking about vegetables, so here’s the answer: Do the math. For all intents and purposes, Thanksgiving is our first hard-frost date (give or take two weeks), and Oct. 1 is the hypothetical end of heat, so count backward from there. This gives us 10 weeks or 70 days of heat to grow warm-season crops, and 130 or so days until cold temps wipe out unprotected cool-season plantings. So there is still time to throw in come-last-minute squash, cukes, beans, and herbs, and yes, even some Early Girl-type tomatoes, as long as their days-to-harvest are 70 days or less.  Read labels and seed packets carefully, then take chances, since who the heck knows what kind of weather is in store for us.

Bag the fruit.  If birds and squirrels are a threat to your garden livelihood, consider netting, bagging, or somehow wrapping up your bounty in a way that confounds the enemy.  Throw netting over peach trees to keep off marauding catbirds.  Don’t use plastic bags, since they don’t allow for air flow, and they hold rainwater. Personally, I find this is a good use for all the unmatched socks that populate my life — I cover up individual clusters of ripening grapes and tie the top with one of the thousand otherwise-useless bag ties that live in the kitchen futility drawer.

Be aware of your bare spots.  This holds true for vegetable gardens, landscapes in general, and exposed skin. Cover bare soil with mulch; fill in bare spots in the landscape with annuals to add color; put on sunscreen whenever you’re working outside, especially on sunny days.

Sally McCabe is associate director of community education at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (phsonline.org) and a co-owner of Cobblestone Krautery (www.cobblestonekrautery.com).