July 28-Aug. 3: In the garden, it's time to…

Hanging basket of petunias.

Build a rain gauge. It’s easy to tell people to water if there has been less than an inch of rain in a week, but how are you supposed to know how much rain fell in your yard?  Most commercial rain gauges (usually a tube with gradations on the side) are small and cute, but with a small mouth and a blowing wind, are you really going to get an accurate reading?  Better to take a straight-sided bucket and place it in the garden. Then go out with a ruler after it rains, and record how much fell. Do the math, and if it doesn’t add up to an inch in a week, water.  Empty out the bucket, and restart the count. Better yet, save that water, and use it to rinse your hair (rainwater makes a great conditioner, but only if the bucket is clean).

Keep those veggies picked. Ripe fruit signals to the rest of the plant to start winding down. Removing said fruit encourages the plant to start over, producing more flowers to make more fruit. Try to pick in early morning and when foliage is dry. This discourages fungus from spreading as you pick.

Prune your hanging baskets. Right about now, they start to look seedier and seedier.  Give them a haircut and feed them lightly — best done by putting some sort of organic fertilizer, or better yet, worm castings, in a bucket of water and sinking the whole basket until no more bubbles rise.  Take out the basket, and put it in the shade for a few weeks to rejuvenate.  Then pull up a chair and join ’em.

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).