Revel in basil. The versatile herb is exploding in the garden right now in a variety of colors, flavors, and textures, from the large lettuce-leaf basil to the delicate globe, from the dark purple opal ruffles to the African blue, from the strong licorice scent of Thai basil to the fruity-citrus smell of lemon. Who knew there was such a mélange? If you want it to keep having fat, tasty leaves for pesto, you need to keep deadheading. Leave a few flowers here and there for the bees and hummingbirds to enjoy, but otherwise, keep clipping them off to encourage branching and more foliage. Later in the season, I’ll let the flowers ripen to save the seed or leave it for the winter birds. For now, I take the clippings and add them to vinegar for a light salad dressing.
Pick peaches Despite (or maybe because of) the ridiculous weather this winter, peaches are going gangbusters. Take advantage of local farm stands and produce markets, or better yet, pick your own. A simple web search turns up a list of local U-Picks. Call ahead or check websites to see what’s ripe where this week.
Deal with the mosquitoes. It’s summer, and they’re winning. Treat all your intentional standing water with Bt every two weeks, and be diligent about accidental ponds after rain or watering. Even treat the drainage saucers under your houseplants. I keep a smorgasbord of insect repellents (from totally organic to completely nuclear) outside my backdoor, so people can choose their own defense. I prefer something with geranium or citronella oil, but I find it needs to be reapplied frequently. Better yet, I find someone whom the mosquitoes prefer over me, and stand next to them.
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).