Start using your herbs. Basil is especially lush right now, but it’s trying to push out flowers and get mature. That’s what we don’t want it to do, so start clipping the tops off the plants and using them to make pesto! In fact, start harvesting bits of all your herbs. If using herbs fresh, it’s best to pick them early in the morning before they start to dry out. And if you have an excess of fresh herbs, you can chop them and freeze them in water in ice cube trays. For drying herbs, there’s no better place than the dashboard of your car. I spread paper out and cover it with fresh herbs; after a day in the sun, everything is dry to a crisp. Not as fast as a microwave, but with less risk of bursting into flames.
Renovate your hanging baskets. Annual baskets are usually in need of a little help right now. Petunias, verbena, and calibrachoa all have bloomed their little hearts out and are now full of dead flowers or seed heads. Cutting or pinching off the flowers and giving a quick shot of liquid fertilizer or worm compost tea will give them the boost they need to bloom again in a week or two. Unhanging them and dunking them in a bucket of water occasionally also does good as air bubbles that have formed inside the soil have made it hard to keep them watered.
Make a rhubarb pie. Although it’s usually considered a spring crop, my rhubarb is still pumping it out furiously. Thinning out the crop one more time gives you room to put in a few late-season tomatoes or even some short-season sweet potatoes — or, more herbs that you can later dry on your dashboard.
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).