Check Out County Fairs
Want to see the bounty of other gardeners and farmers? County fairs in August and September often have late-summer harvest on display. There's still time to enjoy fairs in New Jersey's Somerset and Hunterdon Counties. In New York, there are Altamont, Herkimer, Steuben, Sullivan, Montgomery, Tompkins, Delaware, Duchess, Wayne, Onondaga, and Wyoming county fairs in autumn. In Pennsylvania, sample the funnel cake at the Kutztown Fair, Dayton, Lawrence, Middletown, Finley, Westmoreland, Crawford counties and more. Google "County Fairs" in your state for details.
Pick, Pick, and Pick
Pick ripe and nearly ripe tomatoes to keep the plants producing more fruit. Put almost-ripe tomatoes on a shelf to finish ripening -- not in the fridge. Pluck eggplants, peppers, and beans at maturity. For more tender and tasty squash, pick the yellow and green goodies while they're small, BEFORE they reach full-size.
Select (and Keep) The Winners!
Walk through your garden and yard. Notice which shrubs, perennials, annuals, and vegetables have thrived in summer's extremes, and which have not. In my containers, 'Kent Beauty' oregano is a gorgeous winner. The pink, purple, and chartreuse bract and flower cascades look more exuberant as summer heats up. Phlox paniculata 'Robert Poore' continues to resist mildew and stand tall with mauve-pink flower clusters.
Look to Your Lawn
Late August through September is the best time to revitalize your existing lawn or start a new one. In the mid-Atlantic region, we tend to use cool-season turf grasses. After a hot summer of minimal growth, cool-season grasses resume shoot and root production as days get cooler and shorter. So select your grass seed or sod according to available light and how it will be used. Plant as directed and water frequently until seeds sprout. Cool autumn weather will encourage roots to grow deep and strong.
Controlling Japanese Beetles
Though we'll soon see the last of them, let's talk Japanese beetles. Must say I didn't notice them this summer until garden designer friends lamented their skeletonized rose and hibiscus foliage. Last fall I took a preventive approach: I drenched roses with Merit, a systemic pesticide that kills select larvae and insects including many beetles. It is toxic to bees and aquatic creatures though. Some people are concerned about its effect on butterfly caterpillars. So using it is a judgement call.
Garden writer Liz Ball avoids pesticides. She recommends a hands-on approach: "I just knock them into a jar of soapy water (with a drop of kitchen detergent). After the jar gets pretty crowded with bodies --maybe two or three tours of the affected plants per day -- I dump it out into the pachysandra bed or somewhere else on the property."