Learn a Beneficial a Month
Beneficial insects naturally eat pests that damage garden plants but it's easy to confuse beneficials with other insects. The helpful ladybug, for example, resembles the asparagus beetle. Choose one beneficial a month to identify at the egg, larval, and adult phases of its life cycle. Put pictures or photos of two or three life stages on the fridge or somewhere prominent. Talk about the hover fly, the ground beetle, the lacewing larvae with front mandibles. Become familiar with one beneficial at a time and quiz your garden friends.
Keep Peony Foliage
Though peony foliage is starting to look unsightly, leave it as long as possible. Plants are making and storing food and need those leaves, even as they discolor, for photosynthesis. In zone 4 leave foliage until early September; zone 5 until the end of September; zones 6 and 7 until early October.
Shear Spent Dianthus Flowers
Prune or shear unsightly stems and seedheads on front-of-the border, low-growing maiden pinks (Dianthus deltoides) and cheddar pinks (Dianthus gratianopolitanus). Leave the maiden pinks' mounds of bright green foliage for winter. Cheddar pink's blue-green foliage will fill in quickly after you clip off the stems with dead flowers.
Clip Back Sprawling Geraniums
'Johnson's Blue', 'Jolly Bee', 'Rozanne', 'Wargrave Pink', and 'Claridge Druce' can sprawl and get scraggly. Cut wandering stems of May and June bloomers back to the full-leaved base. Foliage will regrow into mounds and maybe have a bloom or two. For geraniums flowering now, just clip off ends of far-reaching stems to tidy the plant.
Remove Dead Poppy Foliage
Gently pull or clip brown, dead poppy foliage. The roots are still alive so don't pull too hard or you'll uproot the plant. In late summer or fall, new leaves will sprout to feed the roots and help insulate the plant's crown in winter.