Thanks to California's sunny San Joaquin Valley, which supplies about 60 percent of the nation's peaches, the fuzzy fruits can be found coast to coast April through September. But July and August are their glory season, when heat and sunshine have filled them with sugar. And here's the secret to getting the best peach -- color, not softness, indicates ripeness. Locate the groove left by the branch on the top of the peach and examine the two lobes. One should be blazing red ("Where it got all nice and tan," says Chuck Geyer, manager of Westmoreland Berry Farm in Oak Grove, Va.), and the other deep yellow-orange. Any trace of green means it was picked too early. If you're what peach professionals call a "leaner" -- someone who likes peaches so soft that only leaning forward saves your shirt -- then leave them out for a couple of days in a cool place, away from direct sunlight. They're perfect when they give slightly if squeezed. Peaches can be refrigerated for 10 days (avoid plastic bags, which speed deterioration).
Keep deadheading spent annual flowers for continued bloom. Perennials that have finished blooming should be deadheaded. Cut back the foliage some to encourage tidier appearance. Fall webworms begin nest building near the ends of branches of infested trees. Prune off webs. Spray with B.T. if defoliation becomes severe. Semi-hardwood cuttings of spring flowering shrubs can be made now. Summer pruning of shade trees can be done now. Powdery mildew is unsightly on lilacs, but rarely harmful. Shrubs grown in full sun are less prone to this disease. Water lawns frequently enough to prevent wilting. Early morning irrigation allows turf to dry before nightfall and will reduce the chance of disease. Monitor lawns for newly hatched white grubs. If damage is occurring, apply appropriate controls, following product label directions.
Have you been getting a lot of CDs for online service in the mail? And have you been tossing them? Not so fast. There is something useful you can do with all those free CDs. They can save plants and trees, fruit and vegetables. Instead of tossing the CDs out, drill a hole in the edge of each and thread thin wire, twine or dental floss through the hole. Then hang them on your fruit trees. The silvery, flashy surface will scare birds away. You can protect low-lying fruit plants and vegetable gardens, too, by hanging these digital scarecrows on coat hangers (bent into hooks) and sticking them in the ground. Got pesky birds? Small critters that nibble? The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.