August is in many ways a transitional month.
Many perennials are still blooming and need care, but other plants such as herbs are due for harvest and seed collection.
Harvesting, drying seeds, herbs
Harvest seeds that are ripe but not so ripe the seed heads drop or spew seeds to the ground. Ripe seeds are usually dark.
When the vegetative envelopes swelling at the base of spent flowers begin to yellow and dry up, you can begin to harvest.
Place the open end of a paper bag under a seed head, and snip it into the bag.
To dry, spread seed heads and seeds on screens lined with newspaper, and set them to dry in a warm, dry room until the seed envelopes are crackling dry, about five days.
Separate the seeds from the chaff by rubbing the seed heads between your palms over a bowl.
Gently blow away the chaff. Spread the seeds out to dry for another ten days.
Pour the seeds into glass jars, and cap them tightly.
Check in a few days; if moisture has appeared inside the glass, air dry the seeds another few days.
Store them in jars or small freezer bags.
Label and date each one. Put a small mesh bag filled with flour into each container to absorb moisture.
Air drying leaves: Pick fresh, healthy branch tips 12-14 inches long.
Strip the coarse lower leaves and discard.
Gather the stems in loose bunches, and hang them upside down in an airy, dry, preferably dark place.
When the stems are crackling dry, strip the leaves off, and discard the stems.
Rub the leaves between your palms to break them up and to remove them from the tiny twigs they may be clinging to.
Pour the leaves into glass jars and cap tightly.
After a few days, check to see whether moisture has appeared inside the glass.
If so, oven-dry the herbs for two hours at 150 degrees F.
Store the herbs in small jars, and write the date and name on the label.
Oven drying: Spread the leaves out over paper towels, and heat them on low until crackling dry. How long depends on the herb and your oven.
Microwave drying: Dry-ish herbs, like thyme, dry well in a microwave oven at half power.
Experiment with timing when you can afford to ruin a batch or two.
Drying moist herbs such as basil in a microwave keeps the color and the flavor.
Prop several leaves on a crumpled paper towel, and microwave one or one and a half minutes on high.
Stink bugs
Set-up stink bug traps in your yard.
These traps will lure stink bugs with an attractant that is odor-free to humans, before they enter your home or damage your vegetable or fruit gardens.
A light can be purchased separately to be added to the trap for indoor use.
(Editor’s Note: Ken Morgan is the owner of Robin’s Nest Floral and Garden Center in Easton, Md.)