Pay attention to the bugs. Adult spotted lantern flies have been reported in our area. Although they aren't even flies — they're actually leafhoppers — their favorite host is one of my least favorite trees. The tree of heaven, or Ailanthus altissima, is a terrible weed tree around here, and they are welcome to it. But when they start spreading to our native hardwoods, fruit trees, and even grapes, we need to do something about it. Please learn to identify it before you take a hammer to every bug in creation, by going to To report a sighting in Philadelphia (they've already been found in Berks, Delaware, Chester, Montgomery, and Bucks Counties) send a note to

Get ruthless about standing water. Mosquitoes are pretty rambunctious this time of year, and will breed practically overnight in any kind of standing water: buckets, rain barrels, birdbaths, the trays under your houseplants, even the sweat running down the middle of your back. Dump out everything you can, and treat whatever is left with mosquito dunks or sprinkles. I've heard interesting stories about home remedies to spray around your yard to repel the buggers but haven't tried any of them. Please let me know if you find anything that works.

Fertilize your lawn. For those who insist on having and feeding a lawn, now is the best time to fertilize. Here are a few rules to follow: Use the amounts dictated on the bag or box, and no more; do an even job of spreading it out mechanically or by hand; do it before a good rain. Send your lawn mower in for maintenance while you're waiting for the fertilizer to take effect. There's no line at the shop this time of year, and you're going to need that mower in good shape since feeding your lawn means making more lawn to mow.

Sally McCabe is associate director of community education at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society ( and a co-owner of Cobblestone Krautery (