University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Summer News Article


KEEPING COMPOST MOIST AND OTHER AUGUST GARDENING TIPS

   
Charlie Nardozzi, Senior Horticulturist
National Gardening Association, and
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
 
Keeping your compost moist, freezing corn and berries, and removing old mulch under roses are some of the gardening tips for this month.    
            
After a few days without rain, take a hose to the compost pile and moisten the materials to keep them decomposing. Use a compost fork to mix the ingredients, moving the stuff around the outside of the pile into the middle where most of the decomposition takes place.
           
Leave some seedpods on lupine plants until they dry. Then cut the pods off the plants, using a paper bag to catch the pods and any seeds knocked loose as you cut. Store the pods and seeds in the paper bag in a cool, dry place for sowing next spring. When the foliage begins to die, reduce watering to encourage the bulbs and tubers to harden before harvest. This helps maximize their storage life.
           
The long stretch of rainy weather in many areas means soggy soil and plants. To avoid spreading disease, try to avoid walking among your plants when they are wet. It's not too late to spread hay as a mulch, which can help keep disease spores from splashing up onto plants. If you don't mulch, lightly hoe the surface of the soil when it dries out to break up any crust that could impede water penetration. Harvest frequently so fruit doesn't rot on the plants.
 
Preserve the fresh-picked (well, almost) flavor of corn on the cob for winter meals. Cook the cobs as usual, then using a special corn scraper or a sharp knife, cut off the kernels and freeze them in freezer bags. They will be much tastier than any store-bought frozen or canned corn.
           
Berries such as blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries are easy to flash freeze for winter smoothies. Rinse the berries and let them dry on paper towels. Spread them in a single layer in cake pans or whatever size pans will fit in your freezer. When frozen, pour them into labeled freezer bags or plastic containers, and pop them back in the freezer.
           
Many other vegetables, either from your garden or local farm stand, can be frozen fairly simply.  Just make sure you have the correct containers for freezing, marked as such.  Sandwich bags and dairy containers for instance wont work.  Then make sure you boil briefly or "blanch" prior to freezing to stop the enzymes that make vegetables keep ripening.  Just boil until they are barely cooked and still quite tender, then submerge in a pot of water and ice to cool quickly.  You can find many more freezing details online (www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/foods/he187.pdf).
           
Begin removing the old mulch under roses and raking up all leaves and debris. While this organic matter may seem beneficial, there are many rose disease organisms and insects that overwinter there, and you can reduce the damage to your plants next year by getting rid of it all.
           
Stop pruning most trees and shrubs now, and allow roses to form hips. Pruning woody plants stimulates new growth that may not have time to harden off before the first cold snap of autumn. Leaving spent rose flowers so they form hips signals roses that they, too, should begin winding down.
           

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