University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Summer News Article


HARVESTING BASIL AND OTHER AUGUST GARDENING TIPS
   
Charlie Nardozzi, Horticulturist and
Leonard Perry, UVM Extension Horticulturist
 
Harvesting basil, taking cuttings of some annual flowers, and harvesting produce are some of the gardening activities for this month.

When harvesting basil, instead of just removing individual leaves, cut back whole stems. This will create a bushier plant that will produce more leaves and less flowers and scraggly growth. Pick basil in the morning for the best flavor. This is when the oil content in the leaves is highest.  Use the leaves to dry for seasoning later, or cook into pesto you can freeze for later.

Take cuttings in late summer of geraniums, coleus, and begonias to produce new plants. Take a 4- to 6-inch-long cutting, dip the cut end in rooting hormone powder, and stick the cutting in moistened potting soil or a mix or perlite and vermiculite. Cover with a clear plastic bag and keep out of direct sun.  If the bag stays too moist inside, make a few slits.  Cuttings should root within a month.  Coleus often just root in a jar of water too.

Harvest sweet corn early in the day for the best flavor. Squeeze ears to see if they're firm and wait until the silks have browned and dried to harvest. Eat immediately unless growing the supersweet varieties that will hold their sweetness for a few days. Store in the refrigerator.  If you don’t grow sweet corn, or enough, buy some locally at farmer’s markets or farmstands to cut off the cob and freeze for great winter eating.  Make sure and blanche first.

Blanching is merely boiling vegetables briefly to destroy enzymes that cause them to rot, usually about 3 minutes, more for thick ones such as large carrots, and less for tender ones such as shelled peas.  You can’t freeze salad greens, but you can other greens such as collards.  Peppers and onions don’t need blanching prior to freezing.  Once blanched, drain and let vegetables dry a bit before freezing, so they won’t freeze into a solid lump. Use special plastic bags or containers labeled for freezing, as others won’t prevent moisture loss.

To hasten ripening of already set tomatoes, remove new blossoms as they form. Chances are the new blossoms won't have time to mature before frost and they will take energy away from the developing fruit. Don't prune the branches because they are shading and protecting fruits from the hot summer sun.

When watering newly planted trees and shrubs, water infrequently, but deeply. Build a water basin around the drip line of the tree, but block the water from going up against the tree trunk. Fill the basin with water and let soak in 2 to 3 feet deep. Watering this way once or twice a week is better than sprinkling the soil more frequently.  Planting trees and shrubs from pots is fine throughout the season as there is minimal root disturbance. Don’t fertilize now, as this may stimulate new growth that won’t harden before fall freezes.

Late summer is a good time to order spring flowering bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, from catalogs or online, if you haven’t already.   The selection is often greater than at local stores, although garden stores usually have plenty in September if you can wait and aren’t too particular.  Even though catalog orders will be received now, they will be shipped at the appropriate time for planting in fall. Just keep a copy of your order so you know what's coming.

(Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally known horticulturist, author, gardening consultant, and garden coach (CharlieNardozzi.com).     

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