University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Summer News Article
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HARVESTING HERBS AND OTHER AUGUST GARDENING TIPS

 

Charlie Nardozzi, Horticulturist and
Leonard Perry, UVM Extension Horticulturist
 
Harvesting herbs, sowing fall garden crops or cover crops, and dividing bearded iris are some of the gardening tips for this month.

Herbs are best harvested just as they are beginning to flower in the morning. That's when they have the highest concentration of essential oils -- and flavor -- in their leaves. Harvest entire branches back to within a few inches of the main stem to encourage new, bushy growth.

If you have some bare spots in the garden, sow some carrots, beets, kale, and fall lettuce. You can even start snow peas and beans for a modest fall crop. Soak the pea seeds overnight to hasten germination.

As you remove spent plants from your garden beds, if you’re not planting a fall crop, sow a cover crop such as winter rye. This will help reduce weed infestation, minimize erosion and compaction from fall rains, and will add nutrients and organic matter to the soil when it is tilled under next spring.

When Oriental poppies have died down, check around the clump for new seedlings. These can be transplanted to new locations if you give them a weed-free spot and keep them moist.

If you haven’t divided bearded iris in a few years, and the clumps are large or no longer flowering well, you should divide them.  Lift carefully with a spading fork, dividing by hand or sharp pruners.  Leave several fans of leaves for each division.  Check the tubers for holes and mushy areas—signs of the iris borer—discarding these in the trash, not the compost. Replant, making sure the top of the tuber is at the surface of the soil.

Check out dates for local fairs.  These are a great place to get ideas on new flowers and arranging them.  Try entering some of your own—you may just be surprised that you have more talent than you think!

If going on vacation, make sure you have a plant sitter.  Go over all that needs watering with them.  Grouping pots together, if you have many, or moving them into the shade, will make their job easier. 

If you have raspberries that fruited in mid-summer, cut back the fruiting canes from this year.  These wont fruit again, but rather next year’s fruit will be borne on new canes that grew this year.  Of course don’t cut back fall-fruiting raspberries if you want fruit later.

Begin harvesting onions when about half to three quarters of the leaves have died back. Then gently dig or pull the onions and store them in a dry, shady place with good ventilation, such as an outdoor shed or barn, for 10 days to 2 weeks. After the onions have cured, put them in slatted crates or mesh bags and store them indoors in a basement with low humidity and temperatures between 33 and 45 degrees F over fall and winter.

Keep up with harvest of all your produce, giving excess to friends or local food shelf.  Keep up especially with squash and zucchini.  If your pickling cucumbers do get too large, consider making watermelon-type pickles with them instead of the traditional dill pickles.   

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

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