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Harvesting Basil a
nd Other August Gardening Tips
By 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.

Harvesting Basil

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.

Flower Cuttings

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.

Sweet Corn

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 super-sweet 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 blanch first.

How to Blanch Vegetables

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.

Quickly Ripen Tomatoes

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.

Watering Tips

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.

Order Spring-Flowering Bulb

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 (