On August 10, 2018

Freezing corn and other August gardening tips

By Leonard Perry, UVM Horticulturist & Charlie Nardozzi, Garden Consultant

Freezing corn for winter enjoyment, starting fall greens in the garden, and dividing some perennials are gardening activities for this month.

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

Blanching is simply boiling vegetables for a short period to kill enzymes that cause their deterioration.  For sweet corn, place ears in boiling water for four to six minutes, then remove them and cool in cold water.  Using a knife or corn scraper, remove kernels and place them on cookie sheets or trays in a freezer. Once frozen, store kernels in resealable plastic freezer bags.  Make sure to use freezer bags, as regular plastic storage bags won’t keep produce fresh in the freezer. Freezing before bagging keeps them from freezing into a solid lump.

It’s time to start some mesclun greens and leaf lettuce in bare spots in the garden for fall picking. Mix in some compost before seeding and give new seedlings a dose of liquid fish emulsion. You can even start snow peas and beans for a modest fall crop. Soak the pea seeds overnight to hasten germination.

Late summer is a good time to divide German and Siberian iris, rudbeckia, echinacea, daylilies, and tall phlox.  If plants are blooming well, with strong stems, and you still have space for them, they shouldn’t need division. Don’t make the divisions too small or you’ll wait longer for blooms. Wait until after bloom to divide.  Trim the foliage by at least half before replanting.

Be sure to set bearded iris rhizomes (the thick roots) just barely below the soil surface to prevent rotting.  When dividing these iris, check the rhizomes for mushy areas with borers. Discard affected roots, making sure to kill the borers.
Don’t rely on nature to provide enough water for trees and shrubs that you’ve planted this spring or summer. Deep watering once a week will encourage deep roots, which better withstand droughts and better anchor trees.

In the landscape, lavender is a low herb used for its gray-green to silvery leaves, or its lavender blue flowers in July or August.   Depending on the species and season, they may bloom from four to eight weeks. Flowers contain lots of nectar, so are attractive to bees.

The English lavenders generally are listed as hardy to USDA zone 5 (-10 to -20 degrees average winter minimum), although sometimes they may grow into a colder zone if sufficient and reliable snow cover.  Hardiest cultivars (cultivated varieties) are ‘Munstead’ and ‘Hidcote’, both 12 to 18-inches high, and the slightly taller and newer French-English hybrid Phenomenal.

Other gardening activities for this month include visiting local fairs and perhaps entering some of your own flowers, planting trees and shrubs, keeping newly planted trees and shrubs well-watered, fertilizing annual flower plantings, planting cover crops on empty garden spaces, and keeping up with harvesting of produce and fruits.

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally known horticulturist, author, gardening consultant, and garden coach (CharlieNardozzi.com). Distribution of this release is made possible by University of Vermont and Green Works—the Vermont Nursery and Landscape Association.

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