August 2012 Newsletter

saladWhile the soil is still warm keep sowing plenty of quick growing Salad Leaves, Spinach, Radish, Spring Onions and Baby Beetroot. Oriental vegetables such as Chinese Cabbage, Pak Choi and Mizuna come into their own now too. They are all quick growing and you can begin cropping while they are very young. As the nights turn cooler cover your crop with fleece or a cloche to encourage a longer cropping period well into the winter months.

There are lots of vegetable for over-wintering that can be  sown now such as spring Cabbage, Kale and winter hardy lettuce such as Winter Density which has tender heads rather like a large Little Gem and Humil a tried and tested hardy butterhead variety.


You may want start thinking about your Autumn Planting Onions Shallots and Garlic to make sure you can get your first choice of varieties for the earliest crops next year. Onion sets root quickly in the warm damp soil in the autumn and should make a good size before winter. Autumn planted Garlic likes a period of cold weather which helps to initiate the side buds which will eventually swell to form the cloves.

If your onion crop hasn’t been hit by the dreadful weather it should be ready for harvesting now. Once the leaves have fallen over and are beginning to die down, lift the bulbs with a fork and provided it's dry leave them on the surface of the ground for a few days before cleaning most of the soil from the base and laying out on a greenhouse shelf or wire rack to dry thoroughly. Make sure that the neck of the bulb is thoroughly dry as this will help give a longer storage life. Once lifted if the weather is wet lay the bulbs straight onto a greenhouse bench with plenty of air flow or on a rack in a dry shed or garage.

VegThe vegetable garden should be providing you with copious amounts of produce now, Courgettes, Tomatoes, Beetroot, Onions, Lettuce, Cucumber - the list of bounty is endless. It is important to keep cropping regularly - the whole grow-your-own ethos is to harvest when really young, tender and really, really fresh – something supermarkets can’t achieve, no matter how hard they try! It is better to freeze or give away to friends and neighbours than allow your Runner Beans (for example) to go stringy and beany, or your Beetroot to grow to the size of a large tennis ball, a golf ball size is so much better and  besides, the more Beans you pick the more they keep coming.  Small Courgettes, New Potatoes and Beetroot have the best flavour of all and what could be sweeter than Carrots the size of your little finger – picked, washed, steamed and eaten, all in the space of an hour - my mouth’s watering already! Keep sowing quick growing Salads and Orientals in the spaces you make when harvesting.


Young Runner BeansIf you don’t have any soft fruit in your garden yet you are missing out on one of the true delights of the English summer – picking your own Raspberries and Strawberries fresh from your plot, the flavour of which just cannot be beaten. There is a diverse range of soft fruit suitable for the home gardener and you don’t need a large area either, Raspberries, Blackberries, Gooseberries and Currants can all be grown against a sunny wall or fence and Strawberries grow well in a large container, you just need to make sure they are well watered. The juicy red-purple fruits of Boysenberry have a unique flavour reminiscent of good old fashioned wild brambles. It is a cross between a Blackberry, Loganberry and Raspberry and is very easy to grow in most soil conditions. Once established it tolerates dry conditions (not a problem this year of course!) and is usually ready to pick from July to late August.


Young Runner Beans Once again the school holidays are here! Keeping children amused can be quite a problem but if you give them a bit of space in the garden they can have a go at growing their own food. Seeds are relatively cheap but when buying them remember that the key to keeping kids interested is quick results - so bear that in mind when buying seeds, especially at this time of year. There are lots of quick grow seeds that can still be sown now - cut and come again salad leaves with a mix of colours, shapes and textures is always a good one. Radishes, spinach and carrots will also germinate quickly in the warm weather and be showing their first leaves after just a week to ten days! Children love to water them every day and watch them grow before their very eyes! They will be able to sample their first Salad Leaves and baby Radish in about three weeks!

If you don’t have any spare garden space, use containers – anything can be used to grow plants - in fact as far as children are concerned the wackier the container the more they’ll enjoy filling it with compost and planting it up! Old wooden boxes, buckets, saucepans - what about dad’s old wellies that are mouldering in the back of the garage - just the thing for a few carrots! If push comes to shove and you can’t find anything just roll down the top of a strong bin liner or empty compost bag, fill with compost and hey presto! One large planter for next to nothing! Just make sure there are some holes in the bottom of any container for drainage.


Tips for the garden...

Cordon TomatoesWarm, wet weather and Potato Blight go hand in hand together I’m afraid, so this year is likely to see a major outbreak. Keeping plants well earthed up round the stem can help but it is imperative to keep an eye open for the very first signs which are brown or black spots at the tips and margins of leaves. The patches may enlarge and the leaves start to curl and wither with brown patches appearing on the stems which may start to wilt. Spread can be rapid throughout the aerial parts of the plant before spreading to the tubers which can then be invaded by secondary infections causing them to rot and give off a foul smell!

All may not be lost if you act as soon as you spot the first signs of the disease. By cutting off all the stems above ground level you may well halt the spread of infection before it reaches the tubers. Make sure the tops are removed from the area and destroyed before lifting the tubers. It is possible to give some protection by regular spraying with a fungicide such as Fruit & Vegetable Disease Control, but this needs be done before plants are affected. To give the best protection they should be sprayed at an interval of 10-14days, particularly in years of high risk. Spraying will not be effective once the infection has occurred.

Pinching out the tips of runner beans that have reached the end of their support will encourage more beans lower down. If your beans are failing to set there could be several reasons, there could be a lack of pollinating insects, during very wet weather there are often fewer bees about so the flowers will drop. Under-watering can also be a factor. It is perfectly normal for Runner Beans to produce more flowers than can possibly grow into beans, up to half the flowers will not develop.

To encourage more bees and insects to your vegetable plot grow nectar rich plants nearby, such as Limnanthes (Poached Egg Plant) or a patch of Marigolds when they come for the nectar they will visit your beans and other plants and pollinate them at the same time.

You can still make a late sowing of quick growing Dwarf French Beans - Primel is an excellent variety for late sowing and will give good results for a late harvest.

Keep picking raspberries, and gooseberries this month, not forgetting to look after the plants. When you have picked the last of your summer raspberries you can safely cut down all the fruiting stems to ground level. Tie in the new shoots, if you have too many new stems cut some of these out too, you will have fewer stems but bigger and better fruit next year.

Tidy up the strawberry bed too, cut back any unwanted runners, trim the foliage on the main plants and remove all dead and yellow leaves. On gooseberries cut back the main shoots and side-shoots to five leaves - this will encourage fruiting shoots for next year.


Plants grown in pots and containers are at risk of damage from vine weevil at this time of year.  The adults feed on the leaves of many herbaceous plants and shrubs, leaving tell-tale, irregular notches on the leaf edges. This can look unsightly but rarely does any lasting damage. The true culprit is the vine weevil larvae living in the soil. It feeds on roots and bores holes in tubers and plant stems, causing devastating damage to many plants.  The grubs over-winter in the pots then emerge as young adults in late spring/early summer to begin the whole process over again! By using a biological control such as Nemasys twice a year – in the autumn (to control the larvae from eggs laid in the summer) and again in spring, you break the cycle and can maintain healthy container plants.