It’s been a bit of a mixed summer so far weather-wise but we do have forecasts of a finer August. It’s a busy time in the vegetable garden, and can be quite exhausting if it get humid with all the tasks that needs to be done. It can be really rewarding though with the ample harvests.
Watering is best done in the mornings or evenings – one, so that you’re not working in the midday heat and two, it’s the ideal times of day your crops can access water through their roots before the sun evaporates surface water on leaves and stems.
Weeding is also good to do first thing in the morning. Pull annual weeds like chickweed and hairy bittercress up and leave them exposed to the sun – they’ll quickly wither and you can collect them up later in the day.
Save the middle of the day for harvesting, when the fruits and vegetables have warmed up in the sun, and bring out their full flavours. A freshly picked corn cob tasted at its best when sun-ripe, as do strawberries.
Things to do in August
Order your Autumn Planting Onions Shallots and Garlic
You can order now and get your plot prepared for growing bulb vegetables in autumn for a summer harvest next year.
Bulb crops require a sunny site and well-draining soil. Adding bulky compost before planting will improve the soil texture and open it more to water and oxygen, which the roots will really appreciate.
Get an all-in-one collection of prepared bulbs of Onion ’Radar’, Shallot ‘Yellow Moon’ and Garlic ‘Provence Wight’, plus fertiliser to get your crops off to a great start.
If you can, get out daily to harvest crops like courgettes and runner beans. Picking fruiting crops often offers a number of benefits. Firstly, you can get your hands on crops when they are at their freshest and most flavoursome. If you harvest around midday or in the afternoon, you can take advantage of sun-ripened flavour -which is simply exquisite.
By picking often, you’ll be allowing more air to circulate around the plant and prevent over-crowded leaves which can bring on diseases.
Picking often also encourages plants to flower more, giving you more and more harvests.
Make the most of vacant spaces on your plot, or interplant some of your rows with fast-growing crops that you can sow now and harvest while waiting for other crops to ripen. Fantastic examples of fast-growing crops include salad leaves like lettuce ‘Little Gem’ and ‘Tom Thumb’, or spinach ‘Mikado’ and mizuna ‘Kyoto’.
You may want to harvest these fast-growing crops when they have small leaves – and use in cooking as micro-leaves like some of the top chefs.
If larger leaves suit your tastes, you don’t have to wait that much longer and these taste great as garnishes and as fresh salads.
Be sure to keep these crops well-watered as they germinate and develop and guard against pest damage.
Now that some of your spring and summer crops have finished, it’s a great time to clear that part of the plot, dig over, add some bulky compost or manure, and level the soil ready to plant young brassica plugs for overwintering, for good, healthy crops in winter and spring, when greens are lean.
Plant young brassica plugs in soil that previously had legumes growing in it, if you can. Legumes fix nitrogen from the air into nitrates that crops can readily take up as nutrients. Brassicas will use this extra bank of nitrates, to grow strong and give you great harvests early in the year.
Some crops appreciate rainwater over tap water, especially fruit like blueberries and cranberries – rainwater has a more suitable level of acidity and temperature than tap water, which can be too cold and lime-rich.
Invest in a water butt to collect rainwater, and get into a habit of using this water on your fruit bushes. Your plants will be happier and you may be rewarded by increased harvests.
Marshalls – a trip down memory lane
Marshalls has been celebrating its rich heritage lately and we’ve taken a trip down Memory Lane to see some of the highlights of the past decades. See when we launched our strawberry ‘Marshmello’, and find out other landmark events from the 1950s to the present day.
Chilli Fiesta, West Dean, Chichester West Sussex
Come to the Chilli Fiesta in Chichester, West Sussex on 7-9 August for a weekend celebrating the diversity and popularity of chillies. There’ll be lots of information on growing chillies, information on exciting new varieties, activities for the family and sweet and savoury chilli-inspired food. There’s even opportunity for camping so you can enjoy the whole weekend. Book tickets online or at West Dean Garden Shop.
Southport Flower Show, Merseyside
Southport Flower Show opens its gates on 20-23 August for a spectacular of flowers, food and famous faces. Come to the generous Food Festival, where there be lots of fresh produce to sample and a food marquee where professional chefs demonstrate their culinary prowess.
Plant of the month
Salad leaf plants
Growing salad leaves couldn't be easier or more rewarding. Cutting little and often is the best way to produce a long season of home grown salads and watering regularly ensures a delicious crop.
They are great to sow in containers or indeed, to fill a spot in the vegetable plot, while you’re waiting for other vegetables to mature.
Sow: Sow seeds thinly at about 2cm apart (3/4 in) and cover. Mark where you have planted with a label with salad variety, and date of sowing. As seedlings grow, thin seedlings out so remaining seedlings are 4-5cm (1 ½ -2in) apart.
Care: You’ll need to protect against slugs and snails especially in a wet summer. Use slug pellets, or alternatives like copper mats.
For leafy greens you want to opt for a high-nitrogen fertiliser to make the leafy and stem growth lush and full-flavoured.
Harvest: Salad leaves are generally ready to October if you sow now. For more than one harvest, cut the leaves of salads when they are 3-4 weeks old. Cut so you leave about 2-3cm of the plant above soil level.
Lettuce ‘Marvel of Four Seasons’: Tolerant of both high and low temperatures, it is fast maturing, reliable with a really sweet full lettuce flavour.
Lettuce ‘Radicchio Trevi’: This Italian favourite has an upright habit and large, bright red leaves accentuated with pure white veins.
Lettuce: ‘Sugar Loaf Chicory’:quick growing, cos-like salad leaf with a crunchy heart.
You might well be harvesting peas now for fresh tasty green pods. If you notice small white caterpillars feeding on the peas inside, your plants have succumbed to pea moth attack.
So what can you do to control it?
The best thing you can do is interrupt the creation of the next generation of pea moths.
You can break the life cycle by preventing moths laying eggs on flowers in June and July. Cover the pea plants with netting so that moths cannot get to the flowers. As peas such as ‘Ambassador’ and ‘Alderman’ are self-pollinating it does not matter that other insects cannot get to the flowers, they will form peas anyway.
Alternatively, as a chemical control, use Resolva Bug Killer on peas after flowering and when the pods are just starting to form.
This means other beneficial insects like lacewings and bees will not be harmed, as they are attracted to pea when they are in flower as opposed to when they are producing fruiting pods.