Jobs for the month: August 2012
By: Web Editor
August is a time of hectic abundance. Everything is growing fast, including the weeds, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed. As you clear your early crops you will have to decide what to plant next; if you don’t, nature will.
Pick early apples and pears
First early apples such as ‘Scrumptious’ and pears like ‘Beth’ or ‘Williams Bon Chretien’ can be picked this month depending on season.
Lift the fruit gently in the palm and give a little twist. If the fruit comes away easily from the branch it is ready, but if not leave it for a few more days and try again. Early apples such as those above and ‘Discovery’ are best picked ripe and eaten, but pears should be picked when a little under ripe and stored in the fruit bowl until they reach your favoured stage of ripeness – crunchy, or soft and juicy.
Mid season and late varieties are picked in the same way, but can be stored in a cool, dark place such as in a cool garage or shed or in an unheated room in the house. Place the fruit very carefully into well ventilated trays or boxes (or you can make your own – see our weekend project starting on page 50). Alternatively, simply pop three or four fruit into a polythene bag into which you have made a few holes for ventilation. Wrap these loosely and place in boxes or trays.
Take care not to bruise the fruit at any time – canvas bags or similar are better for gathering fruit than wicker baskets or wooden boxes for this reason.
Check the fruit regularly in store and remove any which are showing signs of rotting.
Tend to raspberry canes.
Continue to pick raspberry fruit as soon as it is ready and while the berries are still firm.
If you are reading this in July it is still worth taking precautions against raspberry beetles (see page 71 for more details of raspberry beetle traps which are available from gardening-naturally.com or harrodhorticultural.com).
Once the old canes of summer-fruiting raspberries have been harvested they can be removed at ground level leaving the new canes to fruit next year. If you have many new canes they may become overcrowded; thin to a maximum of nine per plant. Tie them in to their supports while they are still pliable.
Autumn-fruiting types will soon take over and begin to crop. They should be given some support by way of stakes and strings positioned around the bed or individual plants to prevent wind damage.
Top up mulches during dry spells having first watered the plants thoroughly and removed any weeds.
Figs growing against sunny south- or west-facing walls should start to ripen in August. They ripen very quickly so check them every day or two and as soon as they begin to soften (give them a gentle squeeze taking care not to bruise them) they can be picked. They should come away from the tree very easily when lifted gently and given a slight twist in much the same way as apples. Eat as soon as possible after picking.
If wasps are a problem hang a wasp trap in the tree; this is easily made by piercing a hole in the lid of a jam jar just large enough for the wasps to get in and filling the base with an inch or so of syrupy sugar water.
The first cobs of sweetcorn should be ready this month. Maintain watering during dry spells to encourage the cobs to swell fully and when the tassels have turned completely brown peel back the green husk to expose a few kernels. Push your thumbnail into one or two and if the liquid exuded is clear the cob is ready to harvest. If it is milky leave the cob in place for another few days before trying again. Remove the cobs by snapping carefully to avoid damage to the main stem or alternatively snip them off with secateurs.
Support plants growing in exposed gardens with canes to prevent wind damage should they become top heavy.
Plant second cropping spuds
A second crop of tasty potatoes can be produced by planting now in pots, bags, the garden soil – or even the top of the compost heap!
The usual way to grow them is to plant in bags or pots and this allows anyone – even those with just a balcony or patio – to grow a few tubers. However, plants growing in pots do require regular watering in order to produce a worthwhile crop, especially in hot weather or when growing in a sunny spot.
Pots should be at least 18in (45cm) in diameter and this should be sufficient for three tubers although in a large patio tub or potato barrel it should be possible to add a further couple of tubers in a second layer in the tub.
First fill the bottom third of the container with fresh compost and cover the tubers with another third. You can simply leave it at that and fill the final third of the container gradually as the shoots emerge – earthing them up as you might in the veg garden. Otherwise add two more tubers and fill the container to the top. Water well.
If planting outside in the veg garden choose a sheltered spot that hasn’t grown potatoes for at least two years and plant into fertile soil and dig in plenty of well-rotted manure or garden compost before planting your tubers 10cm (4in) deep and 45cm (18in) apart in rows. Earth up the tops once to encourage tuber formation up the stems and to help protect them from the cold as the summer draws to a close. Have some fleece handy to cover the plants should it turn cold prior to harvest. Pots or potato barrels are an advantage here as they can simply be moved under cover if frost is forecast. If you have a well rotted compost heap, it is possible to grow some potatoes on the top of this, planting them into a hole dug into the top 45cm (18in) square and 10-15cm (4-6in) deep and filled with potting or growing bag compost. The insulation and warmth from the heap as well as the nutrients in the rotted organic matter helps to encourage rapid growth.
Sow overwintering onions
Onion sets are planted from September onwards, but onion seeds, of which there are an increasing number of varieties for overwintering for earlier crops the following year, can be sown from the middle of August to give them time to establish before the onset of cold weather.
Sow in rows on the open plot. Seeds should be sown thinly in drills 1cm (1⁄2in) deep and 25-30cm (10-12in) apart. In dry weather water the base of the drill prior to sowing.
Plants can be thinned in the spring by which time they should be well established and easy to handle. Carefully remove the unwanted young plants and add to salads and recipes. This thinning can be done in stages, using the plants as you go in the kitchen. The remainder of the crop is left to mature into full-sized bulbs and harvested once the leaves have died down in June/July the following year. Choose a suitable variety for autumn planting such as ‘Senshyu Yellow’ or ‘Hi Keeper F1’.
August at a glance
Sow now... Lettuce, spring onions, radish (including winter types), leaf beet, land cress, oriental cabbage, carrots, endive, salad leaves, kohl rabi, autumn onions, spring cabbage, turnips
Plant now... Summer cauliflower (early in month), winter cabbage (early in month), kale, second crop potatoes
Harvest... Potatoes, lettuce, radish, spinach, summer cabbage, salad leaves, tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, parsnips as mini roots, celery, summer cauliflower, endive
• Read the full article in Kitchen Garden magazine, August 2012!
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