August has been a month of wall to wall sunshine.
August has been a month of wall to wall sunshine in Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden, with lovely hot temperatures and very little rainfall; traditional harvest weather. Gardeners and crops alike have thrived in it, although both have needed regular watering, particularly on the days of blistering heatwave conditions! The harvest this month has been bountiful and August 2016 will be remembered here for the Great Bean Glut. The sheer number of climbing French beans we have picked has been vast. Our freezer is full and we have given bags full of them away to friends and colleagues. And it’s not over yet. The plants are still cropping heavily and show no signs of stopping.
It’s not only the beans that are providing a bumper crop. This month we have been picking tomatoes by the trug-load along with aubergines, peppers, chillies, cucumbers, beetroot, sweetcorn, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, kale, chard, broccoli and carrots. At the time of writing we have just picked our first bunch of celery and have tasted the first discovery apples. We have certainly been enjoying the fruits of our labour!
This month we have also harvested our main crop potatoes. We would not normally expect to be doing this for at least another month, but our crop was struck by blight following the wet summer. It certainly wasn’t a surprise that our plants were attacked by blight. With the amount of rainfall we have had earlier in the summer, it was something that we were fully expecting. The haulms of the potatoes were cut down to the ground to stop the blight affecting the tubers. Cutting off the foliage meant that the tubers would stop growing so we dug them up and left them in the sun to dry before storing them in sacks in the pantry.
Much of the month has been spent simply maintaining the garden. The hot dry weather has meant that crops have been in dire need of water and there is no better job on a hot sunny day than to wander with a watering can in hand. I’ve been heading into the garden earlier in the mornings as the conditions are fresher and more comfortable to work in and the plants can soak up the water before the sun has a chance to evaporate it.
Despite the harvest and growing season being still in full swing, we have also been turning our thoughts to those crops we will be harvesting over the winter and into next year. Earlier in the month we sowed spring cabbages, broccoli, spinach and chard and these are now good size young plants growing on in the cold frame, ready to be planted out. We have also been planting out new salad plants in our manger for cropping into the Autumn.
We have also been ordering our seed garlic and autumn planting onion sets. These will be planted out later in September to give them a good start before the winter. This year we grew lots of different varieties of garlic both in the ground and in raised beds as a trial to see which variety and method were most resistant to the rust that has plagued us for the past few seasons. The trial was really useful and as a result , this year we will be planting Early Purple White and Red Donetsk into raised beds.
August is the ideal time to prune trained fruit trees and we now have quite a few of these around the garden. The pear trees that are trained over the arched pergola had put on lots of new growth this year and the arch was looking decidedly untidy. So we have been up the ladders with our secateurs pruning it back into shape. Not only has this improved the look of the arch, it has let air and light in to the fruit growing amongst the branches. We have a really good crop of pears this year. Our espalier apples were also pruned earlier in the month as they had grown so much as to become unrecognisable from their espalier shape. I find it a deeply satisfying job to return them to their neat structure, however they have continued growing and will need another light pruning in early September. Last year we planted out new fan trained peach and plum trees and they have thoroughly enjoyed their new home, putting on huge amounts of growth. These have been pruned and tied in to their supports. We have harvested some lovely large plums and I am currently watching our single peach fruit like an over-anxious parent!
During this busy time of year, when the hours melt away with the harvesting and watering that needs to be done, my most invaluable tool is my note book. At the end of the summer, it is easy to forget tiny details of crops, pests and harvests. Very early on in my gardening days I got into the good habit of jotting a few notes down after a day spent in the kitchen garden. It doesn’t need to be war and peace, but it is so useful to look back at the end of the year and be reminded of small but significant details from the garden. Our mini garlic trial is a perfect example. When ordering the seed for next year I can flick back and check on the varieties that did best. It also helps to jot down any useful recipes or storage ideas for vegetable gluts. At the time of writing I am researching uses for the huge numbers of french and runner beans that are arriving in my kitchen! Ideas anyone?!
Here are some of the jobs we've got planned for September in Stephanie's Kitchen Garden:
- Harvest apples and store in an apple rack.
- Clear leaves and plant debris as it falls to keep the garden tidy and pest-free.
- Plant out spring cabbages and broccoli into vegetable cage.
- Prune the yew hedges that surround the garden.
- Continue harvesting!
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