Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary - August 2012

Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary - 31st August 2012

As I am writing this the heavens have opened and there is a roar or thunder accompanied by a crack of lightning and I am reluctant to say is this the end of summer?  We certainly hope not here in Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden as our plants have got plenty of life in them yet - we still need some much yearned for sunshine to ripen them off.  What a mixed month of weather again to contend with, two weeks ago it was 30 degrees in the garden and it was so humid it was a struggle to work in and now this heavy rain with an autumnal chill in the air - all we ask for is a pleasant 24 degrees with a light wind and we will be happy!

KGAug FrameWe had a visit this month from Jackie & Geoff, the people 

Many crops have done well this summer and many have done badly, but sad to say this is becoming the norm with our unpredictable English summers so that old adage ‘you win some & you lose some’ is something we are going to have to get used to.behind the wonderful product Strulch who visited Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden to see how we were using Strulch.  For those of you that haven’t come across this product before Strulch is a wonderful mulch with a neutral pH that you can use all around your garden to retain moisture and reduce weed growth.  It doesn’t blow away and offers winter protection for your less hardy plants it also has the added benefit due to the iron content of being a welcome deterrent for slugs & snails.  We use this extensively around the beds at Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden and I know our resident Horticulturalist and Kitchen Gardener Lynn is keen to use it to cover all the beds as she has had a job on her hands this wet summer with the triffid like weeds we have had to deal with.

Courgettes have loved the warm, wet weather followed by the heat.  We carefully chose varieties this year that were compact and had resistance to mildew and we chose well.  ‘Genovese’ was definitely the star with many light green courgettes on a mildew free plant this variety comes well recommended along with a new variety we have grown this year ‘Rondo di Nizza’, this is a round Italian variety and looks stunning on the plant, good for stuffing in the kitchen too. ‘Defender’ was also good and one of our old faithfull’s!  

Tomatoes – we were pleased with the varieties we’ve grown this year but the weather conditionsKGAug Harvest have not been good for tomatoes.  Some of the greenhouse varieties are doing well but desperately need sunshine to ripen off (we are going to try putting some ripe bananas in the viscinity to see if that helps.  We will definitely grow Agro F1 (Lynn’s favourite) and San Marzano Italian plum tomatoes again, these are good for Passata sauce. Moneymaker, Marmande and Gardeners Delight had good yields too.  Remember to pinch the tops out of your outdoor tomatoes after 4 or 5 trusses as this will encourage your tomatoes to ripen and we need all the help we can get this year!

Strawberries have been so disappointing for us this year, all our plants were 1st year plants so we didn’t expect a huge crop but the lack of sunshine and abundance of rain has certainly finished them off early!  Our early varieties have already been cut back and all straw removed ready for overwintering but we will be moving some late varieties into the warmth of the greenhouse hoping for a late harvest.

You can see from the photograph that we have planted up one of our Superior Raised beds (6ft x 6ft size) with a late crop of French Bean ‘Cobra’ growing up a Pyramid Obelisk with rows of winter salads around it.  Winter salad leaves are much hardier than summer lettuces and will continue to give us a leaves well into the cooler weather of autumn.  Give Mizuna, Mibuna, Red Mustard & Pak Choi a go, they are so easy to grow, look nice and will give a steady ‘cut & come again crop’ of colourful leaves to pick for your dinner plate.

KGAug BedOur ‘Golden Apple’ squashes and Cucumber ‘Marketmore’ are having a ‘whale of a time’ scrambling over the Slot & Lock® Squash/Cucumber Climbing Frame (see photo).  We are delighted with this product and Lynn just loves the seeing the cucumbers hanging down through the net!  Have you tried our Cucumber Bag to keep your abundance of cucumbers fresh?

Our apples espaliers have had their summer hair cut!  All the new shoots that have grown from the main branches have been shortened back to 5 leaves this will maintain the shape as well as deterring aphids and most importantly give us a good crop next autumn. The branches have been re-tied in using Gripple Plant Supports. This year’s harvest has been disappointing due to all the heavy wind and rain decimating the blossom in the spring so fingers crossed for next year now that our trees are better supported.Our summer raspberry bushes have been pruned.  Lynn has cut down all of this year’s canes down to soil level and tied in all the new green canes as these are the canes that will produce next year’s raspberries.  We are now starting to pick the autumn raspberries and if any of you haven’t got any autumn varieties I would recommend ‘Autumn Bliss’ much nicer than the summer varieties. Now is the time for putting in your supports for next year have you seen our Raspberry Protection and Support Frame, made from galvanised steel it certainly looks a stylish addition to your garden.

Here’s some of the jobs we’ve got planned for September in Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden:-

·         Continue to feed all  flowering crops weekly/bi weekly with Organic seaweed as long as they are producing .

·         Pick runner beans regularly trying not to miss any so they don’t set seed.

·         Pick courgettes regular before they turn into marrows!

·         Sow more oriental vegetables such as mibuna, mizuna, mustard greens.

·         Cut back this year’s fruiting stems on blackburry bushes and tie in for next year.

·         Lift the last of the maincrop potatoes and store in vegetable sacks.

·         Order our garlic and onions sets for autumn planting.

·         Apply a band fruit tree grease to our apples and pear trees to deter the winter moths.

·         Harvest sweetcorn.

·         Cut back all our first year ‘Gijnlim’ asparagus ferns when they die back and add layer of well rotted manure/compost on top.

·         Bring some pots of late variety strawberries into the greenhouse for extra warmth and some late fruits.

·         Continue to feed our peppers and aubergines with a high potash fertiliser and reduce watering down.

·         Sow green manures in any empty beds to start to replenish the soil for next years crops.

And if your appetite has been well and truly whetted by our accounts of gardening life, you can pick up loads of handy tips by using the expertise we've got to hand. We're always here to offer advice and support - just e-mail kitchen gardener Lynn, pest control expert Julian Ives and horticulturist, Master Composter and Tweeter Martin Fiddes (also known as our Ask the Expert panel) and they'll do their best to help!   

We're busy tweeting about all things Harrod Horticultural - what we're doing, special offers, gardening tips and advice and you can always use Twitter or Facebook to get in touch with us as well. With our webteam manning the Tweet decks and Facebook site, you can be sure you'll get the best service we can offer!

Our 116-page Autumn 2012 catalogue is out very soon (early September in fact) and it's packed full of gardening ideas, products and solutions to the problems every gardener faces, plus plenty of more seasonal ideas to help get the harvest in and keep it fresh!

There's even a 19 page Garden Structure section for all your arches, obelisks, plant supports and much more - if you haven't already, request a copy and find it on your doormat in a couple of days time.

Happy gardening!