Vegetables in August

July was a fairly big turnaround month when lots of earlier spring crops get taken out and replaced with crops sown for late summer and early autumn. This continues through August. It is easy to think that after all of the spring plantings the veg garden can be left to grow, maybe weeded and watered a bit, but otherwise left for the veg to be harvestable. However, by missing out on all of the July and August plantings you will miss out on a whole load of autumn veg like fennel, salad turnips, kales, winter radish, kohl rabi, beetroot, chinese cabbage and much more.
With an organised crop plan we have been able to make the most of the hot weather through July to let the soil life and sun do the cultivating for us. We have become much better at mowing off old crops as soon as they have finished and then putting either black silage plastic over them (ideally watering beforehand) for a week or two in the summer, or if we need the beds sooner, then we use clear plastic which solarizes the beds. This means that it uses the heat of the sun to kill off any crop residues and weeds, and takes just a day in temperatures of 24 degrees or higher. Both techniques are really useful for minimising the amount of soil disturbance, and when the beds are ready we simply rake them out and plant straight into them. This can be done at any time of year, but works quickest during the summer, and the solarising can only be done on hot days. Having a clear crop plan for the garden means that we know when a bed needs to be clear and ready for planting and we can work back from that to work out when we need to mow the previous crop down and plastic the bed.
August is one of the busiest months for us in terms of harvests – with all of the summer fruiting crops requiring picking two to three times a week. We then need to make sure all of the sowing and planting is done as a priority (and sow making sure the beds are prepared is equally as important), and then hoeing and weeding comes as the next priority during the summer.
As the days begin to get shorter (I know…) the timings of sowings and plantings becomes more critical so that autumn crops have enough time to reach full maturity before the first frosts. It is also really important to make sure that any new plantings get a good soaking in at this time of year. We soak the trays of plants in trays filled with water before we plant them out, and then we water them in generously after planting. This ensures that the new roots have good contact with damp soil around them and quickly establish.