What a pleasure the deluge of crops has been in July. It’s now worth ensuring these crops keep yielding.
While most crops in good soil will survive dry periods, crops yield more if watered, although August is often a damp month. About the only crop not watered in the dry July is parsnip: even carrots grown commercially are watered weekly despite their long tap root. Pick carrots only when windy, raining or at twilight to stop root fly smelling them.
Runner beans only set seed with cool nights, so often there is a lull in flowers and fruit in August until the cool returns.
French beans love it warm, and tend to produce one main flush of beans followed by poor and erratic production. This year yields have been poor except in the polytunnel.
Celeriac love it sunny, warm and wet, thin to 13” spacing if you wish for decent sized roots.
Lettuce prefer spring to summer, and leaves are weaker in August. From now in we grow Little Gem, picking leaves off the rising stems. Red Salad Bowl is good at this time too. Try sowing Oriental species like pak choi, also rocket, land cress and endive and radicchio for crisp red hearts from September on.
Courgettes are at all times greedy for sun, warmth and moisture, so keep them watered and well composted. Yellowing of leaves is shortage of soil richness, mildew is inevitable but keep the soil damp and fruits picked. Fruiting will reduce as September cools. Squash like the same, but are fine in light shade—we have some enormous fruits on plants grown in the polytunnel under our tomatoes.
August is a dread month for most brassicas as caterpillars all hatch mid-month and soon eat all the leaves. Around here the caterpillar numbers depend on how much neonicotinoid is used on the farm. They also prefer flat leaves to curly or Savoy. We grow our cabbages under Enviromesh, but you may prefer picking eggs and caterpillars off by hand, or squirting twice with Bacillus bacteria.
Potato blight should be with you by now, cut the haulms at ground level and harvest when you can. We grow mainly second early Estima which is ready by now, and a few maincrop such as Pink Fir Apple or Sarpo Mira which repel much blight, but which grow huge and need a lot of space.
Tomato leaders should now be pinched out so that all set fruit ripen before the winter. Take off the bottom leaves to allow air to circulate, draught hinders blight getting hold. While tomatoes do best in shelter and warmth (not needing full sun), the Gardeners Delight (which variety we find repels blight well) grown in a pot outdoors last year did not get blight, because air circulation was good, and blight needs stagnant conditions to establish. Slowly reduce watering (only water roots, not leaves) to slow plant growth and encourage fruit to ripen.
And why did the tomato go out with a prune? Becuase she couldn’t find a date.
Sowings this month
Turnips, spring cabbage, rocket, oriental leaves such as red frills mustard and mizuna, coriander, chervil, true spinach and Little Gem lettuce. Early in the month last sowings of chard and radicchio.
In the greenhouse sow oriental salad leaves and lettuce and potatoes for Christmas.