After a hot, sunny June, the weather in July changed. We needed the rain, but the lack of sunshine was not ideal for all of the summer crops. However, as always, some crops preferred the slightly cooler, damper temperatures. The shallots have been excellent and we will be harvesting these to dry during August, but have been enjoying them as younger, fresh shallots throughout the end of July too. A lot of the leafy greens have been doing well—we have had some of the best chard and perpetual spinach that we have ever grown this summer, and a lot of the salad leaves have been pretty good too.
August is a great month for harvests, but is also the last chance for sowing and planting many of the outdoor autumn crops if not already done. Most of the leafy brassicas were planted in June and July, a lot of the root crops were sown earlier in the year too, and many of the autumn salad crops were sown in July and will be planted through August (chicory being the big one for us), but there is still plenty of time to sow turnips, winter radish, spring greens, salad leaves such as rocket, mustards, endive, chervil, buckshorn plantain and shungiku.
August can feel like a second spring sometimes, with all of the new plantings going in after some of the earlier crops of broad beans, peas, salad leaves, onions, shallots, garlic and early brassicas. The soil has a lot of warmth and new plantings get established really quickly as long as they get plenty of water. We will be planting plenty of chicory, chinese cabbage, lettuce, fennel and endive. We grow more of these crops at this time of year than we would through the summer, as the rate of regrowth after harvests slows right down as we get into autumn, so we need to make sure we have plenty to get us through the autumn.
August is one of the key months for establishing green manures amongst the vegetables to ensure that the soil has living roots in it for as long as possible. Many crops are undersown with a diverse mix of green manure seed that may include things like clovers, trefoil, linseed, buckwheat, phacelia, oats, and even surplus saved seed of anything to maximise diversity. We literally broadcast the mixed seed over crops that are growing in the beds and then we hoe the crops, which gently rakes the seed into the soil and ensures a better chance of good germination. These green manures then slowly establish amongst the crops, and if timed correctly the crop will grow well and after harvest the beds will have a good covering of green manures, some of which will be killed off by the cold in winter, and some of which will stay alive and maintain healthy soils over winter. August is a particularly good month to do this, as it allows the green manures just enough time to establish and get their roots down before it starts to get colder.
WHAT TO SOW THIS MONTH: endive, winter purslane, salad mustards (best sown direct) such as Golden Streaks, Purple Frills, rocket, land cress, chard, leaf radish, texsel greens, lettuce, fennel (early in the month), broad beans (for tips in salads) & peashoots, autumn radish and turnips, chinese cabbage and pak choi (early in the month), parsley (for overwintering in polytunnel/glasshouse), corn salad & spring onions & spring cabbage (all late in month for overwintering)
WHAT TO PLANT THIS MONTH:
OUTSIDE: fennel, beetroot, lettuce, chard, kohl rabi, chicory, salad leaves: buckshorn plantain, salad burnet, chervil, endive, turnips and winter radish (sown direct), pak choi and chinese cabbage
INSIDE: summer purslane, goosefoot
OTHER IMPORTANT TASKS THIS MONTH:
Keeping on top of taking old crops out and planting with new crops is still important throughout August. There is still plenty of time to get late crops in the ground.
Generally it is a time to harvest—keeping on top of harvesting courgettes and beans will keep them going and mean that they don’t get too big or too stringy. Also continue with the weekly job of sideshooting tomatoes and removing lower leaves to get good airflow going through the crop. Don’t rest on your laurels just yet—still plenty to do to make sure the garden is in good health for winter!!