Updates from August 2011.
Updated 14th August
The first half of August has continued to offer wonderful growing weather with alternating soft rain, soft sun, warm nights and no great heat. Not so good for holidaymakers, great for vegetables and fruit. Many trees have cropped or are about to crop a harvest of high quality:
Plums Blasdon Red are now dropping, they have dense flesh and are good for cooking or eating fresh, also both my gage trees are ripening, an exciting moment as the season (from April to August) is not always warm enough for gages in Somerset. Apples are ripening earlier than usual and I hope they hand on some more as we want them for autumn and winter, not late summer. Today I picked some lovely ‘Scrumptious’ because birds were starting to peck them relentlessly – and the flavour lives up to their name.
Onions have yielded amazingly well, see the dig/no dig banner for more details of the harvest on those beds. Multi-sown modules, of four to six onions on average, have yielded about three quarters of a kilogram each. They need to have been pulled by now and when tops are less than half green they can be cut off to about three inches of stem, then keep the bulbs as warm and dry as possible so they develop a nice skin for storage. If they have mildew (neck rot) you need to use them fairly quickly, before the rot spreads. To prevent and lessen mildew next year, do not sow or plant Japanese overwintering onions, whose leaves enable mildew spores to survive winter in number and then infect spring sown/planted onions in May and June.
With all this bounty, there are also some pests. As in most Augusts, lettuce root aphid is present and becomes noticeable in dry weather when plants suddenly go limp, due to the whitish grey aphids damaging their roots. Sometimes they are present on the roots of large, well established lettuce which manage to continue growing, especially if soil is kept moist.
I have just sown turnips and winter radish today: this is about the last call for them and I sowed six rows of different varieties to assess their growth and taste. In mid August you can still be sowing land cress, oriental leaves, rocket and coriander. Sowing ideas for later in August include spring cabbage and spring onions in the last week, also lambs lettuce and salads such as endive, spinach and lettuce for covering with cloches in winter.
Tunnel crops have been cropping heavily, with the exception of some aubergine plants. At first I though it was something in the soil but then noticed a dramatic comparison between two different varieties.
Some lovely growing weather in July has set the scene for, one hopes, a bountiful August of many harvests.
Stay on the ball with seeds and plants ready to fill the gaps after you remove pea and lettuce plants or pull the last of your early summer carrots and beetroot. In the first ten days of August you can still be sowing endives and planting chicories for radicchio hearts, before mid month you can sow turnips, for example after harvesting onions, and at month’s end you can sow lambs lettuce for winter leaves as well as salad onions and cabbage for harvesting next spring.
Any rain at this time of year is welcome for both crops and weeds which then all grow incredibly fast. Keep alert for new germinations of weed seedlings which can be kept in order with some quick hoeings, and pull any small weeds amongst larger vegetables like courgettes and beans before they have a chance to set seeds.
Pest wise, August is busy…. carrots want covering with mesh against root fly asap, brassicas will benefit from a mesh cover but it is not vital, except for cabbages which are hearting this autumn, and in certain areas there are leek moths on the wing, laying eggs of small caterpillars which do this to leeks. On a more cheerful note, many fruits are ripening in August.