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August 4, 2023
August sunshine returns? weeds prolific, tomatoes, squash, sow

August sunshine returns? After an incredible amount of rain during the last five weeks, 180 mm here, there is a sudden reappearance of high pressure from the southwest. It's delightful news.

I don't think there will be any prolonged heatwave through August, but at least we should see some sunshine at last! Starting around Wednesday, after a new storm in August's first weekend and with high winds once more.

Weather governs so much of what we need to do. Having said that, the timings of sowing and transplanting stay similar. See next section.

This video shows Homeacres no dig garden on 31st July.For a fun cooking demo with Gaz Oakley, see this!

See you in Inverness for my Course day?

And Homeacres open day is 3rd September, in aid of charity.

Sweetcorn for baby corn, zinnias in front
The garden in an early August morning, there are now many sunflowers, they are not allelopathic as sometimes claimed
Greenhouse Berner Rose after dropping the stems with elongated strings. this leaves a few fruit lying on the soil, hence the cardboard

Weeds

They are the most important story recently, after the incessant rain. During summer, I have never seen so many weeds germinating.Here there must have been a lot of sow thistles seeding in nearby hedges by early July. We are finding their seedlings everywhere.Check for and remove weeds among larger vegetables, where they are less visible. Obviously they're not competing with these larger plants. The issue is that if they drop seeds, that will result in you spending much more time weeding, through the following seasons.

  • Keep pulling all new weeds when small.
  • If the weather dries up, it will be possible to hoe them when small, and thus save time.
  • Grass is one weed you need to pull, because its tenacious root system rarely dries on top, If you hoe grass, it then needs removing.
  • Couch grass is different, you need to keep pulling new shoots, removing as much as you can of the white, creeping stolons. With no dig surface mulching, this is easier than from dug soil.

If you are unlucky enough to have horsetail, keep pulling new shoots, It's the only way to reduce its vigour. Although not a massively competitive weed because it roots so deep, and does not have leaves making shade, it's still worth keeping on top of. Otherwise it may smother new, small vegetable seedlings.For a deeper look at weeds and other important issues (!), see this interview with nutritionist Ximena.

This is the stage at which you can easily run a hoe through the surface, it’s self sown thyme
Large weeds under mesh and among leeks include sow thistle and buttercup. Because of the mesh we have not got around to weeding!
Groundsel plant among self sown phacelia and violas. It will drop seeds within two weeks.

August is an amazing time for new sowings

This is a second spring in our climate. Many great sowings you can make in August's first half include spinach, turnips and salad rocket.Then you need somehow to find space for all the lovely plants!Have a go at interplanting some of them between any vegetables which will finish within about three weeks. Glad plants and herbs, perhaps beetroot and carrots, even ridge cucumber after cutting off leaves with mildew.

  • This is a top time to sow true spinach (rather than 'perpetual' leaf beet). My best options are until 12th August for prolific harvests of Medania through autumn. Also winter if mild, and next spring. And / or sow mid-20th August for slightly smaller plants which should survive winter more strongly. Last year the variety Winter Giant stood a lot of frost here.
  • Turnips!! Many people including myself do not like the flavour of turnips. However if you can find seed of Tokyo Cross F1, they are considerably sweeter and denser, and work well from multisowing five seeds per cell, aiming for four plants. Transplant at 2 to 3 weeks old, with mesh over against cabbage root-fly.
  • Salad rocket, mizuna, mustards, any other brassica salads including land cress. It's a really good week to sow these, preferably under cover where there should be less damage from flea beetles. You can transplant them at 2 to 3 weeks old. Always cover with mesh for the first 3 to 4 weeks, against insects.
  • Pak choi - same advice as for salad rocket
  • Endive last call
  • Chinese cabbage, for autumn hearting in warmer regions, sow before about 8th August
  • Parsley, dill and coriander.
Pricking out Chinese cabbage, just four days after sowing. Already the roots are quite long enough, don’t wait until you see a true leaf!

Direct sown fennel, old seed is slower but still not bed at 8 days since sown.

Three weeks earlier, these are pricked out parsley, dill and coriander is ready for transplanting, was all sown at the same time

Plantings

With no dig, soil stays healthy and fertile, with less need to worry over rotation. Simply keep filling spaces as they appear, after you clear plants that have finished. Leave roots of the earlier plantings in the soil, as much as is practical.

  • Weed thoroughly before any new planting.
  • Consider a slug patrol at dusk to collect slugs and snails. Maybe also lay a plank of wood on a bed or path, to check every morning and then remove what you find.

Set out new plants as soon as they are ready. The soil is warm and they will grow better from being in their final location as soon as possible.

  • A cover of mesh is highly worthwhile for any brassicas, in fact for almost any planting. Keep it on for about a month.
Tenderstem F1 broccoli sown 21st June is 18 days since transplanting as small seedlings, after peas

Carrots sown two weeks earlier between recent plantings of chicory and endive
Mesh covers over Brussel sprouts and in background over cabbage, it’s almost time to remove them. Dahlia sown March

Tomatoes

I've heard many reports of tomatoes being slow to ripen, but that should change now with some warmth from the middle of next week. Also because plants are maturing fast.Ripening is very dependent on the variety and cherry tomatoes are always faster than beef tomatoes. My best beef variety this year is Berner Rose. They are prone to splitting, but prolific and fast to ripen, with excellent flavour.

Berner Rose ripening in the polytunnel, with dwarf French marigolds
Black Cherry Brandywine inside, the flavour is rich and with nice acid balance, is not too sweet
Black Cherry Brandywine tomato from a plant growing outside – this pattern develops as they ripen

Be lazy with winter squash

Some of my squash plants have downy mildew, which looks worse than it is, because there are fine squash developing underneath. Also there are still many healthy leaves. It's mainly on Crown Prince which are growing through plastic.At the other end of the same bed as the diseased-leaf photo below, are Kuri squash. You can see the polythene mulch which is covering ground that was weedy pasture six months earlier. I do not put any supports under the squash, they sit on the plastic.

I make no effort to tidy squash plants because it makes no difference!

And if your butternut squash are still small, that is normal. It's a late maturing variety and needs warmth from now until early October.

Crown Prince winter squash plant with downy mildew on older leaves

Uchiki Kuri ripening nicely despite poor weather, it’s an early variety

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