Everything in the veg garden is starting to come together now. I’m picking every day and I have to fight my way into the veg patch through rampaging squash plants and towering jungles of beans. It’s high summer, the air is alive with bees and butterflies, my freezer’s filling fast: there’s no better time to be a gardener.
More August fruit and veg growing inspiration:
Get squash up on bricks
The winter squash and pumpkins are getting big and starting to ripen and deepen in colour now. That’s my cue to go round lifting each fruit up on bricks so they’re clear of the ground. This stops them getting splashed by soil or munched by slugs, and lets the air right round the fruit so the skins dry evenly.
Spray courgettes against mildew
Every courgette plant I’ve ever grown gets mildew towards the end of summer, but if you get in there early before the leaves turn white and powdery and start spraying them with a 50:50 mix of milk and water I find it really helps. It’s thought the lactose in the milk reacts with sunlight to make a natural fungicide.
Prune summer raspberries
After I’ve picked all the fat, luscious summer raspberries it’s time for an end-of-season sort out. It’s a quick job to snip out fruited stems to the ground; then select five strong new canes from each plant to tie in to supports, removing the rest. Water generously then mulch with compost and they’re ready for next year.
Make new strawberry plants
I find strawberries crop well for about three years then tail off – so in year three I get the next generation going by rooting a few runners from my best plants. I sink 10cm pots of compost into the ground alongside the plants, then pin a runner on top with bent wire: they root within about six weeks.
Take herb cuttings
I can never have too many herb plants – so I’ll often make my own by taking cuttings. Scented-leaf pelargonium cuttings root quickly taken now; and heeled cuttings are almost foolproof. These are young shoots peeled from woody herbs like lemon verbena, bay, sage or rosemary with a little bark attached, for extra root-forming cambium so they take really easily.
Collect lettuce seed
I often let lettuces flower once I’ve picked my fill so I can collect next year’s seed. The flower spikes are tall, so you’ll need to stake them. Once they turn brown shake the seeds out into a bucket. Sieve them to remove as much chaff as you can, then tip the cleaned seed into a paper envelope.
Remove lower leaves from tomatoes
I can never grow enough tomatoes: whatever I don’t eat fresh I cook down and freeze in 400-gram batches – one batch equals a tin of tomatoes. It’s a race now to ripen them before the cold weather arrives, so remove any big leaves which are shading fruit so the sunshine can get to their skins.
The most important job this month is to keep picking so you catch all your produce at its best. Mind you, whatever I do I seem to find the occasional courgette that’s turned into a marrow or overgrown, stringy beans. But I pick them anyway to keep my harvest coming – at least they make good compost!