Fruit & Vegetable Growing Guide for August
August with a little luck brings us the best of the summer weather but being the traditional holiday month it can be hard to keep on top of the vegetable plot with a fortnight away even if a neighbour can be persuaded to water as required
Sowing & Planting in August on the Vegetable Plot
The sweetcorn is as high as an elephant’s eye and soon the cobs will be ripe and ready.
Direct Sowing in August
There are still quite a few things you should be sowing in August. Spring Cabbage and Chinese cabbage, which is a late crop as well as hardy lettuce.
Although we think of lettuce as a summer crop, it is a surprisingly hardy plant and under cloche and in the greenhouse can easily be available for a Boxing day salad rather than some tasteless import from sunnier climes.
Sow spring onions like White Lisbon winter hardy which will grow, albeit slowly, to add zing to that salad along with some fast growing radishes.
Late spinach can be sown in August along with a last sowing of kohlrabi and turnips.
Planting Out in August
Plant out the savoy cabbages and cauliflowers to grow on for the earliest crop as well as hardy kales.
Cultivation, Pests & Problems
Your runner beans will be at the top of the canes now so pinch out their growing tip to encourage bushier growth below. Pick all runner, climbing and dwarf beans regularly except for the haricot varieties such as Borlotti where we want the bean rather than pod for table.
Stop tomato plants now to encourage fruit to swell and ripen. Stopping is the process of cutting off the growing tip so the plant’s energy is not diverted into foliage from fruit. Keep your tomato side shoots in check, you want tomatoes not masses of foliage. Ensure they are watered regularly, drying out prevents the plant from taking up sufficient calcium and the deficit causes blossom end rot.
Keep on top of the pests. Aphids and Blackfly are a particular problem in the greenhouse although they are certainly about in the open plot as well. You can control them with pesticides or just wash them off many plants with a strong jet of water.
A squirt with soft soap solution will do no harm to the plants and will reduce the numbers down by stopping the pests breathing. In the greenhouse the biological controls are most effective and don’t forget the traditional sticky yellow cards which attract the whitefly. .
If we do get a prolonged dry spell, don’t forget that that fruit bushes and trees need watering. Swelling apples and currants need water as much as leafy vegetables. Give a good soaking rather than little spinkles that encourage surface rooting.
It’s the last chance for summer pruning. Watch out for overladen plums and damsons.If needed you can suppot branches by inserting a length of 2×1 notched at the top (like an old fashioned line prop) to support the branch or tie to the stem with robust twine.
Keep the base of trees weed and grass free, mulch to keep in moisture and add fertility with garden compost.
Protect autumn raspberries now with netting from the birds before the fruits arrive and the birds eat them.
In the Greenhouse / Polytunnel
Ensure good ventilation. It can get incredibly hot in a greenhouse with strong sun and scorch your plants. You should also consider shading the house either with blinds or films or with a shading wash
Keep pinching off the side shoots with your tomatoes and stop them a few leaves after a truss by pinching out the growing stem.
keep an eye out for pests such as aphids, whitefly, red spider mite. If you are subject to attack by these pests it is worth checking out biological controls as these are perfectly safe to use and, used correctly, more effective than traditional chemical controls.
Many of the chemical controls of the past are no longer available anyway so the organic alternatives are now the mainstream choice. Check out: Polytunnel Growing in August
This year the cabbage white butterflies seem to be everywhere. They may be pretty as they flutter about the plot but their aim is to lay their eggs under the leaves of your brassicas.
We've three lines of defence.
Butterfly netting can be laid over hoops or even a framework of bamboo poles to keep the butterflies from getting to the plant. Be aware that if the netting is laid on the plants the butterflies will lay their eggs through the gaps, so make sure to keep the nets above the leaves.
Butterfly Netting at Harrod Horticultural
Some always find their way through so check as best you can under the leaves for the small clusters of yellow hexagonal eggs. Just rub them out with finger and thumb. A bit yucky but it won't hurt you.
Get the caterpillars
The moment you see holes appearing in the leaves or see a caterpillar, deal with it. There are sprays you can use but they're easy enough to sort without resorting to a pesticide. Just pick them off by hand, they don't bite. Neither do cabbage white caterpillars have irritant hairs on them like some species. I knock them off into a pot and then dump the contents into the chicken run. No chickens? Just add water and drown them.
As long as the bulk of the leaves aren't eaten, your brassicas will recover and crop well.
It may be difficult for caterpillars this year, but things could be worse. In 1846 passengers on a cross-Channel boat found the sun obscured for hundreds of yards by a cloud of cabbage whites flying from France to England.
In the last year of the war, 1945, another massive swarm of butterflies invaded from France. Later, many farmers and home growers in the south east of England found their brassicas being reduced to skeletons. It gave the children some extra pocket money, being paid for the butterflies caught and caterpillars picked.
See December in my
Dig for Victory
Last Chance for Carrots
If you move quickly, you can pinch an extra crop of carrots by sowing an early (fast) variety like Early Nantes, or Amsterdam Forcing.
If you find yourself with two or three cauliflowers ready at the same time, this tip I got from a show grower will help. Show growers have a difficult time in getting the crop just right at the same time as the show is held. This is one of the tricks they use to put the perfect cauli on the bench.
Take your cauliflower and trim the leaves back but leave it as if for a show or shop shelf for that matter. Wrap tightly in cling film to exclude any air and keep in the fridge's salad box. It certainly keeps well for a month and my pal reckoned they were still show grade after six weeks.
It may be a little late if you've a cucumber taking over the greenhouse but you can bring them under control even now by pruning. Like tomatoes, a job that's best done little and often. There's an article on that here:
How to Prune Trailing Cucumbers
And don't forget to check out the article on feeding cucumbers. Swapping from the oft recommended method of just using tomato fertiliser to a regime higher in nitrogen will improve growth and yield.
How to Feed Cucumbers – Best Feed to Use, NPK Etc.
Tired Tomato Plants
If your tomatoes are fruiting well but the plants are looking a little tired or leaves are yellowing, try swapping from a high potash feed to a high nitrogen feed like Miracle Gro or
S-Chelate 12 Star
for a week. This should give them a boost and restore them.
Curled Tomato Leaves
I often get emails from new growers worried that the leaves on their tomatoes have curled or rolled up. So long as the plants have water and feed, don't worry about it. It's a reaction to hot days and cool nights most likely and in my experience isn't a problem.
With a bit of luck the runners will be at the top of the poles by now. If you pinch out the leader it will encourage bushing out below and you'll get more beans. Keep picking the pods before the beans develop inside the pods because once they do develop, production slows down.