August in the Veg Patch

It’s sad to think that we’re already in August after such a late start to summer this year, but nevertheless, the main harvesting month of the year is upon us. There is plenty to be done in the garden this month, so here’s our little guide to August.

Pests & Diseases

  • Caterpillars are likely to be around, particularly on brassicas, as butterflies lay eggs this month. Net your brassicas where possible, and check the undersides of leaves regularly for eggs/young caterpillars – you can just wipe them off.
  • Blight could strike at any time – remove affected leaves as soon as you see them on potatoes or tomatoes to try to prevent it from spreading. If potato plants are badly affected, cut down the foliage altogether (you can then harvest the tubers as and when you are ready for them)
  • Powdery Mildew is likely to affect cucumbers, squashes and pumpkins. Remove badly affected leaves to prevent it from spreading, and make sure you water consistently.
  • Aphids could be a problem now so check leaves for this. They can get particularly bad in the greenhouse where there are less predators to eat them.
  • Slugs and snails will be out in the rain and at dusk, so keep laying down beer traps, and using other preventative methods to keep your crops safe.

What to harvest

It has been a funny growing season this year, and we’ve found that several crops are a little later than usual. The below will depend a little on when your plants went in the ground, and the weather conditions that you’ve had in your area, so treat it as a loose guide and don’t be surprised if a few things are a little later.

  • Leaves of all types, from lettuces to spinach and chard. Some, like Wild Rocket and Frills Mustard, are likely to flower now. If this is the case, let the flowers attract the bees but cut them back/pull the plants out before they go to seed (unless you want them to spread!)
  • Tomatoes, chillies and peppers should start ripening this month, and you should be able to harvest aubergine too.
  • Pick beans and peas regularly. If you would like to store some dried beans (particularly borlotti) to use later in the year, leave the pods to dry out fully on the plant before harvesting.
  • Summer squash, courgettes and cucumbers will also be ready this month, but leave winter squash and pumpkins a few months more. It is worth pruning winter squash/pumpkins a little to leave just 2-3 fruits on each plant if yours are a little behind this year. This’ll help the fruits to swell and ripen before late autumn.
  • Sweetcorn could be a little late this year, but should be ready soon!
  • Summer sprouting broccoli might be ready and you may even start to see the first of your cabbages and cauliflowers towards the end of the month.
  • Potatoes, turnips, swede, beetroot and carrots are all harvestable in August.
  • If you’re growing soft fruit, you should have lots of berries and currants to pick. Get them before the birds do!

Jobs to do

The main focus this month will inevitably be on watering, weeding and harvesting. But there are a few other things to do this month:

  • Cut back/pull up wild rocket and frills mustard after they flower and before they go to seed.
  • Cut back flowering herbs like mint, marjoram, oregano and chives. They will come again.
  • Add old plants/foliage to the compost pile. Once you have harvested the last of any crops, pull them up and add the foliage to the compost pile.
  • Prepare empty spaces for autumn. Whether or not you plan to plant in autumn to keep growing, or will be putting your veg patch to bed for the winter, we’d recommend adding a good mulch of fresh compost or well rotted manure. This will help to rejuvenate the soil, and will also help to suppress weeds. If you’re not growing in the autumn, then cover the mulched beds with black polythene too.
  • Make preserves and pickles. For any gluts, it is well worth setting aside a day or two to make pickles and chutneys to preserve them. You can also freeze quite a lot.
  • Feed plants with a liquid feed or wormcast fertiliser. This is particularly beneficial to fruiting plants like tomatoes and squashes.
  • Keep slugs at bay. A quick dusk patrol, some traps and keeping the plot tidy will help. Watch out for slugs eating potatoes secretly – if this is a problem it is best to harvest potatoes and store them rather than leaving them in the ground.
  • Earth up or stake taller plants like broccoli, as August often brings windy days.

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