August: Land of Plenty

Seed-sowing season may be winding down,
but GIYer Michael Kelly is still enjoying
this well-deserved time of deluge

It’s hard to fathom, but it’s already August and the seed-sowing year is almost over – this month is the last opportunity to sow seeds and marks the end of seven months of fairly intense seed sowing activity that started way back in the dreary days of February. May and June were the busiest seed sowing months, with things slowing down considerably last month. This month, it slows down even further – there are just salad leaves (lettuce, oriental greens, etc) to sow and then that’s pretty much it until next February. Notably this month, I always do a decent sowing in the polytunnel of oriental greens (like mizuna, mibuna, mustard, pak choi, etc) for winter eating.

If there is a sense of ‘winding down’ in one aspect of the GIY year, there is a corresponding ramping up of another (more exciting) phase – dealing with the basket loads of delicious grub coming from the veg patch. The time lag between the first sowings in February and the arrival of the first new season crops is something that continues to surprise me each year. With the exception of rhubarb and some salad leaves in early spring, it’s not really until June that the first new season crops (like carrots, beetroot, peas and beans) are ready to eat.

That trickle of fresh produce has now turned into a deluge, and we will continue to enjoy the harvest bounty up to and beyond Christmas. The time that is freed up by the lack of growing-related activities (seed sowing/transplanting, etc) is now spent ‘processing’ food – shelling, podding, blanching and the like. But while we’re busy in the kitchen, things are certainly quieter out in the vegetable patch – the hard work of the year is mainly done now and we can start to enjoy the fruits of our labour.

Check List for August

To Do

Green manures (mustard, buckwheat, radish, rye, alfalfa, clover and vetches) are plants which are grown specifically to improve soil fertility and are useful at times when beds are empty (as is often the case in August). Grow directly in the bed and then cut down and dig into the soil. Give pumpkins plenty of water and apply a high-potash liquid feed. Nip out the growing points to encourage the fruits to swell. Net brassicas to keep butterflies and the cabbage moth away (and check undersides of leaves regularly for caterpillars). Keep watering – mulch around plants to retain moisture.

Sow

Continue succession sowing. Sow spring cabbage, red cabbage, winter spinach, salad onions (in polytunnel for spring crop), autumn salad mix, endive, parsley, onion seed, Chinese vegetables.

Harvest

Pick beetroot regularly as they reach the size you require – if left to grow too large they will lose their tenderness. Continue to harvest tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, peas, broad beans, French and runner beans, salad leaves, radish, turnip, potato, onions, peppers and chilli-peppers, aubergine, globe artichoke, courgettes, cucumber, gooseberries, raspberries and currants.

Tip of the month – harvesting garlic

Harvest garlic when at least a half to two-thirds of the leaves on each plant are yellow. Autumn-sown garlic will be ready in early summer. Do not allow them to go too far as they lose flavour.  When harvesting garlic, don’t pull the bulbs from the ground as you will damage the bulbs and break the neck, which will make it difficult to store it well. Stick a fork in beneath the bulb and ease it out gently. Remove any excess soil. Leave to dry for a few days on the soil if possible (if it’s dry). You can use the garlic straight away, but to store it, you will need to dry them out for a few weeks in a warm sunny place (potting shed or greenhouse) before hanging in plaits.

About GIY
GIY is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to create a healthier, more sustainable world where people grow their own food. We inspire and support people to grow food more successfully by bringing them together to share advice, tips and ideas. There are approximately 50,000 people involved in the GIY movement in Ireland, which is proudly supported by Woodies DIY. For more information check out www.giyireland.com.