Monthly Roundup: August

It’s been full-on in the garden this month as harvesting of potatoes, climbing beans and all things salad has continued. The freezer is slowly filling up with beans, and with foraged blackberries picked from hedgerows on our daily walk. 

The weather has been ‘changeable’ (understatement) – which led to some lovely cloud formations – while Storm Francis battered the UK in the final week of the month. Damage in my garden was restricted to this pot of chard (past its best anyway), a tomato pot blown over but no damage, and a bent sunflower.

Bulbs, onion sets, and salad leaf/herb seeds have been ordered, though I’ve only received the seeds. The weed membrane for my allotment bed finally arrived, along with the tomato feed I’ve been trying to get hold of for months. (Note to self – stock up early next year).

Plans are afoot for extending the edible growing season, now I have the greenhouse. Separate posts will detail my plans more fully.

Seedheads have been picked and set aside to dry. Others have already scattered their seeds far and wide, courtesy of south-westerly winds, which mean my upwind neighbours get my poppy seeds, while I get a garden full of leaves from Overhanging Tree neighbour.

Capiscum Conundrum

My first year growing red peppers – what an effort it has been, and without a single pepper to show for it – YET. They are in the Potting Shed (which receives more direct sunlight and therefore heat. There are five pepper plants in the left-hand tray and six in the right-hand tray, plus a pot of smaller seedlings out of sight towards the left.

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The conundrum is this – the five pots on the left-hand side are full of aphids, despite daily spraying with soapy water on all three sets.

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The six plants on the right are clear. Why one tray and not the other? I’ve spent all month giving them a daily spritz with soapy water.

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But I have got flower buds. Apparently when the flowers form, they open two to three hours after sunrise and last just one day. Only 45% of flowers eventually lead to fruit. 

Never trust what you read on the internet as the flowers last at least 3 days!!

On 14th August, I potted them up in to 5 litre (9 inch) black pots. Then my brother informed me peppers don’t like black pots because they make the roots overheat. As I only have black pots in the large sizes, I’ve now had to find a way to shield the pots while allowing heat/sun to the plant – using an old beach mat.

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A few days later and several flowers have opened. Hopefully pepper fruits will follow. Some sources say peppers are self-pollinating, others that they need a helping hand with an artist’s brush or a cotton bud sometime between 1 and 3 pm. Which is fine, if you have two or more flowers open at the same time.

I gave in and have been using cotton buds to transfer pollen between flowers on a daily basis.

And I’ve just read that it takes 55 days from pollination until peppers are ready to harvest. Nearly 8 weeks! So, beginning of October it is then!

These are turning out to be the most expensive peppers ever grown, after the amount of care they’ve had from someone who is more “chuck it in and see what happens”. Far to labour intensive to make any crop worthwhile, though the more we get, the lower the cost.

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Bags of Beans

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We have beans growing on Bean 1/Raised Bed A. This is the one that suffered a catastrophic breakage of the growing stem. Bean 2 also suffered stem damage but at a later stage. No beans on that one as August begins. Beans 3 and 4 in Raised Bed B are growing all over the place, but have very few flowers.

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3rd August

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A few beans were picked from Bean 1 on 5 August. Looking back at the previous two years since I started my vegetable garden, in 2018 I only planted beans outside at the end of July; and in 2019 it was 31 August before I picked my first climbing beans as I had concentrated on picking runner beans.

(Belated research shows I should have pinched out all growing tips when they reached the height I wanted, so I’ve spent 30 minutes balancing on a stepladder to untangle the stems, cut the tips off, and try to marshal them in the direction I want them to grow – horizontally).

7th August

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Below are beans 5 and 6, growing in pots behind the trellis. I grew runners in the same spot last year (in pots) and they did really well. And the beans were much easier to pick as I didn’t need a stepladder.

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I have been picking beans regularly from the raised beds every two or three days since week commencing 17th August. And there are beans on the trellis plants too.

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Courgettes and Squashes

Following reports that a particular variety of courgette – Zuchini – have cross-pollinated with wild courgette seeds and the resulting fruits are deemed poisonous (causing nausea and vomiting), I made the decision to destroy all existing plants and throw away every packet of seed.

This may seem extreme, but better to be safe than sorry. The seeds known to have been affected were supplied by Mr Fothergill, Unwins, and Kings Seeds. There may be other suppliers affected.

For now, at least, shop bought courgettes are deemed safe to eat. 

More information here and here

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Brassicas

I keep forgetting about this pot of Chard as it is usually hidden from view behind pots of tomatoes and bags of potatoes. It’s obviously very tasty!

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The mixed* brassicas remain behind their net curtain veil for now. It seems to be working well and the insect mesh I ordered at the end of May only arrived on 31 July, and I can’t be bothered changing it now.

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* They are only “mixed” because I can’t remember what I planted. And they are a lot bigger now.

The mixed pot in the greenhouse is also doing well.

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Salads

When your lettuces grow tall, start to tase bitter, and produce flower heads, it’s time for the chop. The leaves of my lollo rosso lettuce were shading out the tomato plants in the same bed, so at the start of the month it was “Off with their heads”.

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Plenty of green waste for the compost bin, and a clear space – which I sprinkled with chicken-poo pellets and mulched with old potato compost from one of the bags I’d emptied. See below for the crops I sowed a week later.

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I do have more lettuce growing, though my attempt at a lettuce tower in this strawberry pot wasn’t completely successful, and these have since been harvested.

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But there are more growing in hanging baskets. Could be Little Gem. Could be lollo rosso. Could be a combination of both. I just chucked the ends of the packets in and hoped for the best.

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I bought a packet of Claytonia seeds – also known as Winter Purslane and Miners Lettuce – which I’ve sowed  and placed in the Tiny Greenhouse as it prefers cooler conditions. No pics yet though.

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Seeds

My September copy of Kitchen Garden magazine arrived at the beginning of August, with these free seeds, all of which can be sown outdoors this month.

I’m not fond of Radicchio, but it’s worth sowing a few seeds to see how they do. Apparently they are a member of the daisy family and are a form of chicory.

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Land Cress is a quick crop, germinating as quickly as 24 hours from sowing and ready to eat within 5-7 days – if you are lucky and conditions are right. I’ll definitely try that. (I’ve already started growing mustard and curly cress on the windowsill and need to buy more seeds – several packs!)

Chinese Kale are also considered a fast grower and can be sown this month for harvesting this year. The instructions say sow outdoors and transplant to growing area where they will be ready to harvest in 60 days. It doesn’t say how long if you don’t transplant them but leave them where they were sown!

Of course, these two are members of the brassica family and, as we all know, the cabbage whites (large and small) can lay a second lot of eggs as late as September.

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Top to Bottom: Radicchio, Winter Imperial Lettuce, and beetroot Boltardy sown on 9th August. No sign of any seedlings by the end of the month. Probably washed away with all the rain.

Peas

Most of the peas planted in pots and the raised beds have stopped producing. But I sowed more in the potting shed and transplanted them into a large pot with fresh compost.

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Onions

All the onions have been lifted now and are drying out nicely. Time to find another pair of tights so I can store them. Unfortunately, many of them formed flower stalks, so these have gone straight into the kitchen to use up asap.

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Plant Exchanges

This month, I gave a Bunny Tail grass to my brother. In exchange, I received a pot of Verbena Rigida, a low growing perennial verbena which he suggested I leave in the pot unless I want the border filled with it.

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So it’s goodbye to August and hello September. What’s next for My Tiny Garden?