August is always a month where the kitchen garden is in full swing, especially all the heat loving plants. It’s a busy time, with a lot of picking and processing going on, and maybe a glut or two.
The courgettes, sweet peppers, chillies, tomatoes and tomatillos are all doing really well here thanks to the mini heatwave we had a few weeks ago, so they’ve been getting some extra care and attention. That includes tying the cordon tomatoes in for more support, nipping out side shoots to make them concentrate on making fruits and not leaves, and removing older, yellowing leaves to improve the air circulation and reduce the chance of disease. The Tigerella tomatoes have put out for or five trusses each, and the plants have now been ‘stopped’ (where the top of the growing stem gets cut off) so that existing fruits have a better chance of ripening.
All the tomatoes and peppers have been getting regular feeding with a high potash (potassium) liquid feed, this time around I’m using a good value one from Wilko for £1.50 with some seaweed in it which allegedly improves the flavour of the fruits.
Around the rest of the garden, the summer salads, peas and herbs have started to slow down to almost nothing, but there are still plenty of beans, cucumbers, cabbages, and cucamelons to enjoy, so we’ve been eating really well. There were so many cucumbers at the end of July that I took three of them and made a large jar of refrigerator pickles; the pre-spiced Sarsons vinegar is excellent for this and really cheap – all we have so do is wait a few days until they’re ready to eat. We like them instead of gherkins and dill pickles, adding them to burgers, salads, dips and mayo.
The raspberries are still going, and they’re so prolific this year that it’s time to take a break from scoffing them almost every day. There are now plenty of berries in the freezer for cheering up meals during the colder months, and they could also be turned into jam at some point although there are still a couple of jars left from last year.
My epic fails of the month are probably the Kaibroc (aka Brokali), and the turnips. I forgot to use slug protection on the Kaibroc so there’s very little of that left at all, and no florets, and the turnips have been too overshadowed by a massive Tondo di Nizza courgette plant that’s turned into a bit of a triffid. This is the last year I grow any vining-type courgettes in the raised bed because they’re just too big for a small garden and they smother their neighbours – I’ll stick to the compact, bushy ones from now on, or grow the Tondos in pots where they can be moved if they start causing trouble. Lessons learned.
Some of the seeds I bought from a small supplier have failed to grow true, they must have been contaminated or mislabelled stock, so next season I will stick to larger and more reliable retailers. This has particularly been the case with the new Zephyr seeds I bought, which are nothing like the proper variety and have been unproductive and disease-ridden, and have had to be dug up. A bit of a shame, but we don’t need a courgette glut this year anyway so I’ll chalk that up to experience.
A good time to look further ahead
I’ve also been looking ahead to next year. That includes an investment purchase of a new type of strawberry, Just Add Cream variety from Thompson & Morgan, which was in a special offer and has had positive initial feedback so I’ve taken a risk and picked up ten plug plants for £6.99 (the offer’s probably finished now but might come back). A couple of seedlings even had tiny green berries on them, but I removed those because I want the plants to put their efforts into putting down roots instead. Hopefully next spring will be a good first cropping season, starting with masses of large pink flowers.
My current Cambridge Favourite strawberries are over four years old now and almost completely spent so they have to go, but not before I try to peg down a few runners to grow some extra plantlets. Free plants are always a bonus, and if I get any healthy plants from it they might crop at a different time to the Just Add Cream plants, hopefully extending the growing season for every little effort.
Speaking of which, I’ve also saved a few seeds. That includes seeds from the Apache chilli, some viola seeds, and nasturtium and cat grass too. Later in the season there might be some cucamelon seeds as well, but they have to be fermented to remove the inhibitory gel in their seed coats so that’s pretty gross and I’ll probably put that off for as long as possible.
With next year also in mind, I’ve done a few quick sowings with the hope of getting plants that grow on in the spring. This includes some chard and leaf beet, and a few modules of violas. The garden here is mainly a kitchen garden, but next year I’d like it to be more of a cottage garden with a mix of flowers and edible plants, and I’d like it to start producing a little earlier in the year as well as feeding the first few bees.
How’s the £60 annual budget looking?
The budget is still doing okay so far, with about £11 spent on seeds, £30-odd on extra compost and feeds, £6.99 on strawberry plants and £3 on three levels of a cheap strawberry planter. That leaves me about £9.00 or so in case of emergencies but I’m hoping to bring it in under the £60 allocated.
Emergencies might include pest control if we get problems with vine weevils, tree moths or fruit pests, but I hope they won’t be needed as everything seems quite healthy for the moment.
There’s also Christmas coming up, so I might ask for a garden gift item or two in advance so people can buy things in the sales. A packet of seeds fits perfectly inside most festive cards and it’s not too pricey either so I don’t feel cheeky asking for something like that.
It might be a bit too early for a 2018 kitchen garden wish list but I’ll definitely make one at some point. I think I might like to try growing blueberries next year so if you have any experience with them then please share your tips, especially if you think it can be done on a budget.
Are you growing your own food this month? Do you have any plans for next year? Let me know.