August in the garden
At last the sun has arrived and the crops that survived the continual hammering from the rain and slugs and the low night-time temperatures are now growing steadily. The poor weather has meant that our tomatoes are almost a month later than last year, all of the potatoes got blight and about half of the tubers will be thrown away and about one third of the onions have rotted. However, if the sunshine continues the courgettes, which have already picked up and the beans that are definitely enjoying the sun, as well as the squash and sweetcorn will continue to grow and just produce a little later than usual, and perhaps slightly lower yields.
As the soil dried out towards the end of July we managed to plant everything that was in desperate need of planting such as the brassicas, more beetroot, fennel, chard and chicories. Much of this was a little later than we would have usually done it, but hopefully the plants will recover from being pot-bound and mature into strong specimens.
The third and final sowing of lettuce has been made for the outdoor salad. After which the salad growing will resume in the polytunnel overwinter again. Lettuce seed becomes dormant if it is subjected to high temperatures (over about 25°C), so we sow all of our lettuce during the summer in our shed. Once germinated it is then put into the propagating tunnel to grow until being planted out. The autumn salad sees the return of some of the oriental and brassica salad leaves as well as chicories and endive (of which we are trying about 15 different varieties this year). We do not grow any of the brassica salad leaves such as rocket, mizuna, namenia and the like during the summer months as they are not very well suited to growing at this time of year. They tend to suffer flea beetle damage (lots of small holes in the leaves, especially during dry spells) and also flower and run to seed quickly so require continual re-sowing to keep up production. We prefer to grow more lettuce throughout the summer which are well suited to growing at this time of year as well as pea shoots, herbs such as basil and other interesting leaves like salad burnet, perilla, shungiku and various edible flowers. Each different salad leaf tends to have an optimum time of year for growing and if grown during this time it will ensure healthier crops and less stress for the grower, rather than trying to grow certain varieties all year round when they are not really suited to all year round production. Seed companies often miss this and recommend sowing certain varities at ill-advised times – the brassica salad leaves are a good example of this. Gardeners often therefore struggle to produce good quality salad during the summer, sowing leaves such as rocket which will grow, but produce far fewer leaves and of lesser quality than many other salad leaves suited to summer production.
It looks as though the weather is going to change again – as more rain is forecast for early August. However, as long as there are sunny intervals and warmer temperatures than early July the summer vegetables should plod on and gradually ripen. Fingers crossed for sunny weather during the Trill Summer Festival during which we will be providing Daphne with plenty of vegetables and salad to prepare. We will also be giving tours of the garden giving you a more in-depth idea of what we do.