August in the Garden Smallholding

August is the time to reap the rewards, a time when the garden really starts to give back what you so carefully and lovingly put into it, providing regular harvests of fresh fruit and veg, packed full of flavour. An array of crops are ready for harvest this month including sweet corn, golden-yellow cobs bursting with sweetness, a flavour so intense to rival any shop bought produce. Pick them and enjoy straight away, I guarantee you will always find the space to grow them year after year.

The fruit garden will spoil you for choice now too, jams, jellies and chutney are just crying out to be made, a great way to use up a glut of vegetables. Add apples or plums to chopped vegetables and make tasty combinations, a reminder for months to come of the wonderful produce your garden/allotment provided. August is a good month to plant a new strawberry patch using well-rooted runners, a great way to gain more strawberries for free. Perpetual strawberries will extend the picking season until the first frosts, sadly they don’t produce runners freely but it’s well worth buying plants to keep you picking strawberries much longer than usual. Autumn fruiting raspberries are kicking in now, big dark red (almost plum colour) berries are a welcome treat. The summer raspberries are still producing but are noticeably coming to an end.

The temperature has dropped quite a bit recently with a distinct autumn ‘nip’ to the air, leaves are beginning to fall from trees that have taken on a rusty autumn appearance already. I certainly think autumn is creeping up on us faster than usual. Even though I’m enjoying late summer flowers, the occasional warm day and mouth-watering fresh food, now is the time that I start to think about what I can plant or sow for the coming months ahead. Garlic can be planted out from October through to winter as long as the ground is workable, as well as autumn peas (under cloches) and broad beans. I’ve decided to sow Meteor, an autumn variety of pea in the greenhouse from October time, field mice are plenty here due to being surrounded by farmland – my peas don’t really stand a chance otherwise.

Our hens have been laying well considering they are quite old, well, in ex battery terms they are, we’ve had a steady supply of lovely eggs since early spring. Each morning for the past week the floor of the coops have been littered with feathers, a sign that moult has begun and laying will decline soon. Poultry spice added daily to the mash or pellet feed is really useful at this time of year, it helps birds get through the moult and gives them a bit of a boost during cold weather.

Don’t forget natures free kitchen cupboard, elderberries are ripe now and can be used for jelly and jam making, we’re lucky to have a free supply growing wild as well as uncultivated blackberries. Enjoy your August garden!

Easy Pickings

Isn’t it annoying when beans are missed during picking? When they’re eventually spotted it’s too late – large, tough over-grown pods that just don’t taste very nice at all, a bit ‘chewy’ is how my children would describe them. Last season quite a few of my dwarf beans went to waste due to not seeing them easily, the plants are usually short for this type of bean adding to the difficulty of harvesting. With this in mind I wanted to grow a coloured variety to make picking easier. I chose a  variety called Purple Queen, as the name suggests the beans are a beautiful dark purple colour which makes spotting them amongst the green foliage a doddle.

Sadly, the beans lose their lovely purple colour during cooking (back to boring green) but they do taste utterly gorgeous. I might do the same for courgette next season and grow a yellow variety, we all know how fast courgettes grow so I think a coloured variety to make them easier to spot would be very useful. I always miss the odd courgette here and there which then of course turn quickly into marrows. Mind you, the chickens never complain – they love a watery marrow to peck at!

Overrun with Strawberry Runners!

My strawberry patch was an explosion of runners recently, the patch had become overcrowded with baby plants self-rooting all over the place and was in desperate need of thinning out. I set to work by digging up well rooted runners gently with a hand fork, potting them up as I went. Smaller plants have been left where they are for now in order to establish a better root system. I’m aiming to plant the largest plants at the allotment sometime this month, this should allow them enough time to settle in before the cold wet weather comes.

If you were to compare prices to garden centres right now (strawberry plants are mighty expensive at the moment) I’ve at least £40 worth of strawberry plants that I’ve gained for nowt. Strawberry plants are brilliant!

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