HOW TO: TOP TIPS FOR AUGUST ORGANIC GARDENING
August is the delightful time you see lots of your hard work been enjoyed at the dinner table. Potatoes, beans, lettuce, peas and more all waiting to be harvested and of course eaten. And that’s what it is all about; knowing where your food has come from and how lovingly organic you’ve produced it. Take some time to treat yourself to the garden this month and savor the days of summer with autumn on the move.
Get watering well in dryer spells-especially cucumbers, marrows, leeks, celery and beans. Also make sure to look out for tomato and potato blight and mildew.
A well looked after soil is imperative to the maintenance of your garden. Just Like our own bodies; if you feed them with goodness, they will function accordingly.
- Compost your soil well with organic matter, this holds water well. Mulch, mulch, mulch with last year’s leaf mould, a fine layer of organic compost or even a bit of straw.
- Keep hoeing-weeds need to be taken out before they flower and seed; these can be added to the compost heap.
- Sow green manures, especially if you have naked soil after a harvest. Plants- like clover for example will cover the naked soil, fix nitrogen from air to root, but make sure you dig them in after they’ve flowered before seed sets.
Waste not want not with organic gardening. It’s all about giving back to the soil what the soil gave and vice versa. Keep the cycle going!
- Your compost heap should be full of 50/50 green and brown matter. If your heap gets to dry keep watering it and fill it with clippings of grass or comfrey leaves to speed up decomposition. On the other hand if it feels to dry you can counterbalance this with scrunched papers or bits from the shredder machine.
- Get minerals from perennial weed roots. These are packed with the good stuff, don’t waste them. You want the weeds to become gloopy-do this by stuffing them into a plastic sack and add water and tie bag. Leave this to gloop up for a couple of months.
Those lovely looking bright things that make us feel happy need to be watched for pests and disease.
- Pest and disease watch- Collect rose leaves that show black spot to prevent spores from spreading, nip them off the bush and take them off the ground. Pick off and destroy rosemary leaf beetle which will look like green and purple stripes, as well as hollyhock rust that comes in the form of bright yellow spots on leaves. This can stunt plant growth. If the plants become heavily infected take them out and start again next year. Also need to watch out for powdery mildew, August is rife for this when the soil is dry. Things that grow under roof eaves or near a fence or wall need to be watched. Keep the ground wet even on rainy days.
- Weeds needs to be continuously hoed as they sprout
- Ornamental trees such as mountain ash and ornamental cherries need to be pruned if needed as August is the last month for this. This allows a healing process before winter months and avoids risk of silver leaf disease.
- Bulbs that flower in spring provide early season foods for essential pollinators such as bees. So get planting.
All the more tasty and rewarding when grown in your own garden free from pesticides. So how to keep them at their best this season.
- Pests and diseases to be kept at bay by keeping a close watch for the fungal disease phytophthora infestans; this can be a devastating disease on potatoes and tomatoes alike. Look out for brown/ black patches usually surrounded by a light ring. These quickly spread and rot all the leaves and stems. Cut off the potato tops and burn them and don’t harvest any tubers for about 3 weeks because this allows the skin to set. Tomatoes suffering from the same fungus-like oomycete blight develop dark marks with a brown dry rot and sometimes a white/ grey mould. The foliage has dark brown patches often with a pale-yellow ring that quickly spreads. With this you need to keep the plants dry by only watering the soil, not the leaves to increase air flow between plants, more so in a poly-tunnel or greenhouse. Do not compost blighted fruit, only the leaves can be used there.
- Slug/snail control should ideally be used a week or two before planting out, not just around new sowing.
- White fly can infect plant leaves so just pick the lower leaves if this happens. If the infestations are bad you can spray it with insecticidal soap.
- Cabbage caterpillars need to be picked off and make sure netting is above the tallest growth.
- Pest & disease watch needs to be weekly. Check all fruit trees and bushes for woolly aphids and wipe them off if in reach. You need to prune heavily infected stems and use a grease band to ants from invading the trees. Powdery mildew can affect apple twigs so cut these out and put them straight into a bag to stop the spores from spreading. There are no organic ways to remove wasp nests, but you can hang sticky jars in the trees to trap wasps and wait until the winter when wasp nests totally die out.
- Fruit-tree soil needs to be kept in good condition in August. Container grown plants are specifically vulnerable in these dryer months.
- Mulch soil well always on damp soil, but leave a gap around the trunk to allow flow of air. Suitable mulches include rough compost, leaf mould and grass moisture.
- Prune damson and plum trees after their fruit and remember to cut out any material that is dead or infected. By pruning plums now, it will reduce the infection of fungal disease silver leaf.
- Herbs such as coriander, basil and parsley can still be sown in August
- Remove any signs of rust on your mint plants and make sure to re-plant new mint stock in a different part of the garden.
- Chives can be cut back also if they start showing signs of rust in the form of orange style stem patches.
LAWN & HEDGE CARE
- Let the grass on your lawn go brown in dry weather over this month and it will recover quickly when rain comes and the temperatures start to drop. Try not to use sprinklers to water the garden, it is massively wasteful and not necessary.
WATER & POND LIFE
- Try keep an eye out for water-lily aphids and wash them off with a hose when you spot them.
So, let’s hope the great British summer holds out for at least our prime month so we can enjoy our gardens for the last leg. Here is a little recap of our 3 top tips
- Soil around fruit trees to be well conditioned. Mulch well on damp soil only.
- Let grass brown in winter and save water by not using sprinklers
- Feed tomatoes around once a week with liquid comfrey.