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August is mostly about harvesting – and reaping the benefits of the work you’ve put in earlier in the year. However, there are still a number of routine tasks that shouldn’t be neglected. Weeding, watering, and mulching head the list, as always. Many of your crops will be growing flat-out now, and climbing beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and even fruit trees may need supporting as they become more heavily laden. Other crops will be over, and you can begin cutting them down or pruning them.

Weed and water

In a dry summer, weed growth should slow down. But the time you save hoeing will probably be taken up with watering. It’s important to water regularly to promote normal, healthy growth and prevent plants from bolting prematurely.

A good, thick mulch and regular watering will help plants survive a summer drought.

A good, thick mulch and regular watering will help plants survive a summer drought.

Spread surface mulches

If you have any rotted-down compost left, use it up now. Next month you’ll want to start a new heap with this year’s waste material. Spread mulches immediately after rain to keep the moisture in the soil.

Harvest regularly

At this time of year, courgettes, runner beans, and French beans are notorious for the speed at which they grow. Check them every day and harvest regularly, picking them before they grow too large and become stringy.

Pinch out tops of climbing beans

Continue pinching out the growing tips when climbing beans reach the top of your canes. This prevents them becoming top-heavy and encourages new growth lower down.

Dry out garlic, onions, and shallots

A few days before you harvest them, loosen the soil around the roots. Choose a dry spell of weather, lift the bulbs, and lay them on the ground in the sun. The more thoroughly you dry them, the longer they will keep.

Pinch out tops of climbing beans

Climbing beans don’t really know when to stop. Pinch out the growing tips when they reach the top of your canes or they will quickly become tangled and top-heavy.

Bean flowers

However many you pick, as long as flowers are still appearing, new pods should continue to grow. Water plants regularly or spray the flowers to prevent them falling.

Pinch out and feed tomatoes

Continue to remove any side shoots that keep appearing in the “V” between leaf stems and the main stems, and nip out the growing tip at the top of vine tomatoes once four or five trusses have formed. Feed with tomato fertilizer when you water.

Tie up tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers

As the fruits develop, they can become very heavy. Tall vine tomatoes and outdoor cucumbers in particular may need extra support by tying their main stems to additional stakes or sturdy canes.

Summer-prune wire-trained fruit trees

Finish tying in or trimming new growth on all espalier, cordon, and fan-trained trees.

Propagate strawberries

Strawberry runners that you have pegged down into pots to root should be ready for transplanting now. Plant in a sunny position, in ground that has had plenty of organic material dug in, and keep them well watered. Plastic sheeting stretched over the bed will also conserve warmth and moisture.

Summer-prune gooseberries and currants

Finish summer-pruning once all the fruit has been picked. Your bushes will need to be pruned again in winter.

Prune summer-fruiting raspberries

If you didn’t do so last month, cut down to the ground all the canes that have borne fruit this year. Tie in the new, green canes that will produce fruit next summer.

Tie in blackberries and hybrid berries

Continue to tie in vigorous, new, non-fruiting canes. Old canes will be removed in autumn.

Prop up heavily laden fruit trees

In good years, apples, pears, and plums can bow so severely that branches are in danger of breaking. Support with rope ties or props.

Pick early apples and pears

Test early varieties for ripeness by gently twisting them, rather than pulling. If they come away easily, without tearing the stalk, pick them and eat them at once, as they won’t store.

Grape vines

Continue pruning side shoots and removing some of the foliage to expose fruit to the sun.

Earth up brassicas, potatoes, and celery

Keep earthing up potatoes to stop tubers being exposed, trench celery to keep stems out of the light, and brassicas to support unsteady stems.

“Ripen” garlic, onions, and shallots

Dry out or “ripen” any bulbs you intend to store. A few days before you harvest them, carefully loosen the roots from the soil. Lift them and lay them on the ground in the sun, or spread them out on wire racks to dry.

Dry shallots on the ground if it’s dry; undercover on a chicken wire rack if it’s wet

Dry shallots on the ground if it’s dry; undercover on a chicken wire rack if it’s wet.

Feed pumpkins and winter squashes

For halloween-sized growth, feed once a week with high-potash tomato fertilizer. In damp weather, lift them off the soil on to bricks or planks of wood or they may rot.

Pest and disease watch

 

Vegetables

Blackfly

Cabbage white butterflies

Cabbage root fly

Carrot fly

Flea beetles

Pea moth

Pigeons

Potato blight

Powdery mildew

Slugs and snails

Sweetcorn smut

Tomato blight

Tomato blossom end rot

 

Fruit

Aphids

Birds

Bitter pit

Brown rot

Canker

Codling moth

Currant blister aphid

Pear leaf blister mite

Pear rust

Powdery mildew

Raspberry beetle

Scab

Scale insects

Woolly aphids

 

 

 

Text and photographs copyright © 2010 Alan Buckingham.

 

Allotment month by month by Alan Buckingham, front cover thumbnail Allotment Month by Month
(Dorling Kindersley, 2009)
Grow Vegetables by Alan Buckingham, front cover thumbnail Grow Vegetables
(Dorling Kindersley, 2007)
Grow Fruit by Alan Buckingham, front cover thumbnail Grow Fruit
(Dorling Kindersley, 2010)