August blog update: sow & plant for August growth, no dig allotment, tomato tops, soybeans, apples

A second spring after some rain, still warm, days reasonably long – what are you waiting for? One days growth in August is two in September, four in October, eight in November, 16 in December and a half in July! The two photos show growth in just eight days.

3rd August, Steph picking lettuce for a fourth time
11th August, and cover off purple sprouting broccoli

No dig

Different benefits of no dig become apparent as weather and the seasons change. Even in wet weather you can walk on no dig beds, while moisture conservation has been fantastic this summer, and in every season the reduced weed growth of no dig is a huge blessing and time saver. Steph and I weeded the beds of Homeacres dig/no dig trial and she is holding the results. In terms of time it was nine minutes weeding the dig bed, and three on the no dig. Harvests so far in 2018 are 36kg dig, 53kg no dig, but dig is catching up a little now.

You can walk on do dig beds! It’s the widest one.
Steph with all the weeds from dig left, no dig right
New plantings 5th August, mostly chicories here
Same view 13th August, no weeding in this time

New sowings now

True spinach (Medania type) is good to sow now and as soon as possible, for harvests in autumn as well as next spring, it’s so hardy. Sow salad rocket and oriental leaves of all kinds, for autumn harvests outside: wait until September to sow for winter harvests under cover.

Coriander, chervil and dill can all be sown now for autumn picking, and may survive winter too. Chervil is the most hardy, coriander middling (my Cruiser came through last winter, without protection outside) and dill does not like too much frost.

9th August, I just sowed spinach, rocket mustards on right, trays to left sown 5th
Same view three days later
Earlier sowings of Chinese cabbage, kohlrabi, fennel, mostly pricked out

New plantings

If you sowed the seeds in July, now is still good to plant lettuce, chicory and endive for autumn harvests. We are planting kohlrabi and bulb fennel too.

6th August, endive Frenzy in front is picked third time, was sown 4th June
13th August, some endive cut (!) & lettuces planted were sown 19.7

Cordon tomatoes – pinch out tops now

You may have done this already and don’t delay. The idea is to prevent plants from wasting energy on futile new trusses which run out of time to ripen their fruit. Instead. all energy from photosynthesis goes into developing existing fruit and ripening most of it by October. After mid October, at this latitude at least (51) the level of light is too low to enable tasty fruit.

Remove lower leaves but leave at least the top half of leaf growth on cordon plants.

Charles pinching tops & sideshoots on outdoor cherry tomatoes
Yellow Brandywine undercover, naturally grows short

Small garden

We are taking great harvests from this 25sqm/270sqft area, of three beds, each bed cropping an average of four different vegetables. Most of the current plantings, see video update of July, are following earlier summer harvests of broad beans, spinach, carrots, beetroot, lettuce, turnips, sorrel, cabbage and calabrese.

The only planting to receive extra compost was Cavolo Nero kale, because the spinach it followed had been planted last August, and received no compost in winter. I spread 40 litres of West Riding multipurpose compost and it certainly increased growth. Other beds had 1.5in/4cm homemade compost last December.

Small garden harvest of 5th August
Small garden on 13th August
Kale is behind the tomatoes, back left


Until 8th August it was desperately dry, then we had 29mm/1.2in rain in five days, a big help. We are still watering salads and new plantings, but other veg can manage now for a while. I have yet to water celeriac and they look fine.

On the other hand I have started to water the raspberries, so that fruit swell more.

Rainfall has mostly been as storms so totals are variable from place to place, and I hope you had something worthwhile, without damaging hail.

Corner view 9th August
Same view 13th August
Raspberries Joan J 13th August

Allotment story, no dig

Phoebe Grubb from Chagford, on Dartmoor in Devon took on a weedy allotment in January 2016. After two years of reasonable results, she attended a weekend course at Homeacres, bought green waste compost, and has enjoyed a bountiful season. These are her photos, well done Phoebe for such a clear record of progress. After the course, Phoebe wrote:

“Your garden and way of growing is so inspiring and exciting. Thank you so much for your patience with my myriad of questions, I really appreciate it!”

Phoebe’s allotment in Devon, January 2016
11th May 2018
28th May 2018
11th July 2018

Courses out & visitors

I am giving a day course near Banbury in Oxfordshire on 19th September, at a beautiful venue which is also a commercial garden for selling flowers. Plus the owners, Henrietta nd Bridget, are keen compost makers and have lots of windrows to look at.

On December 1st and 2nd I am teaching at Witzenhsusen University near Kassel, then hope to give a day course in Weinheim on Monday 3rd December, details to be confirmed.

My talk at Shankill Castle Co. Kilkenny, as part of Carlow Gardens Festival, was a complete sellout with over 100 people. It went really well in the soft Irish rain.

Visitors this summer included Phil Dudman, horticulture editor of ABC Gardening Australis, the equivalent magazine to our Gardeners World. He is enjoying great success with no dig in his Sydney garden, and prefers mulching with compost as opposed to straw, even in that dry climate.

Part of the garden at Wardington Manor near Banbury
Charles with Phil Dudman from Sydney

Summer meals, aubergines, red spider mite

It’s been a ratatouille summer here, with a higher proportion of aubergine than usual, since they like warmth so much. Even my outdoor aubergines on the slightly warm bed of horse manure (was my hotbed in spring) have given good harvests.

They will slow down now, and indoor plants are susceptible to red spider mite: you see leaves going pale and matt, then yellow and brittle. In my experience, once you see symptoms like that the plants are lost, don’t waste money on predators for example, they can’t increase fast enough to get on top of the problem. But consider buying predators at planting time next spring/early summer, so they can establish a population balance with the mites, which are likely to overwinter in the greenhouse/polytunnel.

Summer ingredients Homeacres no dig
Outdoor aubergines on the “warmbed”
Greenhouse Black Pearl, grafted from Delfland
One plant has this red spider and is about to be composted!

New veg

I am growing soybean for the first time, and suddenly there are loads at the stage of eating green, edamame. The flavour is wonderful, after just a few minutes in boiling water, served in the pods with a little salt.

I am trying two varieties: Siverka is bred for UK conditions, has less leaves and is lower yielding this year than Green Shell. Possibly in a cooler summer the Siverka would have been more worthwhile.

Soybean bed, Green Shell on left
Soybean Green Shell 11th August
Soybean Siverka 11th August
Edamame I prepared from these beans

Apple trees Homeacres in sixth summer, planted as maidens

Fruit is ripening a little earlier, and we even watered some apple trees in early August. Now however they are swelling nicely and Katy is sweet already.

However there is much damage from the maggots of codling moth, next year I plan to use either neem oil or pheromone traps. I know the latter work but they are expensive: neem oil comes with good recommendations, has anyone used it to protect apples from pests?

Apple blossom in May, trees on MM106 and sixth year
Same trees 11th August
Katy apples 11th August, tasty now and won’t keep, on MM106 and 6th summer
Trees of same age on M9 rootstock

10 thoughts on “August blog update: sow & plant for August growth, no dig allotment, tomato tops, soybeans, apples

  1. Hi Charles – are we are getting towards Autumn, what are your thoughts on green manure – and if you would use it – how would you use it/ (Obviously no digging it in in spring).

  2. We have a reasonable amount of rain in NW London and everything is suddenly looking a lot healthier on the allotment. My neighbour is struggling with a mass of new weeds this weekend. I whizzed round and had all of my weeds cleared in less than ten minutes – feeling very smug this evening! No dig equals hardly any weeds!

    1. So nice to hear this Lottie and many of us find the same. This afternoon I meet the RHS who are trialling no dig, and look forward to hearing their experiences.

  3. Hi Charles. I would be grateful for more information about how much you have had to water over the last few weeks. i.e. How frequently and how much water, on what crops. I live in the East Midlands which is a particularly dry area. Many crops have been severely retarded. I am reluctant to water because of the cost and would appreciate more advice on what you see as necessary in your circumstances. How do you judge when watering is required?

    1. Yes watering has been necessary, check out my two earlier blogs eg I wrote this in August:
      We are not watering all veg, even celeriac is unwatered so far, on the basis that water is most efficiently applied close to harvest. That is, after watering new plantings so they establish. You could say, water at the beginning and at the end.

      Exceptions are leaf veg such as kale and salads, which need water all the time while cropping. And veg that are fruiting such as beans, tomatoes (not too much or they lose sweetness), cucumbers and apple trees!
      I am on mains water so it’s not cheap, but cheaper than losing plants. It’s also about which plants you value most.

  4. Hi Charles, great job with the soy beans. What place do you think they will have for you in the future? I was thinking along the lines of how much space the crop takes up vs. Yield, a bean harvest being a bit later than the main BB crop, different flavour and texture, storing ability in the freezer perhaps, etc.? Tris

    1. Well Tris if I was a funded research station I could explore all this in depth! They were just an idea that worked this summer. Too early to say I would make them a part of the plan every year.
      Just as there is much enthusiasm after this hot summer for chickpeas. Normally I found them a waste of space!

      1. Ha! No biggie, just wondered if they are worth growing next year or if my usual rosta of broad beans (aquadulce claudia followed by red epicure) covers that flavour & texture. Plenty else to follow those for some variety, thanks.

      2. Hi Charles,
        I used to work at the OARDC in Ohio, which was a research station focusing on soy, corn and tomatoes. They did quite extensive trials on edamame. Might be worth having a look at their website. What interests me, though, is whether the edamame impact the yields of the following crops. I’m really keen to try it next year. Was rather hoping edamame could be planted out early, but it seems a bit intolerant of frosts and cold. Shame. I wish I could enjoy broad beans, but try as I may … one more attempt (Aquadulce this time) to enjoy broad beans, then I might call it quits. My first properly stocked Winter garden is this year, but I may end up subsisting on perennial kale. Thank you for showing the best way to harvest Cavolo Nero. I shall reconsider growing this one next year too.

      3. fzj go for it with broad beans! Costs only the seed when beds are otherwise empty. But raising in modules is worthwhile.
        And thanks for those observations on soybeans, an issue to watch out for.

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