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August in the Garden

August is the height of summer; hot and dry. It's also the height of the harvest. By now we have tomatoes galore, aubergines, peppers, melons, cucumbers, beans, basil and corn. Harvest every day if you can to enjoy the fruits of your labour at their best. Keep up with watering and weeding and process your gluts to store the summer abundance to eat through the winter months.

In the garden we're always thinking ahead to the next season. August is time to plant potatoes to harvest in the winter. Potatoes like well dug, rich soil so give them plenty of manure or compost. They can either be planted in trenches and shored up as they grow – the stems are covered with soil to protect the developing potatoes from sunlight which causes them to turn green – or grow them in a deep layer of straw and compost. Your seed potatoes can be cut into several pieces to make them go a bit further. As long as each potato piece has two 'eyes', the little buds that will become sprouts, they will form a plant. Don't let potatoes get too dry but equally, waterlogged soil will cause the potatoes to rot in the ground. The best time to plant is on a descending moon and the best time to harvest is during a full moon. The potatoes are ready to harvest when the plants wither and die. This can be before or after they have flowered. You don't need to harvest them all at once. Some can be dug early when they are small and eaten as new potatoes and the rest can be left to grow to a bigger size.

Looking ahead to the next season it's also time to sow the brassicas if you are growing any from seed. Keep the little seedlings cool and moist – a bit of a challenge in the searing August heat. They also need to be kept safe from snails and slugs and the grasshoppers, whose population seems to explode at the end of a hot, dry summer. A greenhouse is a hostile environment for tender young seedlings in August so try to set up a nursery in the shade of a large tree. Seed trays dry out very quickly and may need watering twice a day. You could try direct sowing into a seed bed in a shady spot and move the plants on to their final position when they are big enough. A net covering the seedlings will not only give an extra layer of shade but will protect them from birds and the other afore-mentioned predators.

You may have noticed some of your bean plants are flowering like mad but not giving you any beans. This is especially typical of runner beans. The reason for this is that bean pollen is not viable when night time temperatures don't drop below 30°C. Don't worry. Enjoy the floral display and your beans will give you a crop when temperatures start to cool a little. Plants that gave you an early crop then stopped producing may have a second wind and give you another harvest later so don't be too quick to pull them out.

Summer offers so many opportunities for us to save our own seeds to plant next year, share with friends or donate to our local seed bank. SEEeD (Semillas Ecológicas Españolas en Deposito) offer workshops every month throughout the year that teach you how to save your own seeds. If you haven't been along to one yet then get in touch and book a space. See www.seeed.es or email   seedbank [AT] seeed.es

Archive of previous articles here.
For more information on seed-saving and SEEeD, the Órgiva-based seed-savers' association, see https://seeed.es.

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