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This month in the garden - 2018

August in the garden

As the August sun beats down and both gardener and garden struggle to survive the summer heat, it's time to think about winter veg. If you want to raise your own plants to plant in Autumn, from the middle of the month it's time to sow seeds for all the winter brassicas such as kale, broccoli, cauliflowers and cabbages, as well as cool season Asian greens like pak choi, tat soi and mustards. If you have a greenhouse, it might be a good idea not to use it for these seedlings. The greenhouse tends to be very hot now and tender seedlings will at least struggle, most likely fry. Better to find a shady spot outside but you will want to raise your seed trays up off the ground to keep them away from slugs and snails. If you have a real problem with these creatures, you could consider constructing a simple frame with fly netting and an old window frame to keep them away from their favourite snack.

Nothing can beat the joy of eating fresh juicy fruits and vegetables straight from the garden. The tomatoes are divine compared to what you can buy in the shops and the experience of eating a ripe melon picked and eaten straight away is incomparable. If there are some things you didn't manage to grow this year, the next best thing is to buy locally. Not only are you supporting your local farmers, you can be sure that the produce has not had far to travel so was not harvested under-ripe and allowed to ripen up on it's way to you. Fruit and vegetables harvested in this way often lack flavour. You can also be sure there has been no long storage times and air polluting haulage. An indirect way to support your local farmers is to eat at “La Milpa” vegetarian organic cafe in the municipal market in Orgiva. Raul from Cordoba and Ivonne from Mexico cook up a seasonal feast using products from local growers as much as possible. The menu changes weekly depending on what the local growers have to offer and covers a range of salads, tropical fruits from the coast and pastry made with flour milled in the last surviving water powered mill in the Alpujarras. All the bread is baked by local bakers and juice is juiced from vegetables and fruits so fresh it's almost still alive. Drop in for a real treat!

Tip:

Readers question: When I save my tomato seeds I put them on a bit of kitchen paper to dry. It's all a bit messy. When I buy tomato seeds, they come out of the packet so clean. How do the seed companies do that?
It's really very easy. When tomato seeds come out of the tomatoes, they are encased in a gelatinous sac. This is to inhibit germination as soon as the seeds hit the ground at the end of summer, helping to delay it until the more favourable conditions of spring. As gardeners, we can take those seeds and ferment them to remove the gelatinous sac, dry the seeds and store them. Do this by scraping the seeds out of the tomato into a glass and topping it up about half way with water. Give it a stir. Leave the glass on the kitchen window sill, or somewhere you can keep an eye on it. After about three days, a gloopy film will form on top of the glass. Stir, and all the good seeds will sink to the bottom of the glass. Seeds that are not viable will float. Pour of the scummy top and spread the good seeds out on a saucer to dry. In a few days when they are perfectly dry, store them in a paper envelope remembering to write the variety and year on it. When you come back to them in spring, your seeds will look just like the ones in the shop bought packets.

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