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This month in the garden - 2019

August in the garden

It's high summer now and conditions in the garden are getting harsh. Try to work early mornings and later in the evening to avoid the intense heat. It's also very important to be aware of the risk of fires. Strim any long grass before it turns to dry tinder. Take great care when using power tools; a spark from an angle grinder can start a fire. A carelessly discarded cigarette butt can quickly turn into a major fire. Remain vigilant and try to convince your summer visitors that they don't really need to have that BBQ!! The fines imposed for fires started outside of the official burning season are substantial. Common sense and a bit of preparedness are your friends now. Know where your buckets are and where the hose is and have it connected just in case.

This month and next, it's time to think about sowing seeds for winter veg. Kale, cabbages and all the other winter brassicas can be sown in seed trays now. An easy way to prepare winter beds is to spread compost or manure over the area and cover it with black plastic. Weigh it down it with rocks, planks or anything you have handy. Heat will be created under the plastic and the weeds will be killed off. Even pernicious perennial grasses can be controlled using this technique. It doesn't completely eradicate them but it does keep them at bay during the summer, when they grow vigorously. Leave the plastic on for a minimum of three weeks, the longer the better. When it's time to plant the seedlings in Autumn, pull back the plastic and you will find a lovely dark, moist bed. The worms will have been to work and you can just rake out any debris remaining from the dead weeds.

All kinds of summer veg should be flowing fast now from the garden. Tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes, basil and sweetcorn. Aubergines, peppers and chillies sometimes take a bit longer. Harvest the beans every three days, minimum, to encourage the plants to maintain production. Pinch out the flowering tips of the basil so that the plants put out more leaves.

Tomato gluts can be bottled, made into pizza/pasta sauce and frozen for use in the winter or they can be sun dried. Other vegetables can also be sun dried. Try strips of courgette or pepper. They can be kept in a jar and added to soups and stews later in the year.

Carry on tying your tomatoes to the poles and check the undersides of melons and pumpkins for signs of rot. If they are sitting in a damp spot raise them up on a stone.

Tip: When putting drip feed systems together, have a kettle of hot water at hand. Dip the ends of the black pipe in for a few minutes to heat them up and make them pliable. The connections will just slide in easily.

Reader's Question: My lemongrass bush went all brown and dry over the winter. I thought it was dead but when I started to pull it out it was still green in the middle - so not dead? But it looks horrible. What can I do with it? - Natalie, Orgiva
Lemongrass plants are dormant over the winter, only springing back to life in early summer. They are a perennial grass that multiplies in clumps and really needs to be divided every two years to keep them looking lush and healthy. Just dig up the whole plant and select a few of the most succulent looking stalks with some root still attached. Strip off all the dry brown leaves and replant the stalk. You will be amazed how quickly it begins to sprout new leaves and bush out. Save a few more stalks and plant them in pots, just in case. The rest of the stalks can be chopped up fine and cooked into a nice Thai curry or dried and used in teas. Cleaned stalks also freeze well for future use.It's a good idea to grow two plants and divide them on alternate years.

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