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This month in the garden - 2020

August in the garden

This August, in the times of the covid pandemic, we have seen so many more vegetable gardens than in previous years. One of the positive outcomes of the lockdown is that it has inspired people to grow their own food and to empower themselves to provide for their own needs. However, the increase in the number of gardens has put pressure on the water supply in some areas, so please if you are using acequia water, consider the other growers in your area; stick to your allotted time and make sure that your gates are not leaking when they are closed.

August is time to continue sowing brassicas in seed trays and to plant out any seedlings from last month that are ready to go in the ground. Potatoes and winter carrots can be direct sown. Your harvest should be coming fast by now; courgettes, tomatoes, aubergines, peppers and basil, beans, okra and sweetcorn to name a few. Gluts can be dried or turned into chutneys, sauces and pickles. This year more than ever before, it would be wise to prepare for hard times ahead. Don't waste anything! Pumpkins can be stored for months and making a year's supply of tomato sauce and pesto is not such a huge undertaking. Preparedness is the key to eating well through financial hardship.

The most important part of preparedness is saving your own seeds. Without seeds, none of us will have a garden next year. You don't have to save seeds for every single vegetable variety that you grow. Saving a good quantity of quality seeds from one variety means that you can swap seeds you didn't manage to save yourself with friends and neighbours. That way you won't feel overwhelmed by the feeling that you have to save every single variety in the garden. Plan ahead - ask your friends and neighbours what they are saving this year and endeavour to save something different. Join a local seedbank and help boost the seed stocks in the area so we are all ready for the possibilities of scarcity that could lie ahead. The seedbank is also a great place to meet fellow growers and exchange skills and experiences.

Saving tomato seeds can be a messy business. Many people put the seeds out to dry on kitchen paper where they get stuck and are quite hard to manage and are suceptible to moulds and disease. The cleanest and most efficient way to save tomato seeds is to cut the fruit horizontally and squeeze the seeds into a cup or glass. Tomato seeds are encased in a gelatinous sac that inhibits germination until the conditions are right. Top up the glass of gloopy tomato seeds with water and leave it on a windowsill or worktop where you can keep an eye on it. After a few days, the contents of the cup will start to ferment. That's the jelly breaking down and a scum will form on the top of the water. The good seeds will sink to the bottom and any light, unviable seeds will collect with the scum. Pour the scum off the top and keep topping up with more water until the seeds are in clean, clear water. Pour the water off and spread the seeds on a saucer or on baking parchment to dry. Do not dry them on kitchen paper because they will stick. It's important to label the seeds at every stage if you are saving more than one variety. It's easy to write the variety name on a plastic cup and on baking parchment with a permanent marker. For more seed saving tips got to www.seeed.es

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