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This month in the garden - 2021

August in the Garden

August is both the best and the worst month in the garden. The heat, the relentless weeds, the itchy grasses and biting bugs make it nearly unbearable, but the joy of the tomato glut, the cucumbers, beans, basil, okra, courgettes, corn and melons makes all the discomfort worthwhile. There is a lot to do now and it helps to start early and take advantage of the cool peaceful mornings before the cicadas start screeching. Continue tying up the tomato plants and prune off all the lower yellow and brown leaves to allow air to circulate and to give you a better view of your ripening tomatoes. Almost daily harvesting is essential; okra is unpleasant to eat if left to get too big, corn cobs will turn dry, beans will get tough, tomatoes and melons will split and cucumbers will turn bitter. Continue weeding, watering and feeding. Plant another round of potatoes and propagate new tomato plants from the side shoots of established plants to plant for a Christmas crop. Rocket can be direct sown as well as some Asian greens and mustards. It's also time to start your winter brassicas; broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, collard greens and Brussels sprouts. Sow the seeds either in pots of potting compost or in a seed bed in the garden. Either way, water daily and give them a bit of shade. They should be ready to plant into the ground in late September.

If wild boar have paid a visit to your garden, you know how heartbreaking it is. In just one night they can wipe out months of work. But it's not only the big creatures that can wreak havoc with your crops.... The tuta absoluta moth, almost invisible to the naked eye, can decimate a whole field of tomatoes. I'm sure we've all experienced the pain caused by snails, then there's wood lice, shield beetles, greenfly, blackfly and whitefly plus viruses, moulds and funguses. So what to do? Reach for the organic pesticide or fungicide and eradicate them all? A wise person once said that a plague is not a case of too many of one species, it´s a deficit of others. If you have a problem with blackfly, you don't have too many blackfly, you just don't have enough blackfly predators such as ladybirds and lacewings. Learning to live in harmony with pests is a challenge. Every creature has a role in the garden and eradicating one has a knock on effect that leads to further imbalances.

Your garden should not be a battle ground: instead look for simple solutions to offer a more gentle approach to those troublesome visitors. Cabbage white butterflies, for example, love to lay their eggs on brassicas (the clue is in the name), the caterpillars hatch out and eat their way through your cabbage leaves. We can control them by picking the eggs off the leaves and killing them. You could also plant a huge patch of nasturtiums because cabbage whites love nasturtiums even more than they love cabbages and prefer to lay their eggs there. It´s not such a loss if the caterpillars eat all the nasturtium leaves, we can still appreciate the flowers.

Pay attention to what's going on in your garden. Companion plants provide an alternative food source for pests and attract their predators. Leave a wild patch in the garden and allow your garden friends and foes to live there. If you have a field full of nothing but kale, guess what the wild creatures are going to eat? Kale. Instead, let insects, reptiles, birds, worms and snails collaborate to bring equilibrium to your garden. A well balanced diverse system will provide enough food for everyone, including the gardener. Every one does their job. The pollinators will pollinate, the worms will aerate the soil, the woodlice will devour the decaying matter. Next time you think about reaching for the neem, have a look at a companion planting chart and see if you can correct your deficit rather than kill off your “enemies”. And build a good fence to keep the wild boar out.

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