What’s going on in the gardens and tunnels?

We are in the thick of harvesting at the moment. Picking salad, courgettes, kale, scallions, beetroot, chard, cucumbers and coriander routinely each week and began the first tomato harvest last week. The tomatoes are a few weeks late this year in the garden. A cold, wet May resulted in us planting them out slightly later into the tunnels than we usually would. However, the hot sunny weather we had last week is welcomed by the tomatoes, which need plenty of sun to help the fruits ripen. In particular, the larger varieties take longer to mature.

In your Garden

Maintenance:

Going into August, the focus is maintaining the garden; mainly watering and weeding. By this stage, many plants are well established so they can withstand some competition from weeds however, it is still best practice to keep your beds as weed-free as possible. The same goes for watering; more established plants can withstand drying out but it's best to continue your watering routine to keep the garden looking the best and your plants healthy.

Side shooting tomatoes: 

Side–shooting is an ongoing job with cordon type tomatoes. Pinch out the side shoots to encourage the plant to put its energy into flowers and fruit. The side-shoots are the growing points that grow at a 45-degree angle between the main stem and a leaf. Remember if you are growing bush type tomatoes, don’t remove the side shoots as they carry the fruits.

Make Comfrey Tea:

If you haven’t done this yet, it’s not too late. Comfrey tea is a liquid feed rich in potassium that encourages fruits and flowers to develop, therefore a great feed for tomatoes, courgettes, squash, etc. It comes from the comfrey plant and you simply cut the plant down to the ground, pack the leaves into a bucket/barrel and fill with water until the leaves are submerged. Leave for 3-6 weeks and the finished product can be diluted in a watering can (10:1). From the start of August, we usually give the tomatoes a weekly comfrey feed.

Cuttings:

Now is a great time to take softwood cuttings. At the Centre, the main plants we take cuttings from are Rosemary, Lavender and French Tarragon.

For a softwood cutting, select a fresh piece of growth (this year’s growth) and take a cutting a few inches long. Remove the lower 2/3 of leaves and place the cutting into a well-drained compost mix. (I use 50% seed compost and 50% perlite but the perlite could be substituted with sand or grit.) Several cuttings can be placed in the same small pot as long as they are not touching. Place the pot in a bright area but not in direct sunlight. Keep watered and if the cuttings take, they should be good to pot on in 4-5 weeks.

What to sow:

Spring Cabbage
Lettuce: A mix of salad can still be sown now for a September harvest.
Spinach: Winter spinach varieties can be sown in August for a continual harvest throughout late autumn and into winter
Rocket: Both salad and wild rocket are well suited to the cooler temperatures of autumn. Sow in modules and plant out into their final position in 3/4 weeks’ time.
Scallions: Sow in modules, 6-10 seeds per module to provide you with a decent bunch next spring

What to harvest: 

Salad
Peas/Mangetout
Tomatoes
Squash
Courgettes
French Beans

Top tips:

1.       Deadhead flowers: Calendula and cosmos are two flowers we grow in abundance here. They add beauty and colour to the garden but are also a great food for a wide range of pollinators. Keep them blooming for longer by cutting off flower heads that are developing seeds.

2.       Cut lower leaves of tomato plants: Cut off the bottom leaves of the tomato plants. This gets valuable sunlight directly on the fruit and helps them ripen.

3.       Keep harvesting peas and beans: Keep a regular harvest of peas and beans (every 3/4 days). This encourages the plant to produce more in the long run. By not harvesting regularly, the plants can stop producing altogether. This goes for garden peas, mangetout, sugar snap peas & French beans.