So, August fades out in a final flourish of late summer sun. The mornings are already later and cooler, mists hugging the valleys and enshrouding the rivers until the sun burns through. Shadows lengthen in the afternoons as the sun sinks lower in the sky; and dusk falls earlier, catching us out mid-task in the house or garden, and bringing with it cooler temperatures.
This month we have pulled up all the peas, mangetout, and broad beans, and blanched them for storing in the freezer, along with masses of bounty from the runner beans and dwarf french beans, both of which are still cropping, but slower now and with less flowers to follow.
August was a strange mix of warm sunshine, torrential downpours, high winds and cool days. Last week’s gusty winds toppled our tallest sunflower, which stood over eight feet tall beside the greenhouse.
The wet humid conditions have plagued our three pumpkin plants with powdery mildew. I sprayed the leaves with a mix of milk and water when it first began to manifest, but whether it was already too late or not frequent enough, it did nothing to stop the march of mildew.
Above, you can see the row of pumpkin plants at the edge of the sweetcorn block a week ago; the ripening orange fruits nestling in the brittle powder-covered leaves. A week later, these plants are almost entirely defoliated as the leaves have disintegrated. At least we have a good crop of fruit ripening on them, which we can cut from the vines soon and put in the greenhouse to finish ripening and hardening off for storage.
We have continued to enjoy cobs of ripe sweetcorn throughout the month. These ‘Swift F1’ have been an easy and rewarding crop, and we shall certainly be growing these again next year.
The tomatoes in the greenhouse are ripening steadily, giving us a constant stream of fruit, some of which we eat fresh and some of which I’ve continued to make into batches of sauces for the freezer, including ratatouille with the courgettes that keep on coming. At least the courgettes are starting to slow production now, although there are about a dozen in the kitchen at the moment waiting for me to do something with them. Time to look for some more imaginative recipes I think!
Our carrots have finally reached a decent size after a very late start this year, there are many more of those to come. (That picture reminds me: we still need to clean, seal and grout the slate floors too…).
The leeks are growing well, and the onions that we planted from seed seem to be swelling nicely just under the soil, forming lovely papery skins.
We dug up all of our maincrop (Maris Piper) potatoes last weekend, and left them in the sun to dry before putting the best of them into hessian sacks. There was a lot of damage to the tubers; some were so full of bore holes that there was little potato worth saving, and there are very few intact potatoes to store for the winter. We assume this must be slugs; not sure whether we left the potatoes in the ground too long or were just unlucky – more research for next year!
We still have beetroot in the ground, and huge swedes pushing their way up. The feathery tops of the parsnips look lush and healthy. And beside the raspberry canes, of which the summer canes are still producing a handful of fruit each week while the autumn raspberries are just beginning to ripen, the peaches on the old peach tree are ripening. I tasted my first peach of the year this week and it was absolutely wonderful.
With the cabbages hearting up nicely too, there is still a lot to look forward to in the coming months. There are splashes of colour from some lovely blooms in the garden at the minute too, but I think that is for another post – this one seems quite long enough already!
With slightly heavy hearts then, fond memories – and a full freezer! – we bid adieu to August and the heights of summer, and turn towards autumn, heralded already by the yellowing leaves on the beech tree.