Hasn’t the month passed quickly? I can hardly believe that it is August on Thursday. Today I’ve been enjoying more of an indoor kind of day, catching up with things at my desk and general chores, because it has – finally, oh joy! – been raining. I love sunshine and warmth, but it has been very dry for my garden and the polytunnel has become so hot.

A very happy soggy garden. A splendid thing about gardening is how joyful gazing at dark July skies filled with rain after a long periods of hot, dry weather can make a person!

I’m not quite so thrilled with the wind though, which has blown a significant number of apples off my old apple tree. Hopefully there’ll be some left tomorrow….

July is such a fruitful month, different fruits ripening one after the other, bright juicy fresh flavours  – blackcurrants, white currants, gooseberries, strawberries, Japanese wineberries, early plums, loganberries, tayberries.

I have several blueberry bushes all in pots but only two have fruited this year. As the berries began to darken, I covered them up with enviromesh to protect them from birds. They will strip a blueberry bush in the twinkling of an eye. I don’t mind sharing my other soft fruit with my feathered friends but the blueberries are a treat for us. The environmesh is secured around the pots – the birds can’t get to the fruit and neither can they get tangled up and harmed, as they can with regular bird netting. When protecting crops from wild creatures always make sure that the nets are secure and nothing can become caught.

 

In the polytunnel, every day brings a new surprise – the ripening of a new variety of tomato:

the first aubergines – it’s not perfect but it was so tasty!


melons transforming from tiny fuzzy babies into fat ripening fruit. The melon patch is a bit of a jumble – some vines grow up twine whilst there rest snake around the ground. I trim the ends off when they try to take over the path.

We’re picking more cucumbers than we can realistically eat in a day, so I’ll start pickling and preserving soon. A favourite this year is Itachi, a white Asian cucumber which is crisp, sweet and flavoursome. It’s very prolific, too.

Every week I am side shooting the cucumbers along with the tomatoes, so that they are growing up one central stem rather in a more organised fashion than the melons.

Sideshooting tomatoes is a funny job: as soon as I have finished I spot more side shoots! Amazing how it stains the fingers, too.

If you wish, you can grow more tomato plants from these side shoots. Simply pop into water and pot on when the roots develop, or push straight into pots of moist compost. This is one way of growing your own extra tomatoes from F1 hybrids – they will come true from the side shoots but not from the seeds of the fruit.

I’m growing sweet potatoes in four different locations this year: the polytunnel, in the back garden in grow bags, at the allotment and I gave some to Charles to grow at Homeacres. His foliage is bigger than mine, he has the magic touch! These sweet potatoes in the polytunnel are looking healthy. I’ll add some pea sticks for them to climb up. Sweet potatoes seem to like that. As a relative of bindweed, the flowers are very similar. Here you can see self-sown purslane popping up between the leaves, a tasty snack but I am careful not to let too many go to seed.

I have been carefully nurturing one Grenoble Red lettuce plant for this year’s seed. During July it flowered, went to seed and is now hanging upside down drying with it’s seed head in a paper bag (to prevent the seeds from falling onto the floor). Once dry and rustling, I’ll harvest the seed and store in a paper bag until September. Grenoble Red is especially good for over wintering and early spring sowing. I think I’ve been saving the seed for 8 years now.

The polytunnel became a nursery for transforming ladybirds, changing from larvae into adult insects on and around a dill plant. One day it was sitting on the stalk, a few days later the transformation was occurring. There were several other ladybirds in various stages close by and I was privileged to witness the emergence of one of this helpful creatures, on the polytunnel roof!

Look at this poor aubergine! The rest are flowering and some producing fruit, this one hasn’t grown at all in weeks. I have watered it and fed it, but it just sits there…

It’s not all good in the polytunnel – part of the left side bed has been very poor, with plants struggling to grow. I am still trying to work out why, but it is where the last of the overwintered crops were and so most likely it is something to do with that area being much drier than everywhere else, especially as the weather warmed up. I have been away often in July too which may not have helped as I wasn’t there to spot any symptoms of sorrow in the young plants.

The two Shiso plants, which were planted on the same day, are only 30 cm apart but the growth is quite different. Still, I am living in hope and willing them on.

Otherwise, the polytunnel is looking great and I am so happy with the productivity.

Outside, I’ve been harvesting courgettes, summer squash and beans. The dry weather caused the peas to finish early so I’ve left the pods on the plants to dry for winter soups and stews. I’ve harvested about half of the potatoes and most of the onions and shallots. Although I’ve planted most of the brassicas for winter and spring cropping, there’s still more to do this weekend once I have cleared the potato bed. They are in pots growing well under mesh to keep off the caterpillars.

What you can’t see here in my front garden beds are young chicory plants. I have half already planted and some more coming on for planting in a few days, which will hopefully stagger the crop.

I also planted some lettuce for hearting in the bed beyond (you can just about see it in the top right hand side) but most of it was frazzled when I went away (again!) to visit my daughter in Cardiff for her graduation. Charles produces so much salad that I don’t grow my own mixed leaves during the summer, just hearting lettuces for roasting and BBQing – yum!

As well as Cardiff, trips this month included RHS Hampton Court, Tatton Park, River Cottage (all work related trips) plus a very exciting outing to Hyde Park on 12th July to see Neil Young and Bob Dylan. We were quite close to the front, had a great view and a wonderful day out. I went with my daughter and one of my oldest friends and her husband, a great day out.

I usually post at least daily on Instagram when out and about on my travels, the photos are in my sidebar or use the link here or at the bottom of the screen to follow me.

At Homeacres, Charles and I have been busy running courses, sharing no dig harvests and teaching people how to grow their own food, no dig style.

16 comments

  1. We’ve been watching the water butts slowly fill up with rain , very welcome as we’re on a water meter 🙂 (we’re about 15 miles away from Home Acres). Question – tomatoe side shoots; is it possible to over winter the cuttings indoors to get a head start for next year? Many thanks, Mary.
    PS struggling to wait for my birthday in August as your receipe book is on my wish list!

      1. Re: tomato shoots, yes, you can grow these over winter in a frost free place. Best to leave it a bit longer, September time, before rooting your shoots otherwise you may end up with some huge plants to cherish over the winter.

        Although I suppose in that case you could decorate with baubles and tinsel and use in stead of a tree!!

        Happy birthday for August. Thank you for putting my book on your wish list!

    1. One water butt is, during a normal season, hardly enough for a 50 square metres garden. Vegetables, in this and last years heath, need water in abundance. Or actually, the soil needs it.. Some people don’t wanna buy 1000 litre IBC butts, because they think they are ugly (but relatively cheap on eBay). Why don’t you put them on a sturdy build height of 60 cm, so the watering can can go under the tap, put two on top of each other to have enough pressure for a garden hose, build some wooden fence of reclaimed timber around it, let climbing nasturtiums grow on it and Bob’s your uncle. I’ve done it on my 400 square metres vegetable/fruit plot and never use the water meter at all…

      1. Nice idea Frans but I don’t think I would be able to get those into my back garden, there isn’t the access or the space really to have something so large attached to my home (2x IBC plus the 60cm stage). I am certainly thinking of trying to get one for my allotment if I can find someone who would deliver – not going to get one of those beauties in my tiny little car 🙂

        Instead I have 10 “dustbin” style water butts, some from the house, others from the greenhouse/shed and more planned (plus several at the allotment)! They are not practical for attaching a hose to at present – I am working on that one – but useful for hand watering when I have the time for lots of watering can trips.

  2. I so look forward to your new posts! So informative for me. Its interesting to hear, of your heat wave as well. Since end of June, haven’t had a decent rain until today! Been really dry here, as well.(Kirby, Wyoming USA). My first time at No Dig gardening. Its been exciting! Many compliments on a beautiful garden and flowers. However—-Not everything has prospered for me. Blossom end rot on San Moreno tomatoes. But another plant has done well. So it goes with other plants. So bizarre growing season here! Many other gardeners has , had the same experiences. Keep up the good work Stephanie! Appreciate your website, as well as, Charles. :}

    1. Thank you Wanda, much appreciated.

      Blossom end rot is usually due to calcium deficiency caused by erratic watering – which is I expect due to your bizarre weather.

      It has been unusually hot and dry here and so I’ve had to water the polytunnel much more than usual.

      1. Thanks for your thoughts on watering, which I have to say, I do have a hard time trying to decide, when and how to water. No problem with houseplants, but the garden yes. Plus water is a premium, here, as you well know, where you are as well. The blossom end rot, I listened to a YouTube video, saying one can water with milk, since it is an existing plant. Have you ever heard of this? Just wasn’t sure how much or how often. What do you think? I know you are a very busy lady, so whenever you get to this is fine! An after thought on watering- I know one should water less frequently and to do it deeply. Just never know how much etc. But I feel panicky, about the plants. :} At my age, I should know better and as long as I have gardened. Ha! Ha! By the way, Love All Of Your Pic’s!

      2. Thank you Wanda. Yes, it is a tricky one. Pots and seed trays regularly, new plantings too plus the polytunnel usually twice a week but I’ve needed to do 3 times a week recently. There’s no real answer as everyone’s situation is different.
        Water is fine for blossom end rot. I’ve heard of it but with water the plant is able to extract the calcium it needs from the soil.

    1. Hi Stephanie,

      Thank you for such an informative blog. Excuse my ignorance, but would the potted on tomato side shoots be for produce next year? Or is there still enough of this year left for them to be productive?

      All the best,

      Jonathan

      1. If they can be kept somewhere frost free and light, and depending where you live, you should get a small crop this year – the shoots are very enthusiastic at flowering.

        For next year, I take the shoots in Late September or October to keep the plants small over winter, much easier to look after. They need to come in when the weather gets cold – I forgot last year and they were frosted in the greenhouse (mine is old and full of holes!)

  3. Last year I decided to be a bit contrary and saved seeds from one of my Sungold tomatoes, an F1 variety, as I’m sure you know, I sowed them this year and have several plants, and I have to say I cannot see or taste any difference to my “real” Sungolds. Maybe I’ve just been lucky 🙂 –

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