Mid-August Sowing and Growing

polytunnel harvests – tomatoes, aubergine, basil, cucumber, purple peppers “Oda”

… and harvesting too! All of the hard work sowing, planting, watering and weeding has paid off and my garden and allotment is glowing with abundant fruit, herbs, flowers and vegetables. I can hardly keep up, what a lovely problem to have!

After one of the hottest weeks I have ever experienced in the UK, we are now enjoying rain and cooler temperatures. I thought I was going to melt earlier this week, it was so hot and humid I could hardly concentrate and it was impossible to do much gardening after mid-morning. I’ve just been for a walk up to my allotment and you can almost see the veggies slurping in the moisture with appreciation – and there is more rain forecast, hurrah.

Large planter from WoodBlocx

The warmth and rain creates perfect conditions for blight however so I will be keeping an eye on my potatoes and outdoor tomatoes, such as this gorgeous wild Galapagos tomato in my back garden, which is spreading out across the yard with enthusiasm. This is a raised bed from WoodBlocx which I’m trying out – I’ll be reviewing it later in the year but so far everything is growing well.

If I spot blight on the allotment potatoes, I will cut the foliage back (and compost it), harvesting the tubers about 2 weeks later. To help keep blight off my polytunnel tomatoes, I do my best to make sure that the leaves do not get wet when I water, and keep them side shooted so that there is good air flow through the tunnel.

Galapagos wild tomato

I have been away quite a lot recently which means that weeds have snuck into my plot. There is a bit of a myth that squash plants suppress weeds – they can stop some annual weeds from germinating, but also hide them from the gardener’s view until they suddenly pop out in glorious flower, ready to set seed at the first opportunity! I weed one bed at a time, otherwise it can feel overwhelming, using a hori hori or trowel.

Many of the climbing French beans at the allotment are for drying, including Gigantes, Czar and Borlotti. They are surrounded by squash and different flowers, difficult to reach, but that doesn’t matter at the moment because I won’t be harvesting them until late September or October. French beans for eating fresh are growing nearer to the path.


Around now is a good time for removing the growing shoots from tomatoes to encourage them to focus on ripening the existing fruit, rather than creating more. I will do this to about half of my tomatoes, because I love green tomatoes so an extra crop of those is useful in my kitchen.

I’ve especially enjoyed Brad’s Atomic Grape tomatoes (see below) which shimmer in the sunshine, hold their shape when chopping and taste good too. They are open pollinated tomatoes, so I will be able to save their seed for next year.

The aubergines have been slower than usual. I am harvesting a lot of the familiar fat purple aubergines, but my more unusual varieties haven’t been as happy this year as they have previously. Fortunately they are now starting to crop and should continue to do so until mid-October or even longer, depending on the weather.

Every day I sniff my melons to see if they are ready! This is the way to check for ripeness. If the melon smells sweet and fruity, it is ready. I let the melons scramble across the ground and also provide stakes for them to climb up.

We are loving the daily fruit harvests – plums, figs, greengages, raspberries, Japanese wineberries, bayberries, boysenberries, pink blueberries and nectarines that are just ripening: I have eaten two so far, so juicy and delicious! There are still strawberries and the blackberries will be ripening soon.

The medlar is the best it has ever been (the fruit is not ready to pick for a few months) although sadly the quince has no fruit this year, perhaps due to the late frost in May.

This is a Sibley Patio Nectarine which grows in a large pot outside my home office, there are around a dozen or so fruit still to pick. I have eaten two so far – completely delicious! The damaged fruit in the photo is still edible 🙂

On August 1st I sowed more seeds, mostly for growing on outside – see a list at the end of the blog. It’s fine to sow all of these now too, except it is rather late for the bush beans. Mine are for the polytunnel, to pop into any gaps for an autumn crop before the days get too cold and dark. If the autumn is cold and miserable they probably won’t work, so it’s a bit of a leap of faith with regards to the weather! Some years it works, others are not so good, but looking on the bright side the roots are good for the soil and the flowers provide forage for insects.

There’s a lot of planting and pricking out to do now. I had to go away for a couple of days during the hottest days and was worried whether these seedlings would survive – the hot temperatures meant that I was watering at least twice a day in the greenhouse, even with the capillary matting. Then I remembered the shading cover that Vegepod had sent me to try out (it isn’t available in the UK yet) and spread it over the seedlings. It was amazing. I got back the following evening, expecting to find a composty graveyard of frazzled plant babies and instead they were lush, green and moist, the capillary matting still damp and they didn’t need watering until the next morning. (Gardening Naturally sell plant shade cloth which might be the same sort of thing.)

Three of these trays are herbs for microleaves – basil, dill and coriander. I want these quick crops for my preserving. There’s plenty of basil in the polytunnel but the recent hot weather has slowed it down a bit, so this is a back up. There are some videos on my Instagram account which explain all of the sowings here. Follow my account for regular updates and videos explaining how I grow food year round in my garden and allotment.

Other jobs for this week include planting Charlotte potatoes in sacks for winter salad spuds. I grow them in sacks in the greenhouse so that they are easy to protect from blight and frost.

Soon it will be time for sowing for the polytunnel too – a September job – and I explain all in the latest issue of Kitchen Garden magazine. Like most mags, the September issue is for sale in August, which is handy because it means you can make sure that you have seeds etc in good time.

My special offer for the double pack of No Dig Organic Home and Garden and The Creative Kitchen continues through to the end of August.

Seeds I sowed include*:

Pak choi
Spring cabbage
Florence fennel
Kohl rabi
White turnips
Raab and unusual brassicas from Real Seeds
Spring onions
Carrots – outside in the ground, not in modules
Dwarf French bean/ bush bean

* it is pouring down and I am wearing a floaty frock that will get soaked if I try to get to the greenhouse to read all of the labels 🙂

10 thoughts on “Mid-August Sowing and Growing”

  1. It all looks wonderful. I have grown some Golden Sunrise tomatoes which are delicious and amazingly sweet but the skins are very tough. Is there a reason for this or is it how it is?

  2. I found tip on gardeners forum on how to use up small tomatoes if you are over run is to freeze them without washing and put them in a bag and freeze then you can take them out rinse them under the tap and rub the skins and they come off so easily,I don’t know if you have tried it,with been a busy person.

    1. Stephanie Hafferty

      Thanks Peter, yes I freeze cherry tomatoes and tip them whole into soups, stews etc – I don’t mind the skins, but this is a good tip for people who prefer their tomatoes without them

  3. I’m surprised to hear you say that you would put potato stems/leaves with blight into your compost – does this not spread the problem around when you use the compost to your plot?

    1. Stephanie Hafferty

      No it doesn’t cause those problems. Blight spores do not survive the composting process, they do not live on composted materials.

  4. Hey Steph. As always thanks so much for your tips and advice. I’ve read your article in Kitchen Garden Sept, so fabulous especially for new gardeners! I was just wondering about your overwinter polytunnel – which of the Sept sowings are for your tunnel and which for outside. I know you said most of your Aug sowings are for outside except the green beans. I’m eagerly waiting in anticipation of what to grow to overwinter in my greenhouse allotment and I most liken in to your polytunnel. Last year I grew huge volumes of mustards of all types but got fed up eating them so enjoyed growing them, covering the soil over winter and then giving my chickens a healthy tasty treat when we’d over eaten mustards. Apart from that, broad beans, garlic and onions – it was all pretty empty.
    Thanks again as usual, you are an inspiration!

    1. Stephanie Hafferty

      Hi Zoe, glad you enjoyed the article. Everything I sow in September can go in the polytunnel, most can go outside too in milder areas but would benefit from extra protection – fleece etc.

      If you use the search function and look at previous blogs for Sept and Oct, I list a lot of what I am sowing, growing and where, there!

  5. Many thanks for your most informative newsletters. Concerning your comment on protecting seedlings in a greenhouse from sun the Vegepod appears to be available in UK but I found I could buy the fabric from wayfair.com which they describe as
    This Nature cover film is made of white, non-woven polypropylene and will be the perfect cover for cultivating seedlings. The film is UV resistant and allows water and air to pass through it. It promotes an earlier harvest and protects the seedlings from weather influences like wind, hail, and frost, as well as pests. You can water the crops through the membrane.

    Can you confirm the shades are quite different from environmesh. Did you lay the fabric you used direct on the seedlings or over a frame ?
    Best wishes
    PS I live near Chard

    1. Stephanie Hafferty

      Hi Michael, the green Vegepod covering is to protect against the sun, it keeps the seedlings shaded, and I think the Nature cover film is more like a fleece, to protect seedlings from the weather – hail, cold temps etc.
      You can buy Vegepods in the UK, but the green cover is not available here yet.

      I just spread the fabric over the top, there’s a photo if this on the blog

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