August is upon us, time to enjoy the garden


First of August. The dog days of summer. We will have lost three hours of daylight since the solstice by the end of this month. Time for gardeners to focus.

It’s the weeks of school and other holidays when more of us are more likely to be away – though maybe less this year. If you are lucky enough to have a holiday, ask friends or neighbours to water and harvest.

August weather can be sultry, perhaps even bringing heavy rain. Top time for the speedy, greedy feeder plants, the courgettes and summer squashes that now need picking often. Unless, of course, you’ve learned to love marrow.

It is the prime month for cropping roots, fruits and flowers that you have nurtured since spring. There should be bags of beans and peas and beetroots. Salads, sweetcorn, tomatoes, cucumbers, chillies and peppers are readying and ripening fast. There’ll be chards and lettuces and other salad leaves, maybe more than you might easily manage.

This is the time Henri begins to look at me warily while I smugly dump damp sacks of crops in the kitchen like a cat bringing home an impressive mouse.I’ll be sure to clean and pack my pickings away.

Stone fruits and late soft fruit will be ripening. Plums and gages, damsons, berries and currants, perhaps even early apples and pears.

We are running out of time for sowing, but Italian chicories – treviso, castelfranco, radicchio, chioggia, puntatelle – are good to go in. Same with winter spinach and turnips, too. Keep sowing radishes into opening space.

Start thinking about saving seed. I have paper packs and envelopes to hand, keeping an eye out for a perfect plot plant or flower – tagetes, nasturtium and calendula. I’ll also save dill, herb fennel and coriander seed, plus extra-special peas and beans.

Remember, please try to slow down. Take a moment. Stop. Appreciate your harvest. Watch as the late sun dips lower and dusk gathers ever earlier.