What to do in August

Zucchini flowers

August is one of the best months for harvests in the container garden. As well as salads and herbs, you may also be harvesting tomatoes, courgettes, and beans. In warmer parts, chillies, peppers and aubergines, too.

It’s also the time to sow seeds to give you a supply of green leaves throughout winter and early spring.

Jobs to do this month include

  1. Tying up and support
  2. Tidying up, cutting back
  3. Feeding and watering
  4. Picking
  5. Sowing for winter 

1. Tying up and support

Fruiting crops like tomatoes and squash can get quite top heavy this month as the fruit fills out. If not supported, stems may break or plants may fall over (oops, this just happened to my tomatillo!). Use canes, sticks, cages – anything your ingenuity can come up with – to support your crops. Be particularly sure to check this when heavy rain or strong winds are forecast.

Fruiting crops like tomatoes need good support as the fruit develops.

2. Tidying up, cutting back.

As your fruiting crops grow large, you can remove some of the leaves without harming the plant. (As a general rule of thumb don’t remove more than a third of the leaves in one go). You can do this to expose tomatoes to the sun to ripen, to take off leaves that are shading over crops, or simply to remove old, withered leaves. This job is best done on a dry day to minimise the risk of disease.

Pinch out flowering shoots of salads. Unless you are planning to save some seeds (which is fun to do), pinching out the flowers of salad crops (don’t forget that most are edible, too), can help encourage them to grow more leaves. But if your salads get tough and bitter, the best thing is to start again :)

This courgette has powdery mildew. Its not immediately fatal but it will lower the yields and life span of the plant. Removing infected leaves as soon as you spot them can help reduce the spread of this fungus.

3. Feeding and watering

See July notes.

4. Picking

As a general rule of thumb, the more you pick the more you get. This is particularly true for runner beans (pick them small to encourage more to grow) and courgettes (zucchini).

Picking cherry tomatoes – grown on top of the wall to make sure they get enough sun!

5. Sowing crops for winter

If your climate is warm enough, (most of the UK is, for example), do consider growing stuff over winter because:

  • Pots full of winter veg simply look so much better than bare pots.
  • Winter crops will help prevent nutrients leaching out of your soil.
  • And of course, it’s incredibly rewarding to be able to pop outside in winter and pick a salad – and winter grown leaves often taste better, too!

Here are some ideas of what grows well in winter and when to sow it.

8 comments… add one

  • Hi Mark, It,s like you live in my garden, you know what I need and when. I was pottering today picking strawberries and rhubarb (yes they are still fruiting really well). Clearing out tubs that are over and scrubbing them out and feeling sorry that it wouldn’t be long and I would have to start paying money for salads fruit and veg and there you were with suggestions after a plough through all the myriad of free seeds from family, friends and my favorite garden mag I have nearly all the seeds you suggested so tomorrow I start sowing again thanks Mark for keeping me fed with healthy food during the Winter. Hope your holiday was fab. Did you get any interesting photos of container gardening in France can you share them with us. Love and good growing to everyone who strives and to those of us who potter.

    Reply
  • Hi. Apart from my tomatoes everything is harvested now and was wondering if it is okay to re use the compost I have in the pots. I bought bags of the stuff this year. I even wondered if I bought a composter and put it in there. Would be grateful of any advice.

    Reply
    • My practice has been to take the top third of my planter soil out of pots each year and replace that with new compost i.e worm castings, sheep manure, fish or forest compost. etc. Mix it in well and then let it mellow until you are ready to plant in that container. I am a big believer in prepping soil early and then letting it sit for a while to encourage microbial action.

      Tomatoes are heavy feeders and their container soil needs to be replenished each season. What do I do with the soil that I have removed? I renew it as well by adding compost and then I let it mellow in a bucket or soil bag that I have saved for a few months to regenerate. Come spring I will reuse it in another planter for other veggies.

      I grow on a roof and during the winter I cover all of my containers so they are not water logged by spring and the top soil has not dried and blown away by the wind.

      You might find this article of some interest. I have not used this particular soil formula yet. I use another but I like her soil prep method and the ingredients she recommends.
      http://www.finegardening.com/how-grow-tomatoes-containers

      As for putting your soil into a compost bin I would not. Collect the fallen leaves your neighbours bag in the fall, chop them up. Then walk to your closest coffee shop and ask them for a bag of spent coffee grinds. Then mix both of those ingredients together and let them mellow. You will have the best compost in your neighbourhood. Spent coffee grinds are nearly 100% nitrogen and leaf mould becomes black goal for your garden. Google it on YouTube.

      Mike McGrath Everything You Know about Composting is Wrong:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9OhxKlrWwc

      Coffee Grounds: How and why we use them in our garden
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uA5K5r_VXLs

      Reply
  • I’ve been having a go with Summer Ball pumpkin/courgettes this year. They’ve produced lots of flowers and a lot of very small fruit (about ping-pong ball size) but they seem to either rot or get eaten before growing any larger! The weather being so soggy isn’t exactly helping. Any tips?

    Reply
    • Google (YouTube) hand pollination for your courgettes and pumpkins. I hand pollinated my courgettes all summer and it definitely increased my yield.

      Also research terminating the vines on pumpkins, melons etc as that will help the plant concentrate its ripening energies.

      Reply
  • Well here in Chatt Tn we have had a crazy amount of rain. My Cucumbers turned yellow the Tomatoes were rotting and splitting before they had a chance to get to a decent size. I planted a second round of Cucumbers only to have another round of rain. My Zucchini never produced anything I was told that they were probably not getting pollinated. I am going to try another round of both since we are heading back to the high 80’s the rain is still on a daily basis but I’m gonna try anyway. I found I have a critter that likes peppers and tomatoes. Other then the bugs I have enjoyed gardening and learning. Can you give any tips on Rosemary from seeds I can’t even get the first twig.I have started them indoors and out. I also bought 3 Basil plants and the leaves never got big beautiful they have been outside the whole time. Thank you

    Reply
    • Hi Brenda
      Nice to hear how you are enjoying your growing and learning.
      Rosemary is a tricky plant to start from seed. I did try and grow it from seed once many years ago – but I had no success. I then learnt that it is much easier to grow from a cutting, and that’s what I always do now. If you still haven’t had success with your seeds I’d recommend either trying a cutting or buying a plant which you can let grow and then take cuttings from in the future.
      Apologies for this long overdue reply.
      Happy growing
      Mark

      Reply
      • Thanks I didn’t attempt rosemary this year and I moved from the back area to the front deck (less bugs) 6 tomatoes plants all different, 3 basil, 1dill, 3 bell peppers (yell/red/orange). All the tomatoes plants grew so much and not hardly any flowers I’ve gotten 2 tomatoes and 1 yell pepper. So I went and threw some seeds of flowers and more herbs in with the tom, added dill to dill since it had died. I now have 3 toms growing on the other plants. I’ll keep trying but it’s hard to put so much time, money and effort into this and nothing. I’m fixin to plant lettuce for the fall so wish me luck. Thanks

        Reply

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