August in the Vegie Patch

August is the month of anticipation for food gardeners. It’s like the excitement you get before the race, or the shift, or the baby. There is joy as you prepare and plan and look forward to. In part, the joy derives from the fact that there is no work involved at this stage – in your imagination you are free to do whatever it is you’re preparing for with grace and wisdom.

Right now my spring gardens are unfurling in my minds eye while I curl up in the couch on the deck with a hot chocolate. While garden dreaming sounds decadent and lazy – it’s a big help come the day. Mulling over varieties, planning clever planting combinations, to direct sow or tray sow and when…. Over the years as my energy levels for physical work have lessened, I’ve spent more time thinking, and its time well spent. More thought = less work (or rather the work you do being more focussed). I hesitate to say energy efficient as I’m a bit bored with that phrase, but dammit that’s the phrase that fits. In view of this, here’s a space saving garden tip from a not so energetic gardener.

Climbing beans, flowers and saladings

Climbing beans, flowers and saladings

Intercropping

Intercropping saves space. Saving space means less beds which in turn is less work. It’s the art of planting faster growing vegies amongst slower growers as a way to make really good use of your garden beds. Your soil does of course need to be in top nick to keep up.

A combination I use all the time is saladings and carrots. They both grow really well together, and the salads sprout first keeping the slow to germinate carrots moist and safe from birds. Harvest the salads before they cramp the carrots style. Marvellous arrangement. Radishes are another vege advertised for this use. While they grow really well with carrots there is only so much radish eating one can do.

Intercropping cucumbers and sweetpeas

Intercropping cucumbers and sweetpeas

Use companion flowers and green manures for intercropping as well, those all important sidekicks that make your garden a success. If you have a good sense of timing you’ll find yourself coming up with great combos. For example 3 or 4  weeks before garlic harvest use the space between rows to sow carrots which will be emerging as the garlic is harvested. As broadbeans or peas finish up plant out your tomatoes or potatoes – the legumes provide nitrogen and will protect your tomatoes/ potatoes whilst young as well as providing mulch when you eventually cut them down.

Useful fast growers are bok choy, beetroot, coriander, rocket, mesclun, lettuce, dill, bush beans, radish. Sow them amongst slower growing crops that share the same needs.

Intercropping blurs into companion planting when you grow two or more crops together that share a mutually beneficial relationship. Sweetpeas and cucumbers will happily share a trellis – the sweetpeas fixing nitrogen for the cucumbers and keeping the base of the cucumbers protected; the classic three sisters of South America – corn, beans and pumpkins – corn is the bean pole, the bean fixes nitrogen and the pumpkin the groundcover; celery and strawberries are another winner and so on.

Patience

Patience is required at this time of the year dear gardener, everything hinges on the soil being warm. If this month is cold and wet then do some garden dreaming instead – your time will be better served. The addition of compost and lime is also dependent on warmth – cold soils won’t incorporate the goodness. Cloches are fab for this – get them up to give everything a head start.  Once your soil hits 10 degrees then add compost and lime as required and get sowing or planting.

Planting now

Direct sow

poppy and cornflower

Poppy and cornflower

Peas, sweet peas, broadbeans, coriander, radish, corn salad, mesclun, rocket

Plant out

Broccoli, kale, bok choy, onions, parsley, asparagus, lettuces

Start early potatoes (jersey benne fans at the ready!) sprouting by standing them in egg cartons in a warm room. In about a month they will have sprouts and be ready to plant out. Potatoes are frost tender so choose your site carefully at this time of year.

Scatter spring flowers around and about – poppies, larkspur, cornflowers, calendula and hollyhocks to name a few.

In the Greenhouse

August means spring cleaning in the greenhouse. Two things need a scrub – the seedling trays, and the greenhouse itself. Hygiene is important in the organic garden, not often thought to be so. Get rid of spores and bacterias and prevent a multitude of problems.

The soil in the greenhouse has been growing a cleansing crop of mustard through the winter – I’ll cut this down mid way through august then get my beds prepared, ready to plant into once the soils has warmed to 15 degrees.


Can you believe its time to be thinking of planting inside tomatoes!

From seed to transplant is about 6 weeks for tomatoes. If you have a heatpad or want to make a hotbox you can tray sow seeds of capsicums, eggplants and tomatoes. These young seedlings need consistent warmth to thrive and even though the greenhouse is starting to get warm in the day time its still dropping to cold temperatures at night. Heat lovers like capsicum won’t be impressed.