The National Allotment Society - National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners Ltd

Harvest season has begun.

The seasons change dramatically during August. Summer is slowly making way for autumn and this can be witnessed in the garden. You can sense that there is a change in the air. The nights start to become cooler; in some areas the first local frost can be expected. By the end of the month it starts to become dark by nine o’clock which will affect the quality of some crops. But just as important it means that there is less time to complete jobs on the allotment.

The harvesting season really begins to move into overdrive during this month. Keep a close eye on the weather trying to lift or pick crops whilst they are still in the best of condition. With warm days and cool nights we can expect to experience very heavy dews at this late time of the summer. These conditions create the perfect breeding ground for fungal diseases such as downy mildew.

You will need good drying weather to prepare the onions for long term storage. It may be necessary to clear a space in the greenhouse to lay them out so they can naturally dry their foliage and skins. Any potatoes that are required for storing are best lifted whilst the soil is relatively light and dry. The potato tubers are best left on the surface of the soil to dry for a couple of hours before bagging them up. This allows the skins of the potatoes to harden which improves their keeping qualities. Runner and French beans will be at their best during August appreciating the cooler growing conditions. Pick them for freezing whilst they are still young, succulent and full of flavour. Don’t wait until the end of the growing season towards the end next month before picking beans that are losing their table qualities.

August is the month to stop using high nitrogen fertilisers. This will only encourage the development of soft tissue that will be vulnerable to disease. You can feed regularly with tomato fertiliser that has a high potash content but is ‘sunshine in a bottle’ to plants. It helps to ripen immature growth which is important for the fruit and vegetables that are intended for storing and using during the winter months ahead. It also has the added benefit of improving the flavour of crops.

Give the autumn and over winter crops a dressing of general fertiliser such as pelleted chicken manure which will slowly release their nutrients over the coming months. They won’t need any extra feeding until next February or March. I like to water everything with liquid seaweed. It boosts plants immune system. Setting them up for the winter ahead.

If you want to use clover as a green manure the seed needs warm soil to germinate. Sow it now and until the end of September as the soil is cleared of crops.

More useful tips for August can be found by clicking here.