August: Monthly Review

The south end of Potager Exterior Border is still colorful!

August can be summed up in 3 words…”HOT, DRY, Bountiful!” Only a lot of hose dragging enabled the last word to be included. Despite efforts to keep things watered, some plants just gave up the struggle. The only saving grace has been dew-filled mornings that has kept the grass green, at least mostly. The flower borders have suffered most, because my efforts always went to the potager first.

Potager from the east corner.

Things to notice in the above photo are the number of trellises that are now empty. Many of the melons and the Parisian cucumbers have finished. The sweet peas on the far north trellis also gave up, so seed was harvested and the vines pulled. On a happier note, the French Horticultural beans have completely covered their pea fence, and the extensions to make it another 3′ taller. Last year’s initial planting taught me that they need a taller fence. I think next year, they might get one or two of the path trellises, because with the winds we get here, I had to add extra wires clamped to the bed edges to keep them upright! You can also seem some “bare” spots in the beds, but they aren’t really bare. LOTS of seeding went on in August, and although some rows had to be reseeded due to spotty germination, all those spaces contain new, baby crops for fall. I’m not sure if the poor germination was the result of just not being able to keep the soil evenly moist, or my poor decision to keep the seeds in the Lady Cottage rather than in the air conditioned house during these record hot days. Also, I was trying to use up the oldest of the seeds, so it could just be a combination of all three. The result may be that there may be fewer crops maturing before frost. Only time will tell.

Potager overview from the west corner.

Boy, the strawberries look brown! I bet they’d appreciate some water! The squashes and pumpkin vine are really going strong at this point, although these are begging for water, too.

Vigilance on removing squash bug eggs may be paying off. The initial planting of “Orange Magic” squash did succumb to borers, but surprisingly 8.5 lbs. of squash were harvested when the vines were pulled (and the borers destroyed!) I doubt they will store for long, so they’ll be roasted soon (the squash, not the borers!)_ The red cabbages are looking good, and nearly all of the green cabbages have been harvested, and the areas replanted.

The last planting of “Wando” peas are climbing the fence nicely.

All in all, considering the weather, the fall crops are coming along well. There aren’t many parsnips, but those that were planted are doing very nicely. The last plantings of carrots and beets are looking very good, as are the lettuces. The spinach plantings did not appreciate the heat, despite being shaded, so I’ll just wait a bit and try again.

These “Strike” beans germinated unevenly, so the gaps were replanted, and new seedlings are emerging already.
“French Baby” leeks are getting some lovely, thick stalks!

The August numbers for 2020 were amazing, considering the goal was not for increased production, but for more variety. However, the tomatoes, peppers, squash, and melons loved the heat! August in 2017 (the first year records were kept) harvest total was 181 lbs.; 2018 yielded 177.75 lbs.; 2019 was a bit better at 187.5 lbs. So, you can imagine my surprise to harvest 396 lbs. of produce from my little potager. I actually added the numbers twice to make sure there was no error! And that doesn’t include the herbs that were harvested to refill the herb pantry jars (an upcoming post.)

Fifty-five packages/jars of food were preserved this month, which is much less than last year, but I am keeping to my vow of not canning any beans this year,and no preserving food (like tomato chutney or piccallili) that we don’t really eat just to keep food from being wasted. This year, I’m giving lots more away to friends and neighbors who can no longer garden, so more people can benefit.

It is interesting to me to note that now that I utilize the polytunnel and greenhouse for earlier production, and am pushing the envelope on earlier spring planting dates in the potager beds, we are using much less stored food. Doing a better job of having a wide variety of food available all growing season, rather than gluts (when we really get tired of spinach or beans or squash) and scarcity (when there are no fresh beans and a jar must be opened) has really changed our frozen and canned food usage, so I need to preserve less. When our 2018 and 2019 beans are all gone, then I will can them again. In past years when I planted all the peas at once and froze most of them, we soon had to begin using frozen peas. Now with succession planting with numerous small crops, we have fresh peas for 10 weeks, and with the variety of other produce we have coming from the potager, we won’t use many frozen peas in summer. And later this month, the late “Wando” peas will be available fresh again. It means many fewer packages must be processed and stored. So, with extending the fresh harvest in mind a stronger effort at later summer and fall plantings is being made. To that end, the number of new varieties (not before planted this season) seeded in August was 11, bringing the total of varieties grown in the potager in 2020 to date to 121. In addition, six varieties that were planted in spring were recently seeded again, so the number of varieties planted in August totaled 18.

In order to stretch the fall growing season, more polytunnels will be needed, but with Covid still looming, no travel and no entertaining, I might as well use my time to do some building! Hope your August was productive, and that September is exceptionally good for you in all aspects. Stay safe, find happiness, create joy!

About carolee

A former professional herb and lavender grower, now just growing for joy in my new potager. When I'm not in the garden, I'm in the kitchen, writing, or traveling to great gardens.
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11 Responses to August: Monthly Review

  1. woollee1 says:

    I really appreciate your observations about growing and eating seasonally v preserving excess food. It is a different way of thinking.  Thank you! The diversity in the potager is something to be proud of, it must have strong healthy soil. Do you use any particular soil amendments?

    Lee Towle

    0414979801

    Liked by 2 people

    • carolee says:

      Mostly just my homemade compost, sometimes with bone meal or blood meal added, and lime for the garlic. I don’t have animals, so there’s no manure in my compost. Fish emulsion helps, but draws in the raccoons!

      Like

  2. Jo Shafer says:

    The two overviews of your potager still are charming to me, even with the bare areas. It’s the way it should look as various produce is harvested. I plan to harvest my herbs next week when the latest heat spell settles back down into the 80s, but I’m still hoping for late harvest squash. Our neighborhood orchard is selling its last of the late peaches, so yesterday we bought a box which yielded eight quart freezer bags for winter cobblers and sauces for roast pork dinners.

    Like

    • carolee says:

      I have lots of herbs yet to harvest, too. So far have done only basil, parsley, hyssop and oregano. Must to thyme because that jar is empty, and I want to do more tea herbs this year. Who knows with the virus all around the world if those tiny little tea leaves will be harvested this year in timely fashion, and I can’t live without tea, even if it’s only herbal! There were no local peaches this year due to the late freeze we had in May, and I haven’t been “out and about” to find any, but at least we did have some blackberries this year and still have peaches I canned last year.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jo Shafer says:

        Then we’re both well stocked for peach cobblers this winter! I’ve not been out and about, either, searching for blackberries, but I do have plenty of blueberries. Miss my Southern blackberry pies that my Grandmama used to bake.

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  3. Washe Koda says:

    You have a nice place there 🙂 😉

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  4. Your garden is so inspiring! It’s so interesting to me reading about growing food in different climates. We are already lighting our stove on chilly evenings to keep warm. The cooler weather hasn’t been great for our plants this August. What months do you use your polytunnel since it’s already so hot there? We’re planning to get one by next spring. I’m also impressed with all of the canning and freezing you’ve done. His generous of you to share with your neighbors! Lovely post and happy autumn to you. 🍂

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    • * Should read It’s generous… Also, I forgot to say that the succession planting makes lots of sense. That’s where we failed this year. I also admire the diversity of what you’ve planted.

      Liked by 1 person

    • carolee says:

      We are beginning to have some chilly evenings here as well, now that it’s September. I just made my polytunnel out of PVC piping and plastic and Duct tape! It fits over one of my 3′ x 6′ beds and has worked well for two years. But, now I’m going to make some that are a bit more elegant and can also (without the plastic) serve as berry cages over the strawberries during the summer to keep the raccoons out! I put the polytunnel over the spinach, etc. usually in late October, opening an end on hot days, and it stays there until late March or early April, when it gets moved to a bed with newly planted crops of lettuces, beets, etc. to hurry them along and protect them from frosts until they get established, then it moves to another bed to do the same! I’m planning on making 4, so it should make a big difference, and can also protect the berry bloom from a freak late May freeze like we had this year.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I too appreciated your comment about spreading the harvest and doing less preserving. Something I need to think about. Although I do like having jams and chutneys etc. I have just swapped my large chest freezer for an upright which looks a similar size but holds much less so I am going to have to be more selective about what goes in it!

    Liked by 1 person

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