August: Monthly review

August potager

Yet another month just flew by! Overall, August was hot and dry, very dry so much of the time was spent watering. As I look at this photo, I am reminded of all the days with gorgeous blue skies. I see all the dead ash trees in the woods that border the creek that runs on the north side of our property. I see that the Lady Cottage needs a fresh coat of stain or paint, still undecided which it will be. I see the berry box on the left that is a bit canted and needs straightening. I see bare soil where seeds refused to germinate despite multiple re-plantings. I see empty trellises where melons used to be. But, I also see healthy pumpkin and squash vines climbing out of their boxes and over their fences and although the tomato vines are beginning to look a bit tired, there is still pounds and pounds of good eating within the potager’s beds.

Can you spot the butterfly…or is it a moth?

What one can’t see in the photograph is that the potager is also home to lots of pollinators. The white blossoms of the garlic chives are covered with bees, butterflies and a big variety of beneficial wasps all day long. The melon, squash, cucumber and pumpkin vines have an insect of some sort in every flower. The rows of blooming beans are swarming with bees. The potager is a busy, busy place. Twenty-one varieties of vegetables were planted in August, although a high percentage of them never germinated. Not sure if I let the seeds get too hot in the Lady Cottage, the seeds cooked in the 106 degree soil temps, or the seeds were too old. I intentionally used up some old seed, but some of it was new. And it could be that some of the crops just won’t germinate when it’s this hot, but they will do fine once it’s a bit cooler (turnips, spinach, lettuce.) The most disappointing were the “Wando” peas, which are usually a great success, but won’t be this year. Ah well, the freezer is full of peas already so maybe it’s just as well…(sigh!)

Sweet pea seed pods drying in my antique wooden bowl

In addition to harvesting the vegetables and flowers, it’s that time of year when planning for next year’s bounty and beauty begins as well. Seed collecting is an important part of the gardener’s plan throughout the season, but it seems to take a higher priority as the air begins to chill and the days of growing are coming to an end. Refilling the herb jars in the pantry also is more important. The nights will soon be too cool, and the basil leaves will brown in response so they need to be cut and dried now. Speaking of cut…

The Cutting garden mid-August

The Cutting Garden has been a joy, providing at least two give-away bouquets a week, plus a bouquet for the house but I can see lots of room for improvement. Thus, this week, all the black-eyed Susan plants were pulled. They generally look good from a distance, but up-close for a bouquet there is only a very short window of usage before the center flower withers. If I really want some, I can cut from the edge of the woods. So next year, that space will go to other more useful plants (zinnias, celosia, asters.) I’m already working on seed orders and lists, not only for the Cutting Garden, but for the potager as well. More about that in future posts.

August was a bountiful month production-wise, despite the lack of rain. Total pounds of food produced for the month was 574.75!!!! In 2019 it was a mere 187.5, in 2020 it was 396. The biggest factor was melons…lots of lots of luscious melons (5 varieties) and tomatoes. The summer squash also kept going throughout August, which was a rare occurrence. They usually succumb to borers, and some did, but some are still producing pounds of beautiful squashes (I’m looking fondly at you, Bossa Nova and Sunburst!) The beets have also done well; the beans, not so much due to an invasion of beetles.

Preserving wise, 122 cans or packages were canned or frozen this month: 3 batches of pickled beets, several canners of tomato juice or diced tomatoes, elder and blackberry jellies, ketchup, pepper strips, sweet and Bread & Butter pickles. However, the bulk of the produce was actually given away!

The Front Garden got a re-do in August.

Giving the Front Garden a bit of a make-over was a major coup for the month. A new layer of mulch after a good watering really helped the plants through the dry days, although the new shrubs have required some additional watering. I’m eager to see what makes it through the winter and reappears next spring.

The Deck Garden didn’t seem to mind the heat!

I’ve been really happy with parts of the Deck Garden all summer. The “Blue Bedder” salvia in the foreground has rivaled the feeder for attention from the hummers (who have a nest in the nearby elder.) As long as the marigolds were deadheaded, they’ve been happy to keep going. A couple spots will need some work this fall, probably as I plant bulbs. There are some very old daylilies that haven’t been divided in 15 years and really need it, and a couple of volunteer (bird-planted) mulberry trees that are trying to becoming permanent, plus a couple of squirrel-planted walnuts that must be dug out (when the ground isn’t so hard!) It also needs a layer of mulch, since it hasn’t received any this year!

So, August is passed and it was a good month despite the heat and lack of rain, until the weekend, when we finally got 2 1/4″. How I celebrated!!! Now it’s September, and my mind is turning more to plans for next year. What will be grown again? What will be dropped? What changes will be wrought? What new crops will be added? What sounds fun to try? Lots to think about as I pull the weeds the rain brought up and plot where bulbs will go! I hope your August was filled with blessings and all good things!

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. bcparkison says:

    My pitiful garden looks more pitiful against your fading but grand garden. Maybe next year will be different. I have had a time trying to sprout seeds. In fact most never did. Right now it is lemon seeds not doing their thing. There is something terribly wrong here. I’m sure it’s me but not sure why. Maybe the garden angels are telling me my time is over…surely not.

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  2. swesely says:

    Non-sprouting seeds seems to be a common theme this year. I am going to guess that it’s the heat/drought combination, especially right after sowing. You are inspiring me to try some melons next year.

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    • carolee says:

      I think it’s a combination of heat/drought, cold water from the hose rather than rain, and just possibly the seed companies sending out some older seed due to really short supplies over the past couple of years. That’s one reason I’m saving more of my own seeds, and will be reducing the number of varieties in the potager next year to make that possible.

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  3. Lauren says:

    Beautiful! I’ve had an astronomically bad tomato harvest this year… I’ll live vicariously through yours, if I may!

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  4. Going Batty in Wales says:

    I, and lots of others, have had trouble getting things to germinate this year too. I sowed main crop peas twice and not one emerged! Several have found courgettes not fruiting well too. Like you, I am trying to save my own seed wherever possible – I hear that the weird weather patterns may mean shortages of seed next spring.

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    • carolee says:

      My fall garden crops are pitiful with the really, really poor germination, but I’ve decided to just forget about it. The harvest numbers for later on will be poor, but actually who really cares? We have plenty to eat and maybe the soil can use a rest as much as I can! HA!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Going Batty in Wales says:

        No use worrying about it that’s for sure! Less to pamper, pick and preserve but as long as you don’t starve all is well. And as someone reminded me once, there is always next year!

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  5. Your garden looks beautiful! I love the name potager, we don’t use that here and I had to look it up, the closest we have is kitchen garden which is really only attributed to those of grand houses. My potager is a few herb pots on the patio but still of value 🙂

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    • carolee says:

      I chose to call it a potager, a French term for a food garden, because I try to follow the French principles of potager gardening. Basically, that is to grow as much food as possible in a small space, stretching the seasons with multiple succession sowings rather than planting lots of one thing at one time so there is a variety of food available for each day’s meals for as much of the year as weather allows, but making it a space of beauty that includes herbs and flowers as well as food. I fell in love with the potagers tucked here and there in France, and although mine is a bit more formal with raised beds (to help my back issues) and lacks fruit trees (which draw in raccoons in our area!) it pretty much follows that ideal.

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