Consider this your end-of-winter gardening guide! Here’s what to harvest, plant and sow in the garden during the month of August
What to harvest in the garden in August
– Brussels sprouts should be picked when young, from the bottom of the stem upwards as the lower sprouts ripen first and harvesting them will encourage the remaining sprouts to develop. Pinching out the top leaves 6-8 weeks prior to harvest ensures better crops.
– Harvest broccoli when heads are green before flower buds open to avoid loss of flavour and chance of mould developing. Removing heads also encourages plants to produce more lower down.
– Pick silverbeet leaves regularly to encourage more to develop, ideally before they get too big as the flavour can be too strong for some tastes the older they get. Remove stems that flower or the plants will stop producing leaves, and always leave a few leaves on your silverbeet so it can photosynthesise.
What to sow in the garden in August
– Keen for nutritious greens but tight on outdoor space to grow them? Microgreens are the perfect solution. Bigger than sprouts but smaller than baby salad leaves and packed with vitamins, you can grow them on a sunny window sill or balcony in trays or pots.
– Brussels sprouts are enjoying a renaissance with lots of delicious recipes around for these once much maligned veges. You’ll need to sow seed soon if you live in warmer regions as they take 16-20 weeks to mature, and they do better if they mature in the cooler months. Sow in trays for planting out when seedlings are about 7cm tall. For something a little different try the purple variety ‘Red Ribs’ from kingsseeds.co.nz
– It may seem crazy to start sowing seed for summer vegetables now but many need a long period of heat to crop well. Unless you live in an area with long summers you therefore need to plant well-established seedlings into the garden by mid spring. If you have a warm, sheltered spot such as a cold frame, greenhouse or even just a sunny window sill, try sowing seed of eggplant, tomato, capsicum, chilli, courgette, beans, okra and other heat-loving veges in trays or pots now. Cover if necessary with glass or plastic to keep heat in and cold out.
– For tasty winter salads keep sowing seed of hardy greens like chicory, mizuna, rocket, mibuna and orach. Many are sold together in mesclun mixes that are harvested when leaves are young, which means they don’t take up much room in the garden. Another good option for space-poor gardeners.
– Sow or plant broccoli, cabbage, celery, silverbeet, peas and onions into the garden in sheltered places. Play it safe and use seed trays if you live in a frost-prone area.
What to plant in the garden in August
– Early potatoes can be planted out now. Seed potatoes need to be well sprouted so you may need to ‘chit’ them (encourage them to sprout) by putting them into an old egg carton or similar and leaving them on a sunny window ledge for a week or two.
– Divide artichoke plants and replant into rich, fertile soil with plenty of space between them.
– When planting silverbeet and spinach choose varieties that suit your local climate and the time of year. Space plants well, keep well weeded as they hate being crowded, and protect young plants from severe frosts.
– Add some colour to your winter vege garden by planting giant red mustard with its distinctive green and burgundy leaves. Use the leaves fresh in salads when small, or steamed or baked as they mature. Frost-hardy mustard likes full sun and well-drained, fertile soil. Pick off flower heads so plants will keep producing leaves or allow them to set seed and produce new plants.
Words by: Carol Bucknell. Photography by: Cath Muscat.