Late Summer Kitchen Gardening Jobs

Pruning

Gooseberries should have the pruning completed by the middle of late summer at the latest. All the raspberry canes which have carried this summer’s crops should be cut completely away, down to ground level; weak, short canes and those that are broken, misshapen or diseased should also be removed. The remaining shoots should be reduced to about five or six strong ones to each plant, retaining those nearest to the original row. Raspberries are prolific in their production of suckers, in all directions, and can become a nuisance if not strictly confined to the space assigned to them. Loganberries should also have their fruited shoots pruned off completely and all but four of the strongest new canes removed. As their canes are so long, it is easier to cut them in sections rather than attempt to drag away one complete — and possibly very prickly — length of stem.

If you have not already done it while picking, the fruited branches of blackcurrants can be cut oft, either to just above a strong new shoot, or down to ground level, if it is one of the oldest branches. Removal of some of the weakest of the new shoots at the same time will let in light and air to the remaining growth, so that it can ripen well.

Weeding and cleaning up

The soft fruit will take most of your attention on this front; as the plants, bushes and canes finish cropping, they should be restored to respectability after the neglect occurring during harvesting.

You can be quite ruthless with the strawberry bed, either removing all the foliage with a grass hook and then raking off all the debris, straw and weeds, or you can burn it over, if the weather is dry. The straw will catch well and produce enough heat to burn the remaining rubbish and burning-does away with disease spores, weed seeds in the surface soil and pests. The plants will sprout new leaves quickly and often produce a second flowering and fruiting, if the autumn is warm and cloches are put over them. After cleaning, fork up the paths and give a dressing of a potash-high fertilizer round the plants, watered in, followed by a mulch of organic matter.

All the currants, raspberries and loganberries should be freed of any weeds and debris and the soil very lightly forked to break up the hard surface that will have resulted from picker’s feet. Soft fruit is surface rooting, so must never be deeply dug. Then put on a potash-high fertilizer, water in and mulch, or straw several centimetres (inches) deep. Fairly heavy mulches of this kind are necessary to make sure of regular, heavy crops every year.

Staking, training and tying in

The new raspberry canes that remain after pruning should be tied individually to their supporting horizontal wires, so that they are separated evenly in the space available. The same should be done to the loganberries, taking the new shoots down from the centre, separating them, and training them in the fan method shown. Blackberries will be coming into full flower, and with these it is still only a case of tying in selected new shoots. Pruning will not be necessary until mid autumn.

Strawberries will still need de-runnering, a job which gets neglected in the press of picking; those which have been potted or rooted direct should be detached, ready for planting in a few weeks’ time.

Melons will slow down their growth this month and concentrate their energies on swelling their fruit, so it will only be a case of keeping them tidy and nipping back the occasional new growth. Any embryo fruits which form now should be taken off, to prevent competition with selected fruit. Cu-cumbers and marrows also will only need occasional attention; they are prolific croppers and this is their peak cropping period: their vegetative growth will have more or less finished.

If outdoor tomatoes have not already been stopped above the fourth flower truss, do this as soon as possible. Indoor tomatoes will have been stopped for some time, but you can remove one or two of the lowest leaves completely, cutting them off cleanly and flush with the main stem. This increases air circulation and prevents spread of fungus diseases such as leaf-mould.

Sprouting broccoli and Brussels sprouts will probably need another tie by now; secure supports at this time can make all the difference between good and bad crops next winter, especially with the early varieties of Brussels sprouts which crop from mid-autumn. Tie in vine growth, if necessary, as in early summer.

Feeding

Routine liquid feeding of the crops listed in mid-summer can continue, ie., globe artichoke, aubergine, French (kidney) bean, chicory, cucumber (indoor), endive, leek, lettuce, pepper and tomato. If parsley sown in mid-summer is a little slow to grow, a nitrogen-high liquid feed until autumn will give it the boost it needs. Similarly, indoor tomatoes will need more nitrogen now and less potash, to keep their vegetative growth going; leaves are the food factories of a plant and without them it cannot form good flowers and fruits. They may also need extra magnesium.

Watering

As the melon fruits cease to swell and begin to ripen, the amount of water given to them should be decreased until none is given. The leaves will begin to pale and turn yellow as a result, but the plants will be nearly at the ends of their lives and will no longer need water. Keep the runner beans, celeriac, celery, cucumbers, marrows and soft fruit all well watered still and do not forget the remainder of the vegetables, especially newly germinated seedlings, recently planted brassicas and the root crops.

Earthing up

Celery can be given its first earthing up, if planted late, or its second, about four weeks after the first.

Blanching

Curled endive can be blanched during late summer if sown in late spring; you should wait until it is fully grown before blanching, usually about twelve weeks after sowing.

Protecting

Any brassica crops should be well guarded against birds, whether newly planted, just sown or well established. Autumn-cropping raspberries and blackcurrants, perpetual-fruiting strawberries and blackberries, and swelling grapes, can be subject to bird damage; tomatoes are also attractive and birds will even have an exploratory peck at aubergines.

Compost heap

The first heap of the season may already have been partially used on the soft fruit; any that is not sufficiently well rotted can be added to the new heap, in a layer taking the place of any activator you may be using. The remains of plants, after harvesting has been completed, will make excellent compost material, provided it is not infected with diseases or infested with pests. If you suspect virus disease infection burn or otherwise destroy such plants. As there is no cure for viruses and they are easily spread, addition to the compost heap will only serve as a centre for further infection.

Treating pests and diseases

Red spider mite and whitefly can still be causing great trouble in the greenhouse, unless you have been keeping it well damped down and well ventilated. If there are some plants badly infected, it is best to pull them out and burn them; you will not lose much of the crop as it is near the end of the growing season and you may lose what crop there is on the other plants if you leave the unhealthy ones to grow. Whitefly can also be a plague outdoors, on cabbages and other brassicas; if you suspect the presence of one or two adults, treat the plants at once before the pests become an epidemic.

Greenfly should still be watched for on peppers; mildew can affect many crops and blight on potatoes and outdoor tomatoes can spread rapidly in late summer if wet and cool. As in mid-summer, caterpillars and maggots, grey mould (Botrytis cinerea) slugs, snails and birds are all likely to be around. Underground slugs can do a lot of damage to maincrop potatoes at this time and it may be more satisfactory to grow only second earlies.

Harvesting

Aubergine will probably be ready for cutting towards the end of the month; the purple-skinned kinds will be purple right from the time they first set and will be ready for picking when they have stopped increasing in size, are glossy and remain indented when pressed. Marrows are tastiest if cut when about 25cm (10in) long; they can be used as courgettes (zucchini) when they are much shorter.

The normal summer-fruiting kinds of blackcurrants and raspberries will finish cropping at the beginning of late summer, if they have not already done so, but towards the end of this season in good warm weather, the autumn-fruiting kinds will start to ripen.

Onions will be ready for lifting some time this month; do this on a dry day if possible, clean the soil off them and leave them to dry in single layers on wire netting trays or hanging on a frame The second early, and the first of the maincrop potatoes can come up also; spread them out in the sun for an hour or two and then store.

where onions have finished growing and are ready to be harvested, they need to be dried in the sun for a few hours. Hanging them in lines allows the wind to help this process.

Sweetcorn is another possible crop for harvesting in late summer. The cobs will be ready when the ‘silks’ are brown and moist, but not dry and shrivelled, about three weeks after they have appeared. The ripe kernels will produce a creamy white liquid when pierced, but a watery liquid or virtually none at all shows under- and over-ripeness.

More on the kitchen garden in late summer …

29. August 2011 by admin
Categories: Kitchen Garden, Organics | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Late Summer Kitchen Gardening Jobs

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