In the Garden: Harvest time for fruit and vegetables

What needs to be done in the garden at this time of year? Olive Ryan tells us more
In the Garden: Harvest time for fruit and vegetables

Apples are looking good this year, but be vigilant from now for wasp damage.

WE are all breathing a sigh of relief with the drop in temperatures over the last few weeks, and the plants are too.

Some welcome rainfall has helped to reduce stress on the garden, as some plants struggled to survive the high temperatures and drought conditions at the beginning of August.

These weather conditions bring to the fore drought-tolerant plants and we all have noticed what plants did well in these extreme conditions and managed without being watered.

Herbaceous geraniums have done well, with their foliage sprawling out and covering the ground well and reducing evaporation. It is always best to have soil covered as bare soil will dry out more quickly.

There has been plenty of pruning needed of herbaceous plants during August, but until the rain arrived there was little point in doing it as it would just expose soil and burn up the plant.

The merits of mulching with organic matter start to be realised during dry weather as the organic matter provides a reserve of humus and a soil can retain moisture more readily. The additional mulch of the foliage of ground cover plant material will also help to slow the drying out of the soil.

The hot, dry weather has started to hasten the arrival of autumn, with many trees dropping some leaves to help them cope with the lack of water. 

If you notice this, particularly on young trees and shrubs that are just getting established, do give them a good soaking a few times per week to help alleviate the stress.

The vegetable garden is in full production right now with plenty to be harvested. Main crop potatoes, French beans, runner beans, peas, mange toute, lettuce, beetroot, carrots, swedes, sweetcorn, tomatoes, cucumber, courgettes, and aubergines are all producing well and it is time to get pickling and preserving to deal with the glut of produce coming from the garden.

This will provide for the lean winter months when a jar of tomato sauce can be produced from the cupboard to reveal a taste of the summer. The lids of the jars should be concave, this will confirm that they are vacuum-sealed, and if they are not then they should be used within two weeks of preparation.

It has been a good summer for fruit with the dry and sunny weather facilitating ripening of soft and top fruit. 

Wasps are very active right now and doing a lot of damage to apples and pears, so be vigilant and get that harvest in before it is too late.

Wasps are valuable predators of aphids and caterpillars in the garden earlier in the year, feeding them to the larvae in the nest. When August arrives there are no larvae being raised, and the larvae that normally help feed the adults by converting their protein-rich diet of aphids aphids and caterpillars to carbohydrates, which are secreted as sugary droplets, no longer exist.

The adult wasps are now starving and have to find their own sugar source, which explains why they pester outdoor eaters and drinkers so much at this time of the year!

It’s time now to consider where to sow green manures in the vegetable garden as crops are being removed from the soil. A green manure such as clover, phacelia, rye grass or mustard sown in the next few weeks will cover the soil for the winter and the foliage can be cut down in the spring and incorporated into the soil before cropping begins next year.

Best to remove any perennial weeds such as dockroots and dandelions before sowing as this will result in a cleaner bed next spring.

Lots of plants are starting to go to seed right now so be ready with a brown paper bag, secateurs and pen to gather the favourites from this year to create next year’s display. Annuals and perennials are particularly rewarding to collect as results can be seen quickly, with flower displays the following year in many cases.

Once plants do start setting seed, then flowering slows down as the energy of the plant goes into seed formation rather than new flower formation.

Charlie McAdoo (3) at the launch of the Totally Terrific Tomato Festival at Airfield Estate this August. 
Charlie McAdoo (3) at the launch of the Totally Terrific Tomato Festival at Airfield Estate this August. 

Tomato festival time!

The Totally Terrific Tomato Festival is happening this weekend at the Airfield Estate in Dublin.

It will be showcasing more than 100 different tomato varieties, with workshops on how to save your own seeds, tips on growing tomatoes and information about tomato trials.

There will be tomato taste trials and competitions for the ‘ugliest’ tomato!

This is the 10th year of the festival and it promises to be a great weekend after a two year sabbatical because of Covid.

There are more than 60 growers involved in the festival and a great community spirit behind it. It is also a great opportunity to visit the impressive Airfield Gardens in Dundrum, Co. Dublin, where there are always some great planting combinations to be admired.

Dahlia 'Tsuki Yori No Shisha'.
Dahlia 'Tsuki Yori No Shisha'.

Plant of the Week

Dahlias are a great late summer flowering plant - great as cut flowers and coming in a range of funky colours and shapes.

There are many different types of dahlia flowers - cactus, pompom, anemone, single - and they all have their own merits.

Dahlia ‘Tsuki Yori No Shisha’ (there is a mouthful!) is a semi cactus dahlia with beautiful fringed snow white flowers that are simply show-stoppers getting to 20cm in diamater.

As with most dahlias, this plant will do best in full sun, grown in a free-draining, moisture-retentive soil. It can get to about a metre in height with a similar spread.

Do watch our for slugs as the young foliage emerges in late spring, as they love the dine out on the fresh new leaves.

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