Vegetable harvest, dried flowers & spring bedding
Amidst the late summer heat of August, the garden’s annual cycle of growth is fast reaching full maturity. In the vegetable garden there’s an abundance of crops with beans, sweet corn, courgettes, beetroot, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, aubergines and onions all ready for harvesting. As gaps appear in the beds they provide opportunities for fresh sowings and now is the time to sow beetroot for autumn cropping, 12 weeks before the first frosts. Remember though, to keep young seedlings watered to prevent them drying out in the summer heat.
In the cut flower garden the hot coloured blooms of dahlias, gladioli, sunflowers and zinnias are keeping our vases well stocked with cheerful displays. This year we’ve also grown a row of Xerochrysum bracteatum, an Australian native otherwise known as the everlasting or straw flower. Their brightly coloured petal-like bracts are stiff and papery, making them ideal for use as dried flowers in arrangements, other crafts projects or simply added to potpourri. It’s best to pick them whist partially open in the evening when they’re free of dew, as they’ll continue to open after picking. Then simply hang them upside down in rubber banded clusters of about a dozen in a cool, dry and shaded place with good air circulation until they’re ready for use in two to three weeks.
Besides keeping an eye on watering, it’s also important to keep dead heading blooms on bedding plants and perennials to ensure repeat flowering for as long as possible. You can be selective though, as leaving some seed heads in place can look attractive and allow plants to self-seed, besides providing food for birds. If there are particular plants you’re keen to propagate again next year then now is the time to collect ripened seed for storage. It’s also time for sowing next spring’s colourful biennials, such as sweet Williams and wallflowers, in a cool spot either in pots or directly in the ground. They should germinate in 10 days or so, ready for pricking or thinning out, before being planted in their flowering positions from September onwards.
With a glut of tomatoes it makes sense to enjoy them while they last. What better way than in a cooling tomato and cucumber Gazpacho soup.
Ingredients (makes 8 servings)
1kg very ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 cucumber, roughly chopped
1 red pepper, roughly chopped
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 small red onion diced
In a blender, whirl tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, olive oil, salt, and vinegar until smooth.
Chill in fridge for at least 1 hour.
Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish with red onion, if desired.