August has crept up on me quietly like the nights that keep getting darker and longer. Unlike spring that tends to arrive with a dramatic increase in light and the fanfare of returning birds, autumn arrives by stealth. Towards the end of the month the birds begin emigrating south again, and there is a rush of noise when they call out to their flock to fall in line and form ploughs, but for most of the month there is a silent lushness softly hugging me as I tend the gardens.
The first half of the summer was intensely dry with hardly any rain, and then towards the middle of July when the rains came it didn't stop. Consequently the plants in the vegetable garden suddenly started to grow like crazy. Hot and humid weather interspersed with tons of water created ideal conditions, and within a few weeks everything had doubled in size. Not only the vegetables, but also the weeds! I was busy with other projects, and by the time I got ready to tend to the weeding it was like finding my way through a jungle. I encourage marigolds to go wild and fill in gaps as they are excellent companion plants, but there is a limit where there is too much of a good thing. I weeded the paths, I weeded between the vegetables, and then after weeding the same patch twice I decided to just give up. Let it be wild this year, I thought, perhaps next year it will be perfectly curated.
So, instead of being irritated by the lack of perfection I concentrate on delighting in the successes. This year the cabbages are amazing!! I kept them under a fleece cover for the longest time, and consequently - for once! - the cabbage white butterflies didn't manage to wreak havoc. There is a theory in alternative gardening that a certain amount of weeds are good in the vegetable bed because they confuse the pests, and I can't help but wonder if there is some truth to this? In conventional gardening the weeds are competing with the vegetables for nutrition and water, but it feels like the soil is finally so fertile that this isn't a problem during a rainy summer like this. I have heaped compost and mulch over the vegetable beds for so many years, that it seems they are finally quite healthy and fertile.
For the rest of the month I try to not get side-tracked with other projects, and instead concentrate on harvesting. The onions and the hops are already picked and drying, but there is so much more to do. Having said that, I have become much better over the years in harvesting a little every few days, and so we have actually eaten a lot of what the garden has produced. Still, there are the potatoes, beetroots and carrots to store for winter in the cold cellar and a lot of broad beans to process and freeze. With that I wish you a happy end of month!