August arrives with a spell of cooler weather, some much needed rain and a bounty of herby delights.
As summer continues, so does the harvest season, with plenty of choices of what to harvest. From sage and oregano, to marshmallow and chamomile, herbs are growing fast this time of the year.
Basil, a particularly summery herb, is at its peak. Keep harvesting the tips to encourage the plant to bush out and produce more leaves. A lot of the mints, like peppermint, spearmint, and all their different cultivars, are now flowering. If you're growing different varieties and don't want them to hybridise, keep snipping the flowering stems before they mature into seeds.
There is also much to be found in the wild, including yarrow, meadowsweet, ground ivy, mugwort and elderberries.
Use the heat and energy from all the sunshine we've been having to make a sun-infused tea. Fill a bottle with water, add herbs and put it out in the sun to infuse for a few hours. The result is a lovely mild infusion that is just perfect at the end of a hot day.
For an extra-refreshing drink, go for ice-tea. It can be made either by brewing tea as you normally would, leaving it to cool and then refrigerating, or by making a really strong brew and adding lots of ice. Either way, it's a lovely way to keep hydrated and cool.
If you want to go another step further, brew a strong pot of tea, pour it into ice lolly moulds, freeze for a few hours and voila, herbal ice lollies are on the menu. Mixing herbs like liquorice, sweet cicely and fennel into the brew will add natural sweetness, making these herbal delights feel even more like a treat.
IN THE GARDEN
August is a great time to take semi-ripe cuttings, which is an excellent way to start or expand your herb collection - easy, efficient and inexpensive! Cuttings taken this time of the year work well for a lot of the plants in our herb garden - particularly herbaceous plants like mint and oregano, evergreens like rosemary and sage, shrubs like rose and honeysuckle, and even evergreen trees like bay.
It goes without saying that with all this heat, and almost no rain in the past couple of months, most garden plants need our help to stay hydrated, so don't forget to water well. Remove dried or fading leaves to help invigorate plants and watch out for any signs of pests and diseases.
Seeds have already started ripening, so if you have let any of your flowering plants mature in order to save seed, keep an eye on the seed heads. You want to collect them once they are fully mature and no longer green, but before the seeds naturally drop to the ground. Some of the seeds we’ve been collecting or are currently watching include poppies, calendula, coriander, mullein and hollyhock.
Trim Lavender plants after they've finished flowering for the first time to encourage a second flush of blooms. Cut the stems to 1 to 3 inches below the flowers, but be careful not to cut into old wood, as it might not grow back.
Now is a good time to sow biennial herbs like parsley. Or, why not try one of the less common plants in the same family, like chervil and caraway? Violas, poppies, and calendulas can also be sown now to overwinter and provide earlier flowers next Spring. If you're looking for herbs you can start now and still get a crop this season, go for fast growing plants like dill and coriander.
Summer this year has been like no other with continual 27 degrees C+ days and very little rain. For gardeners it has presented extra challenges, more work and also an opportunity to reflect on and appreciate the British rain; the free, abundant supply of water that normally falls from our skies so regularly, nourishing the plants, soil and making our jobs much easier!
Is there anything in your life that you moan about but if it wasn’t there you’d begin to miss and come to appreciate? Perhaps your boss who is always piling more work on your desk with no extra pay but whose expertise you’ve learnt a lot from? Your friend who always talks about their boyfriend but whose company you love and you share the same interests as? Gardening certainly has the capacity to change our relationship to the weather just as we always have the opportunity to change negative attitudes and thinking to more positive ones. This month, is there something that isn’t quite perfect that you could reframe in a more positive way that’ll not only benefit you but also the people around you?
Word Camila B & Amy B