Posted by Michael Kelly, GIY Ireland in Features.

It’s hard to fathom, but it’s already August and the seed-sowing year is almost over—this month is the last opportunity to sow seeds and marks the end of seven months of fairly intense seed sowing activity that started way back in the dreary days of February. May and June were the busiest seed sowing months, with things slowing down considerably last month. This month it slows down even further—there are just salad leaves (lettuce, oriental greens etc) to sow and then that’s pretty much it until next February. Notably this month, I always do a decent sowing in the polytunnel of oriental greens (like mizuna, mibuna, mustard, pak choi etc) for winter eating.

If there is a sense of winding down in one aspect of the GIY year, there is a corresponding ramping up of another (more exciting) phase—dealing with the basket loads of delicious grub coming from the veg patch. The time lag between the first sowings in February and the arrival of the first new season crops is something that continues to surprise me each year. With the exception of rhubarb and some salad leaves in early spring, it’s not really until June that the first new season crops (like carrots, beetroot, peas and beans) are ready to eat.

That trickle of fresh produce has now turned in to a deluge, and we will continue to enjoy the harvest bounty up to and beyond Christmas. The time that is freed up by the lack of growing related activities (seed sowing/transplanting etc) is now spent processing food—shelling, podding, blanching and the like. But while we’re busy in the kitchen, things are certainly quieter out in the vegetable patch—the hard work of the year is mainly done now and we can start to enjoy the fruits of our labour.

Win a Ballymaloe Cookery School Course

Have you always dreamed of opening your own little café? Or are you looking for a life-changing career switch? Ballymaloe Cookery School has generously provided a fully funded spot on their much-coveted 12-week certificate cookery course as the prize in a raffle to support the fundraising campaign for GROW HQ, GIY’s national food education centre, which will open in 2015. The prize, valued at over €12,000, also includes accommodation on site. Tickets are €25 from, and the draw will take place at the GIY Gathering next month.

Things to do this August

Green manures (mustard, buckwheat, radish, rye, alfalfa, clover and vetches) are plants which are grown specifically to improve soil fertility and useful at times when beds are empty (as is often the case in August). Grow directly in the bed and then cut down and dig in to the soil. Give pumpkins plenty of water and apply a high-potash liquid feed. Nip out the growing points to encourage the fruits to swell. Net brassicas to keep butterflies and the cabbage moth away (and check undersides of leaves regularly for caterpillars). Keep watering—mulch around plants to retain moisture.

Continue succession sowing. Sow spring cabbage, red cabbage, winter spinach, salad onions (in polytunnel for spring crop), autumn salad mix, endive, parsley, onion seed, Chinese vegetables.

Pick Beetroot regularly as they reach the size you require—if left to grow too large they will loose their tenderness. Continue to harvest tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, peas, broad beans, french and runner beans, salad leaves, radish, turnip, potato, onions, peppers and chilli-peppers, aubergine, globe artichoke, courgettes, cucumber, gooseberries, raspberries and currants.

Recipe of the Week—Tahini Dressed Courgette and French Bean Salad

In my opinion the River Cottage Veg Every Day book is the very best book you can have on your shelf if you’re a GIYer—it’s packed with recipes that will help you make delicious meals from the produce coming from your veg patch.


For the Tahini:

  • ½ garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons light tahini (stir the jar well first)
  • Finely grated zest and juice of ½ lemon
  • Juice of ½ orange
  • ½ teaspoon clear honey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Salad:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 medium courgettes (about 400g), sliced into 3mm rounds
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • About 125g French beans, trimmed
  • 4 good handfuls of salad leaves
  • 12–18 oven-dried tomatoes or semi-dried tomatoes (optional)
  • A handful of mint, finely shredded (optional)


To make the tahini dressing, put the crushed garlic into a small bowl with the tahini, lemon zest and juice, orange juice, honey and a grind of black pepper, and stir together well. The dressing may thicken and go grainy or pastey, but don’t worry. Just thin it down by whisking in a little water, one tablespoon at a time, until you get a creamy, trickling consistency. Finally, gently stir in the olive oil. Taste and add a little more salt and pepper if needed. The dressing is now ready to use.

For the salad, heat the olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a fairly high heat and cook the courgette slices in batches, tossing them occasionally, for a few minutes until tender and browned on both sides, transferring them to a bowl once cooked. When the courgettes are all cooked, season generously with salt and pepper, add the lemon juice and chilli and toss together well. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Tip in the French beans, return to the boil and blanch for one minute. Drain, then dunk in cold water to refresh. Drain again, pat dry with a clean tea towel and toss the beans with the courgettes. To assemble the salad, spread the salad leaves in a large shallow serving bowl and scatter over the dressed courgettes and beans, tomatoes and shredded mint, if using. Trickle the tahini dressing generously over the whole lot and serve.

Tip of the Week—Harvesting Garlic

Harvest garlic when at least half to two-thirds of leaves on each plant are yellow. Autumn sown garlic will be ready in early summer. Do not allow them to go too far as they lose flavour. When harvesting garlic, don’t pull the bulbs from the ground as you will damage the bulbs and break the neck which will make it difficult to store it well. Stick a fork in beneath the bulb and ease it out gently. Remove any excess soil. Leave to dry for a few days on the soil if possible (if it’s dry). You can use the garlic straight away, but to store it, you will need to dry them out for a few weeks in a warm sunny place (potting shed or greenhouse) before hanging in plaits.

Michael Kelly is a freelance journalist, author and founder of GIY.
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