I don't know what the season has been like for you but thanks to a warm and dry early summer followed by some welcome rain, my garden is looking vibrant and green. Despite the fact that the weeds grow as quickly as my vegetables weeding isn't too much of a chore either as my crop's lush foliage crowds most of them out.
July is the month where work done earlier in the season pays off; the tiny seeds sown months earlier have transformed into mature plants yielding generous crops of the freshest of fare. Tangy tomatoes are ripening on the vine, cool cucumbers hang ready to be plucked while hidden crops of new potatoes lie waiting to be discovered beneath the garden soil.
I have included some photos of the luscious July croups in my own garden below and have added the usual tips and stupid comments, I hope some of them are of use. If you have some space in your garden or haven't started yet, here's a list of what you could be sowing or planting now:
What can I sow in July? For Outside Growing Vegetables you can sow in July include: Carrots, Beetroot, Chicory, Dwarf Peas, Florence Fenbnel, Kale, Lettuce, Spring Onions, Kohlrabi, Mini Cauliflower, Pak Choi, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Turnip, Radish, Spring Cabbage, Chinese Cabbage, Oriental Salads, Winter Potatoes.
For the Greenhouse or Polytunnel You can sow all of the above for growing indoors but can also include: Basil, Calabrese, Coriander, Diakon Radish, Early Peas, French Beans, Parsley (curly and flat leaf).
Sweet Peas I usually reserve the odd corner or the end of a bed for some flowering plants both to encourage pollinators and to add a bit of colour to break up the sea of green. This year I grew a number of sweet pea varieties which have been great, especially as their supports bring them above the surrounding crops and allow them to be seen throughout the garden.
I am kicking myself that I didn't label them properly but I'm pretty sure the striking pink example above is 'Prince Edward of York' which I will definitely be growing again. It's vivid colour will literally stop you in your tracks which is handy as it allows you to appreciate it's sweet scent. If anyone is interested I would also highly recoemmend 'Matucana', 'Sicilian Pink' and white 'Memorial Flight' which I am growing alongside Prince Edward. I got them all from specialist in Kent who was most helpful and stocks a very wide range of traditionally grown sweet pea seeds.
New Potatoes I probably should have given these potatoes a wash before I took the photo but above you see some creamy coloured 'Charlotte' new potartoes and some pink skinned 'Setanta' (probably). They had just been dug to check the size of the tubers which was pretty good. I say 'probably' about the 'Setanta' as they were not supposed to be there, they must be from a 'volunteer' that came in my compost.
New potatoes are generally ready from July onwards, they are best dug as required to appreciate their flavour and because they don't store that well. Generally a few decent rows of new potatoes should keep you going until October when the maincrop varieties will be ready.
You will also need to keep an eye out for blight in damp weather from July onwards. If, like me, you don't spray, keep a close eye for telltale spots on leaves and remove any you see. Your plants will eventually get blight but you can slow the progress of the disease very significantly by removing any infected foliage. Once the disease reaches the point that over half of the plant is infected, cut all the foliage off right down to soil level. You can still leave the tubers in the ground and harvest as needed. If you are cutting foliage back on Maincrop potatoes destined for storage leave the tubers in the ground for at least 2 weeks to avoid infecting them with any blight spores on the surface of the soil.
Winter Potatoes As per last week's mail, if you haven't had a chance to grow potatoes this year we still have winter seed potatoes left in stock, I include a link below if you would like some.
Harvesting Garlic As you see, I did give these garlic a rinse before I took the photo before moving them to the tunnel to dry. If you are lucky enough to be enjoying dry and sunny weather, garlic can be dried by brushing any loose soil off the roots and laying out in rows. As july and August can be wet for me, I leave them on racks or pallets in the polytunnel (for 10 - 14 days) before storing in plaits.
I got caught on the hop here as I normally wouldn't harvest garlic so early but some of the bulbs had started to open so I thought it best to get them out of the ground. Garlic should be harvested when the leaves start to turn yellow but, unlike onions, don't wait for them to fall over. If you are unsure, you are better harvesting garlic too early than too late as when the bulbs open or 'shatter' they may start to sprout and will not store well. If some of your garlic has opened it is still fine to use fresh, it just won't keep very well.
Garlic leaves start to die off from the outside in, each layer of leaf on the surface corresponds to a layer of wrapping around your garlic bulb. You don't want them all to die back or you will have nothing covering your garlic so once around half of the leaves die back, it is time to dig a few bulbs to check their size. Depending on the variety and when it was planted, garlic can be harvested from late June to early August.
Note on garlic supply While we won't be sending seed garlic out until September/October we will be taking pre orders early this year as we have so many customers looking for it. I will let you know in a mail later in July when pre orders can be placed, we just need to make sure we will have stock of all varieties before I put them live.
Broccoli Calabrese I never manage to take a nice looking photo of broccoli, it always ends up looking a bit dull. Anyway, here's a good sized head of broccoli calabrese 'Green magic' taken yesterday which will need to be picked in the next couple of days. You need to keep a close eye on broccoli, especially calabrese as the buds will begin to open quite quickly after they are ready to pick. Of course, the broccoli head is actually the immature flower part off the plant which wants to produce a head of yellow flowers, it won't hang around waiting for long!
It is also worth remembering that if you cut out the main flower head (without digging up the plant), your broccoli will have another go at flowering and produce a number of smaller heads to compensate. By leaving the plant to grow new mini heads, and removing them when they are ready, you can significantly increase your yield. Giving the plant a top dressing of seaweed and poultry manure will help assure a generous second harvest.
Picking peas like a pro Peas are one of my favourite crops; nothing says summer like popping a pea pod and tasting the sweet, freshly picked pea inside. They are also one of the prettiest plants with their delicate white flowers and elegantly coiled tendrils.
Once peas start forming and filling out on the vines, you need to keep picking them to keep the plant productive. Your pea plant is producing seeds for it's next generation and will stop growing new ones if it feels it's job is done. If you keep picking the seeds (the peas) it will keep trying to produce more.
I think I mentioned this before somewhere but if you want to impress your friends it is worth perfecting the one handed pea picking technique shown above. It can be very easy to damage the vine using the amateur method of holding the branch and pulling off the pea but this 'pro' action is precise and painless.
Place the join between the pea and the calyx (the bit that looks like Peter Pan's hat) in the gap between your index and middle finger and push through with your thumb. Practice when there's no one else about, then amaze and astound your friends and family when you're next passing some pea plants.
Thinning Carrots Carrots are other of my favourite crops, they are one of the big rewards for the home grower as their flavour is far superior to shop bought ones. As mentioned in a previous mail, you will need to protect your crop from carrot root fly and, if this is to be done organically, this means a protective mesh. You can just see the folded mesh in the background on my carrot bed which I have opened to thin out the plants.
Due to the small size of carrot seeds, it is virtually impossible to sow them at the required spacing so you will need to pull out any excess when they are large enough to do so. You can see a thinned (left) and un-thinned row in the photo where I have removed crowded seedlings to a spacing of 3-4 cm between plants.
There are two methods for thinning carrots; cutting with a scissors or pulling them up. I prefer using scissors because I figure it doesn't disturb the roots of the remaining carrots but I will be honest and admit I haven't noticed any difference in the harvest. Whichever you choose, you need to work fast and get your carrots covered quickly as the aroma given off by the foliage will attract the carrot root fly. This pest can lead to a disappointing day further down the line when you harvest your lovely orange roots and find them full of tunnels and little white grubs.
By the way, while I was working through my carrot rows, weeding as I went, I was joined by this little bird (a baby robin) who was eating any creepy crawlies that my work uncovered. I hadn't had the pleasure of meeting him before but he happily hopped about just out of reach and even agreed to a photo. I thought he'd look a bit happier with himself (chirpy...) after all the worms but you can't please some people.
Fruit! One place our feathered friend won't be visiting is my fruit cage, built specifically to keep him out. I have already had a huge haul of red currants with still more to ripen, black and white currants all nearly ready too. Summer raspberries are about a week away from being ready to pick and, despite the attentions of the sawfly mentioned a couple of weeks ago the gooseberry bushes are also laden with fruit.
I will be reminding you when bare root fruit is back in season in October but growing it really is the easiest thing to do. Plant once, prune every year or so and feed every spring, that's about it. I would strongly recommend a fruit cage but that is a story for another day (new video coming very soon).
That's about it for now, I hope all is well in your garden, I'll see you next week.