July is a fabulous time in the garden with so much glossy new growth and tasty young vegetables. Don't forget there is still plenty of things you can sow now, the warmer weather giving the added advantage of quick germination and rapid growth.
Plants already growing can benefit from a feed and a bit of the old T.L.C. to keep them in tip top shape. This time of year is such a joy as you can see your work make an immediate difference.
Sow Carrots You might think you're a little late to sow carrots but in fact it's quite a good time. Why? You should avoid the first generation of one of your biggest potential problems, the carrot root fly. You can sow carrot varieties up until the end of July, beyond if you have a tunnel. You can harvest them earlier as baby carrots or wait till October for a decent size root.Carrots can be a little picky about the soil they grow in and can very often lead to disappointment. Personally I have much better success and a lot of fun growing them in containers. A deep pot or planter is perfect filled with multipurpose compost and looks great around the patio or balcony.
required spacings of 3-4 centimeters apart.
I like using old galvanized buckets and large pots as my house is like something out of Beatrice Potter but for a more modern setting you could try our funky orange carrot patio planters. They come in a durable horticultural fabric with support poles sewn and can be folded away and stored at the end of the season. They are a perfect size and look really cool bursting with vibrant green foliage. Give container grown carrots a go, you can't go wrong!
Our favourite varieties: Rothild, Rodelika, Chantenay Red Cored.
Plant some salads Salads can be planted from spring right through till the Autumn. If you have a polytunnel you can also be producing fresh greens well into the winter especially from the oriental salad varieties. We can worry about the Autumn planting later but right now we're still in the midst of summer salad days. There are a huge variety of lettuce types as well as the relatively unexplored orientals. I would highly recommend sowing 'cut and come again' varieties as you are only picking the leaves as you need them and can get many weeks of leaves from the same plants.
Remember when you're growing lettuce in a glasshouse or tunnel keep an eye on the temperature. Lettuce won't germinate over 25 degrees as the seeds will go into the dormancy. If you're germinating your lettuce in seed trays place the trays in a cool shed for a couple of days till they come up.
If you would like to grow a handy crop of baby salads but have limited space we have great little portable planter which is perfect for a small back yard, apartment balcony or even a sunny kitchen. The rack comes complete with planter trays which are arranged in a tiered fashion to give an attractive and practical display. The planter is more suited to fresh 'cut and come again' leaves rather than growing full size heads of lettuce so I'd recommend using one or more of our salad mixes. My personal favourite is 'Spicy and hot' but we also have a 'Colourful and mild' mix and 'Frilly and decorative' for a beautiful springy salad bowl.
Feed your plants Many plants will benefit from a bit of a feed as they knuckle down to produce delicious crops you're waiting for. We don't like artificial fertilizers much and highly recommend our 'Seamungus' seaweed and free range poultry manure pellets. They are an excellent slow release fertilizer giving a sustained amount of nutrients for a period of about 3 months. The poultry manure is of course high in nitrogen with the seaweed providing a whole host of nutrients and trace elements for vigorous plant growth.
Sprinkle the pellets around the base of the plant but remember root systems of plants tend to spread out much further than you think. For brassicas you want to be covering an area about a foot in diameter around the plant stem, a courgette can have roots twice that distance. Work the pellets into the soil with you fingers, the rain or watering will break the pellets down and add this rocket fuel to your soil.
Earth up your potatoes Earthing up potatoes is important for 3 good reasons: 1. The extra soil around the plant increases the length of the underground potato bearing stems. 2. Potatoes can breach the soil surface as they grow making them turn green and poisonous. Remember the potato, just like the tomato is a member of the deadly nightshade family. 3. You are doing two jobs in one when earthing up as you'll also be weeding. Keeping your potato plants weed free helps air circulation through the crop helping combat disease.
If you're expecting a perfect tool for this task to appear about now you'd be right! We are big fans of the Chillington range of tools because of their unbreakable construction and the fact they work so well. The Chillington ridging hoe can be used for many more tasks but is designed for working the soil around the potato and dragging it up around the plant.
The Chillington tool head is at right angles to the shaft meaning you can dig and lever up soil very easily. It is, in fact, an ancient design and tools of this type are a far more common sight in India, Africa and China. I'm not sure why we moved away from this type of tool but I guarantee when you try them you'll want to move back. They just work very, very well.
Look out for pests Unfortunately you're not the only one who wants to eat your vegetables and many of your competitors are happy to give them a go well before you ever will! We've got to be vigilant this time of year with weeds growing quickly and a whole army of hungry mouths heading for your garden. Here's some solutions for you from our range, as you know we don't like using chemicals so stock products which don't damage our environment.
Slugs Slugs do a lot of damage, especially to emerging young seedlings and young plants. They will destroy strawberries and salads in no time making what should be a pleasant harvest very frustrating.
Pellets Most slug pellets will kill birds and are harmful to pets so I'm not sure I'd recommend them. We use an organic pellet with the active ingredient 'Ferremol'. Ferric phosphate, the active ingredient in Ferramol, has extremely low mammalian toxicity. It is virtually harmless to higher animals. Carabid beetles, earthworms, bees, birds and other beneficial organisms are not affected. When it biodegrades it releases iron and phosphorus into the soil which are essential plant nutrients.
Beer Traps Slugs love the smell of beer and are happy to pop in for a drink when invited. Slug beer traps make an excellent slug pub giving them one last drink before their final journey to the great head of lettuce in the sky. The beer trap makes a dark and inviting place for a tipple and is open 24hrs! Open the top in the morning and dump the casualties over the wall.
You will need to top up the beer trap periodically which means you'll need to open another beer. Torture.