July

We’re about to enter the height of the summer and historically the busiest months in the gardening calendar. It’s difficult to predict the weather for the month ahead, but we need to be prepared for either rain or drought and deal with it promptly.

A regular supply of water is essential as the lack of it could cause endless problems – for example flower and fruit drop, bolting and generally unhealthy plants. On the other hand, too much rain could mean that we’ll need to be alert for early signs of blight.

Hopefully after what we’ve gone through in the last few years we should all be more water savvy, think about water usage, regularly mulch and think about drought and blight resistant varieties.

Sow, plant, propagate

  • Sow the last of your beetroots, peas, French beans, sprouting broccoli, kale, khol rabi and Florence fennel.
  • Plant out all the members of the Brassica family, including cauliflowers, cabbages, Brussels sprouts, kales and broccoli and give them time to grow strong and be able to cope with the winter;
  • Keep on sowing lettuces successionally to avoid running out of it half-way throughout the summer. Pick shady places such as under your beans, tomatoes and peas, as they bolt really easily at this time if the year, particularly when in need of water;
  • Sow mizuna, mibuna, pak choi, Swiss Chard and mustard greens to ensure crops until the end of the autumn.

Harvest

  • Peas, French and runner beans, courgettes, marrows, carrots, beetroots, salad leaves, new potatoes, khol rabi, onions and garlic;
  • Harvest herbs for drying – cut all the herbs mentioned before, put them into bundles and hang them in a cool dry place. You’ll soon be able to add them to your dishes, make fantastic herbal teas and enjoy their summery scent.
  • Reward yourself and pick cherries, strawberries, currants, gooseberries, raspberries and blackberries.
  • Pick the last of your rhubarb at the very beginning of the month and then give it a rest so that it can get strong and ready for the winter.

Fruit jobs

  • Look after your strawberries – remove old foliage after flowering, compost your straw, pot up healthy runners and discard the rest.
  • Prune summer raspberries as soon as they’ve finished fruiting. Cut down the canes that have fruited to the ground and tie the new paler ones; take the opportunity to repair and damaged trellis, ties and poles;
  • Keep on observing your trees carefully and be alert to any sign of pests and diseases
  • Summer prune gooseberries, redcurrants and whitecurrants – leave the main shoots as they are but cut back side shoots to about five leaves from their base. This will ensure better air and light circulation, decrease the risk of diseases and help growing fruits to ripen.
  • Thin apples and pears – look at your trees and if they look overcrowded thin them or you’ll run the risk of having lots of tiny fruit;
  • If you have young fruit trees make sure you keep them watered. 

Jobs to do

  • Feed your tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and courgettes, particularly if you’re growing them in containers – comfrey juice is your best and cheapest option. Feeding encourages flowers and fruits and make your plants strong and better able to deal with pests and diseases.
  • Build support for beans – if you haven’t done it already, make tall and strong wigwams, better if with three tripods and a cane running across them, as very soon your beans will become huge and heavy.
  • Pinch out tomato suckers as soon as they appear – by doing so you make sure that the plant’s energy goes into flowering and growing fruit and not huge branches. Find out how.
  • Keep on top of your aphids – an alternative to soapy water is to make your own chilly potion. Chop up a couple of dry chillies, put them in a pint of water, leave them for a couple of days in the sun and then strain the mixture – here’s your perfect remedy. You’ll need to spray your plants regularly, but this will avoid using anything remotely chemical.
  • Water regularly as a lot of leafy veg such as salad leaves and spinach are prone to bolting.

Top Tips

  • Grow your own liquid feed – comfrey is our best friend in the garden and although it needs to be kept under control it provides the garden with a fantastic feed and plant tonic, rich in Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium which it draws up from the deep through its extensive root system.
  • Take summer cuttings – this is the time when our herbs are in active growth and have lovely new shoots. Herbs root very easily at this time of the year and you’ll have new plants ready to fill gaps or to replace old tired-looking ones. You can do this with mint, tarragon, oregano, marjoram, lemon balm , thyme, rosemary and sage.
  • Grow edible flowers and use them fresh – nasturtiums, marigolds, borage, fennel, alliums, cornflowers and rocket flowers will make your salads look gorgeous and give them a very interesting flavour.
  • Download our guide to caring for tomatoes.
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