From sowing to harvesting, there’s plenty to do in July if you’re growing fruit and vegetables
July is a bountiful and busy time in the garden, and particularly so if you grow fruit and vegetables. Watering, feeding, planting, harvesting and troubleshooting are the main tasks — or pleasures! — in midsummer.
I have an edible cherry tree, ‘Stella’, which is now laden with fruit, probably the biggest crop I’ve ever had. The problem, however, is how to protect the cherries from birds. The tree is too big to net completely and there can be problems with birds getting caught in nets or trapped underneath.
In dry weather, you can use paper bags over fruit. I’m going to try putting a sleeve of horticultural fleece over a couple of the lower branches to preserve some of the fruit until it ripens completely. If you are growing soft fruit such as raspberries and strawberries, these will also need protection from birds. Dangling CDs and DVDs can scare birds effectively.
If you have apple trees, you may have noticed the June drop — this is when the tree naturally sheds excess fruitlets. Too much fruit can put excessive strain on the branches and doesn’t allow adequate room for fruit to mature properly. You may need to assist this process — cooking apples need about six inches between each one so they can grow to full size, plums a couple of inches.
Tomatoes are starting to form fruit so will now need weekly feeding as well as daily watering in hot weather. Pinch out side shoots and remove any leaves from beneath the lowest truss of fruit as well — this will help with air circulation.
The potatoes are looking good with lots of leafy growth — keep earthing up, and water in dry spells. The earlies are just starting to flower, so I’ll give them another two weeks before digging up and enjoying their fresh out-of-the-ground flavour.
July is the time to sow spring cabbage seeds. These are best sown in modules — one seed per module — and transplanted outdoors in September, but you can also direct sow into the ground now.
You may have heard the expression “puddling” in your cabbages — this means filling the planting hole with water a couple of times so it is well drenched before planting your seedlings. It’s also a good idea to put a cardboard collar around the neck of the seedling to help protect the young leaf growth from slugs and snails and also cabbage root fly. Position in a sunny site and firm the soil in by tramping over it gently.
You can continue successional sowing of quick veg such as lettuce, beetroot, spring onions and radish and even a last sowing of carrots for this year. Winter brassicas such as sprouting broccoli, winter cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale and leeks are all good to plant now.
If you’ve been growing butternut squash or pumpkins, these can be planted outdoors. These are hungry plants and need lots of space. Prepare your planting space with barrow loads of well-rotted manure for best results.
The herb garden is looking overgrown now, so it’s a good time to harvest sage, rosemary, bay and thyme for drying. Supplement hardy herbs with some tender basil. This can be grown from seed now, or you can divide up one of those pots you buy in the supermarket. These are bunches of seedlings all in the one pot, so will separate well — maybe five batches from one pot — which can be planted outdoors or into separate pots. Coriander, dill and parsley can also be sown directly outdoors now.