This month I am going to begin my blog in the vegetable patch. Early potatoes should now be ready to harvest which is one of the most satisfying experiences in the garden. Pulling up the potato haulms and finding a super crop of tasty new potatoes is a feeling that’s hard to beat. However, there is still work to be done. There is still time to sow successional salad leaves. Other crops to sow now for a late summer harvest include: Dwarf French Beans, Beetroot, Kohl Rabi, Pak Choi, Swiss Chard and Spring Onions. If you are quick you can just get a last sowing of mangetout peas. Maincrop peas sown now will give you a crop in late September and early October. Your runner bean plants sown last month can be planted out – push the supports into the ground before planting the beans. This will ensure you don’t harm the roots by staking afterwards. Water generously. Runner beans are thirsty plants and regular watering is necessary in dry weather. Once runner beans are in flower it’s a useful tip to spray the whole plant with water – it helps the beans set.
Regular watering is the key to success with most vegetables including tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers – whether grown indoors or outside – pumpkins, courgettes, marrows and squashes. Cabbages and carrots are susceptible to harm from cabbage white caterpillars and carrot fly – protect your young plants with netting on cabbages or mesh over carrots. Tomatoes should be fed with a proprietary liquid feed once a week once the first flowers appear. Use the same feed for cucumbers, melons, peppers and aubergines. Tomatoes will need regular attention – pinch out any sideshoots and tie the main stem to a stake. Do this every few days.
Pick crops like courgettes, peas and salad leaves regularly to encourage more to follow.
July is a good month to take soft wood cuttings from shrubs like weigelia and forsythia. Cut a shoot about six to eight inches long and then make a clean cut just below a leaf joint. Trim off the bottom two pairs of leaves and plant in a gritty compost in a pot. Water well. Place the pot in a cool place and check regularly. After a few weeks the cuttings should have struck.
If you have apple trees, check the fruit and thin it out if it seems congested. Cut out any damaged fruit to prevent the spread of disease. The same applies to pear trees.
Stop harvesting rhubarb now. It is wise to leave a few rhubarb stalks rather than pull them all. This will give the rhubarb plants a chance to recover and build up their strength for next year’s crop. Tidy up the rhubarb patch and then mulch with well-rotted farmyard manure – try a local stables for a good supply but make sure the manure has aged before using it. Some stables will have a manure heap that has already aged, but otherwise set the manure aside for around a year before using it. Don’t be tempted to leave it in plastic bags – it will just turn into a slimy mess.
Give your compost heap a bit of love by turning it with a fork and keeping it watered if it is drying out. Having two compost heaps is ideal – one that is decomposing and one that you are adding to.
Herbs such as lavender can be cut now and hung up in bunches to dry ready for use later in the year. Lavender bushes will benefit from a trim once they have flowered. This will keep them in shape.
Keep dahlias well watered and fed with a high-potassium feed and once they begin to flower, pick them regularly to encourage more flowers to follow. Sweet peas should be picked regularly for the same reason, as should cosmos and cornflower. Deadhead perpetual flowering roses frequently and keep them fed and watered.
Some later sown annuals such as asters, cornflowers, helichrysum and zinnias can now be planted out. Fill any gaps in your flower borders with these free flowering varieties to ensure a colourful display through into the autumn. If you failed to sow any of these later annuals, perhaps a trawl through local garden centres will bag you a few bargains that you can use to fill gaps.
Sow biennials such as sweet william, wallflowers and bellis daisies now ready to plant out in the autumn. They will overwinter and burst into life in the spring for an early display. Autumn-flowering bulbs can be planted this month too.
If you have grown comfrey with a view to making your own comfrey feed, then now is the time to act. Cut a few good handfuls and put them to wilt for a day. Then cram them into a net bag and put the bag into a bucket of water. Weigh the bag down with a stone and allow the mix to do its work. It will smell a bit, but the result after three weeks or so will be a super plant food. Dilute the liquid – a ratio of 1 part comfrey soup to 10 parts water is good – and use it wherever you need a high-potassium feed.
Don’t forget to sit back occasionally and enjoy your garden!