July gardening tips
Water regularly in dry weather and keep picking!
Keep greenhouses shaded on hot days to prevent their turning into furnaces. Spray the floor with water in the morning to create a humid atmosphere ideal for greenhouse plants. Do not do this at night as the humidity and lower temperatures can encourage pests and disease.
Keep all fruit well watered especially during dry spells; mulching with organic matter will help reduce water loss and keep down the weeds too.
Delicious home-grown strawberries should still be cropping - straw laid under the plants will keeps the fruit off the soil and helps prevent soil splash which can spread botrytis (grey mould). If you spot it, remove all infected fruits and remember not to put them on the compost; this will only spread the problem. Peg down runners into pots to increase the number of plants or if you have enough, pinch them out near their origin.
Pick your soft fruit and protect it with netting whilst it is ripening; birds apparently love soft fruit even more than you do, and your entire crop can disappear with astonishing speed unless protected!
Thin apples and plums to 3 - 4 fruits per cluster - ideally you should remove ALL fruitlets from trees planted in the last year to allow them to develop a good branch structure. If you can’t bear to do this, just leave a few for interest!
Look out for suckers on apple, pear and plum trees - if you spot them, tear downwards to remove - do not cut them or they’ll be back!
The centres are still full of teenage plantlets of vegetables, salads and herbs. For those who find growing from seed daunting, this is the ideal solution, so plant away and look forward to the fruits of your labours!
Sow salads little and often - in short runs every fortnight is ideal to ensure a continuous crop.
Plant out brassicas such as Brussels sprouts, winter cabbages and sprouting broccoli and grow short term crops such as lettuces and radishes between them to maximise the space. Remember to cover brassicas with netting to avoid disappointment - pigeons have no sense of morality!
Plant leeks for winter harvesting - buy them as plantlets from the centre if you haven't grown your own.
Sow chard and perpetual spinach if you haven't already done so - once they start cropping pick them over lightly and frequently to keep the supply of fresh new leaves coming.
Harvest young courgettes for the best flavour (try sprinkling them with dill - absolutely delicious!), broad beans whilst they are still young and tender, peas, mange tout and sugar snaps.
Keep digging your potatoes... Oh the joy of unearthing a glorious potato nestled in the ground - it's fun for children too!
Feed tomato plants weekly with a high potash feed such as Tomorite. Tie loosely onto their canes and keep pinching out the side shoots of cordon tomatoes in the 'armpits' as soon as they appear - this is not necessary for bush varieties such as Gardener's Delight and Sungold. With plants grown outside, pinch off the tip of the main shoot a leaf or two above the 4th flower truss. Keep all tomato plants regularly watered - feast and famine leads to blossom end rot - the unsightly black blotches which indicate calcium deficiency due to patchy watering.
Don't eat any more asparagus - new crowns will set from spears left in place from now on.