July 2009

Updates from July 2009.

Gardening for food July 2009

The weather to date this year has been almost perfect, will July continue in that lovely vein? Plants (and weeds) are growing SO fast now and need constant attention, I find that every day brings a veritable host of new jobs – picking, clearing, hoeing, sowing, planting, thinning, tying, pruning, mowing, edging, compost making and watering.
Each day’s tasks depend on the weather so it is best to be prepared, and spend as much time as necessary to keep up with the rapid growth engendered by hot weather and long days.

After the harvest

Many vegetable crops finish in July (peas, broad beans, garlic, early potatoes etc) so be prepared with some seed – or preferably plants – to pop in to the vacant soil, which may as well be cropped as left bare – and with a new crop growing, you have more incentive to keep on top of any weed growth and maintain a clean soil for next year.

I like to clear all residues of crops as soon as they finish, often finding a few hiddeen weeds, then give the soil a treading down to break up any lumps and keep it moisture proof, ready for planting on the same day sometimes. Occasionally I sow seeds between rows of existing crops as they mature, such as carrots which are now growing away even as the garlic is harvested.

July is still not too late for planting leeks, hopefully you sowed them earlier, otherwise buy plants. There are many salad sowings to make such s endives and chicories which are now at their best sowing time. During the first week of the month it is still possible to sow kale, purple sprouting, swede, and carrots. Bulb fennel and oriental leaves are also good to sow now. or the latter can wait until August, when their thirst for water may be easier to assuage.

Seeds for sowing in the early part of July include:

  • Dwarf french beans, to crop through September and take over from the waning output of earlier sowings
  • Beetroot for small, tender roots in autumn, unlike those sown in spring
  • Carrots, which will have time to make medium sized roots
  • Bulb fennel, less likely to bolt in autumn, keep them watered in hot weather

Salads can be sown at any time of the month, depending when you want to be eating them:

  • To have nice firm hearts of radicchio, I recommend sowing before mid month, preferably in seed or module trays where it is easier to manage watering and to watch for slugs
  • Endives mature faster than radicchios and are best sown little and often
  • Lettuce are now coming ‘out of season’ as their autumn leaves are so prone to mildew, but if you want to risk it they can be sown until month’s end.

Daily gardening

Cordon tomatoes, cucumbers and melons need contant sideshooting and tying in, also plenty of water. In July I don’t normally feed mine, preferring to rely on the annual thick dressing of horse manure and compost which I spread on the surface every May, although I have some mushy comfrey leaves in a barrel for two or three feeds in August. Outdoor tomatoes are way ahead now and the Sungold are even beginning to ripen already.

One problem caused by more dry weather than usual has been a surfeit of aphids. Most of my plants can coexist with them but in two cases they have caused damage, on some apple trees (varietal susceptibility I think) and on nearly all my celeriac, except for a few plants which have been regularly watered. In unwatered soil, the celeriac has struggled to get away from a veritable infestation and most new leaves look stunted.

On the other hand, slugs and potato blight are mercifully absent so far, although be prepared for rapid change if it should turn damp. Cabbage white butterflies are now appearing, but in June I have been harvesting some beautiful calabrese and cauliflower with only a few tiny caterpillars. Also there is extra sweetness in carrots and beetroot, as flavours and sugars are concentrated by the lack of excess rain.

Charles Dowding.

July Harvests

Outdoors: Lettuce, leaf endive, chard, early onions, beetroot, parsley, dill, coriander, potatoes, peas, carrots, courgettes, calabrese, broad beans until mid month, then french and runner beans

Indoors: Cucumbers, basils; then tomatoes after about mid month.


Current Salad Ingredients

Lettuce red, pink, green, freckled
Endive yellow and green
Basils lime, sweet, cinnamon, lemon, plain
Other herbs sorrel, parsley, dill
Wild rocket
Chard yellow and ruby
Pea shoots

On sale at:
Bill the Butcher, The Organic Shop and The Olive Bowl, all in Bruton
Lush’s in Castle Cary

And on menus at:
The Montague Inn, Shepton Montague
The Chapel, Bruton
True, Castle Cary
Pilgrims Rest, Lovington