July 2014

Plenty to pick, still seeds to sow, seed to save and pests getting interested in our crops. Weeding continues but less in the dry weather, unless you have perennials which go faster in warmth.

Tomatoes undercover are ripening and it helps keep them healthy when you remove (only) the leaves below the lowest truss with fruit on. Water at the base, on soil and compost, to keep tomato leaves dry as it is wet leaves which allow blight to enter. Water in the morning so that leaves dry more quickly.


Shallots should be pulled now and onions are starting to come ready, with some tops falling over. This shows they are ripening as much as growing and it is a chance to pull them out, gently, bend all tops over at the neck and leave them on the bed to dry.

When Steph and I are picking lettuce we have the company of a lovely young robin coming quite close, searching for insects (aphids I imagine) on the lettuce stems we have just given access to. Such a sweet bird and so helpful, a nice change from hordes of blackbirds who scatter compost around.

Sowing before, planting after clearing

Seeds to sow over the next fortnight are radicchio, kale and beetroot as soon as possible, soon followed by land cress, wild rocket, spinach, coriander and chervil, either direct, or in modules to plant in August for harvests in autumn.

After any final harvests, simply pull up all crop residues and weeds, tread soil lumps down and plant. You need spread compost only if the soil looks poor and none is visible on top, just a light dressing, but one does not always have time for that in summer.


Rabbits have discovered Homeacres in the past three weeks. It means extra time needed to cover crops with mesh or netting. They are surprisingly tame and disinclined to be shooed away; one came up and waved through the conservatory window while we were eating supper.

Their current favourites are endive and young leaves of leeks, they ignore young leaves of beetroot but sparrows like them, most plants have an associated pest. Brassicas are best meshed or butterfly-netted now.

Seed saving

When saving seeds, its an ongoing job to watch for when they are ripe and dry – here I save peas, broad beans, lettuce, endive, brassicas, and already have some mustards, coriander and chervil in bags. Gather individual pods as soon as dry, shell out seeds and leave on a windowsill until really dry, then bag up.

For lettuce I twist out the plant’s stem and hang it upside down to dry further in the garage, rub seed out a little later. I have sown some seeds already from the plants in picture.

Summer growth

I love summer for the juxtaposition of vegatbels of different seasons. The greenhouse aubergines are phenomenal, after a spring and early summer with steady warmth and no cold nights, they love it. Parsnips also have grown more than usual and should be a good size by early winter.

Early July

June has continued this year’s theme of warmth, with the boost of extra sunshine too, and some storms to end the month after seventeen dry days here. Homeacres is close enough to Glastonbury Festival for sharing some of their deluges and we had 30mm in three days.

June 2013 2014
Av. max C (F) 20.6 (69) 21.6 (72)
Av. min C (F) 10.0 (50) 11.2 (52)
Rain mm 33.1 58.0
Sun hrs 173 218

However for many of us the soil is dry going into July and I bet your plants are mostly healthy for it. Dry soil is often more aerated than fully wet soil, as long as there is moisture at some level, which plants can access. Soils with more organic matter hold more moisture, hence the value of a thin compost mulch every year.

Main plants to water are salads, those undercover, new plantings perhaps twice and pea/beans that are cropping.

Looking ahead, I see no major heat-waves this summer, more likely a mixed bag of temperate weather, nothing too extreme.

Harvesting garlic and onions

When to pull garlic and onions? I just did a check on a bulb of garlic I pulled on June 10th, to see if it would swell some more while drying. I placed it between two battens to measure circumference which was 4.9cm at harvest, and 5.2cm on June 28th. I find it heartening to know that if, for whatever reason, one harvests a little immature, the goodness in green leaves can continue helping bulbs to swell. Leave stems on therefore, until mostly yellow: or if you have to cut them off, the yield is a little lower.

Most garlic should be harvested by now except a few late maturing varieties such as Solent Wight. But if there is rust and if leaves are more than a third yellow, I would lift the bulbs.

Onions likewise are best lifted while tops are still half green or more. Often some stems start to lie down and this helps a drier rather than thick neck to form in the end; once a few lie down, you could push the others over, and pull them then or after a week or so. Normally onion harvest is late July to early August but it looks earlier this year after a warm spring and mostly dry June. Also if leaves show signs of the horrible grey mildew, I would pull the onions out and dry them as fast as possible, always handling carefully to keep the neck unbruised, so that mildew cannot enter the sap. There is more on this in my book Organic Gardening.

Winter plantings, summer harvests

Ok its the wrong time of year to cover this but I am, because of the bounty of some blackcurrant bushes I planted as sticks into a soil and manure mulch on weedy and undisturbed pasture, just eighteen months ago.

The bed next door has Juneberries, perennial kale, globe artichokes and rhubarb which have all been cropping profusely, with so little  effort needed to weed, just a few minutes. The surface is spotless clean, where eighteen months ago there were dandelions, creeping buttercup and a range of perennial grasses, but no couch grass or dandelion in this area. Now there are no perennial weeds, just bounteous vegetables, see archived pieces such as January and February 2013 for how the plantings were done.

Clearing sowing

It is ongoing all through summer. Here I have already cleared September sown spring onions, November sown broad beans and garlic, February sown beetroot, calabrese and cabbage, March sown peas and spinach and some February sown lettuce. So there are plenty of gaps and I have plants ready of beetroot, kale, purple sprouting broccoli, lettuce and leeks. Still to sow in July, in chronological order, are:

beetroot, kale, purple sprouting broccoli for spring, Florence fennel, chicories for radicchio, chard and leaf beet, wild rocket, land cress, and then I would hold fire on spinach, salad rocket and mustards until early August.

No dig in the USA

I was sent these two photos of her no dig garden by Karole Lee.  Clancy, Montana is 46N, 4200ft high, just south of the capital Helena. Last frost May 26th and first frost September 12th! So she is doing well in a short season, it must be frantic.