Jobs for the month: July 2012
By: Web Editor
Bring in the harvest - July is the month when all your hard work and preparation in the spring pays dividends as the early harvests both in the fruit garden and on the veg plot start to mature.
You may have already been picking strawberries and gooseberries for a little while now, but these will be joined this month by cherries and currants, all of which require protection from the birds if you are to enjoy them first. Get your netting installed now before fruits start to ripen. On larger trees this may mean protecting low growing bunches of cherries with anything that allows the fruit to breathe, such as old net curtains or pieces of crop protection fleece.
Harvesting in the veg garden will also be in full swing and it is important to keep cutting to ensure continued production. Here are some tips for harvesting individual crops:
❯ Radishes: Start to thin rows as soon as the first roots are large enough, leaving the rest to mature. Pull while young and tender. Maintain even watering to prevent splitting.
❯ Salad leaves/spinach: Pick over plants, removing a few leaves from each or snip over with scissors, but avoid damaging the growing tips of plants. Alternatively thin whole plants as for radishes. Water well and watch for slugs.
❯ Lettuce: As above.
❯ Summer cabbage: Sever plants at the base of the head, leaving the stalk in place. Cut a cross in the top of the stem to encourage plants to produce a flush of leafy greens. Alternatively remove plants to make way for second sowings (see next page).
❯ Courgettes and cucumbers: Check plants every day and remove fruit as soon as it is large enough. Maintain watering in dry spells.
❯ Potatoes: Lift maincrop potatoes as required but watch for signs of early blight. If this occurs cut back the haulms to ground level immediately and lift the tubers storing them in sacks. Allow the skins to harden by leaving tubers on the surface for a few hours prior to bagging.
❯ Beans and peas: Beans of all types must be harvested regularly – cut rather than pull pods from the vines as the stems are easily damaged. Allow the pods to ripen and plants will become unproductive. Freeze any surpluses.
❯ Strawberries: See page 99.
❯ Tomatoes: Pick over plants regularly and remove fruit as soon as it is ripe. Support plants and heavy trusses to prevent breakages in windy weather as the crop develops.
❯ Turnips/beetroot: Harvest these crops while still young for the most tender roots. Both are delicious when grated raw in salads as well as cooked.
❯ Redcurrants (also white and pinkcurrants), blackcurrants: Harvest the berries as they ripen. This may mean picking over red and blackcurrant bushes a few times over a few weeks. Since blackcurrants fruit best on branches three years old or younger, they can be harvested by removing the whole fruiting branch down to soil level. This will encourage new shoots to form from the base, but don’t remove more than a third of the oldest shoots from each plant.
❯ Gooseberries: The painful job of picking gooseberries is more than made up for by the prospect of the jams and pies to follow. Any low-lying branches where the fruit is on or near the ground should be removed completely.
❯ Blueberries: If you haven’t netted your blueberries yet, you may not need to as the birds may well have taken them all by now! If you have then they should be ready for picking now.
❯ Raspberries: Pick as soon as the berries are ripe and while they are in good condition – vigorous canes should be providing a crop for much of the month. Early blackberries and some hybrid berries may also crop this month.
Tend to tomatoes
Juicy toms are one of the joys of the summer plot and we will often be found snacking on fresh-picked, sun-warmed fruit while working around the Kitchen Garden plot. Thankfully blight has not been a problem for us for the past two years, so fingers crossed for this season too. However, plants must be trained and trimmed regularly now as they will be growing quickly.
Cordon types (those grown up as a single stem) should have their sideshoots removed every week or as soon as they are large enough. If the growing point becomes damaged – snapped by the wind or damaged by pests – a new shoot from the first available leaf joint can be trained up to take its place. Once plants have reached five to seven trusses, depending on the season, the tip should be nipped out to concentrate plants’ efforts on ripening the existing crop. Tie plants to their stakes regularly to prevent wind damage.
Watering and feeding are crucial now. We like to feed at half strength at every watering using any good liquid tomato food since this means we don’t have to try and remember when the job was last done. Plants should be kept evenly moist at the roots – uneven watering can lead to tough or split skins.
Harvest fruit before fully ripe to encourage neighbouring fruit to ripen. Gluts can be made into delicious sauces or soups.
July at a glance
Salad leaves*, Swiss chard, Perpetual spinach, Radish* (including winter types), Lettuce*, Coriander*, Chinese leaves, Chicory, Endive, Kohlrabi, Peas, Spinach*, Turnips, (*Avoid sowing in hot weather)
Broccoli, Winter cabbages, Winter cauliflowers, Kale, Brussels sprouts
(early in month), Leeks
Globe artichokes, Tomatoes, Broad beans, French beans, Runner beans, Beetroot, Peppers, Carrots, Cauliflowers, Cabbages, Cucumber, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Courgette, Marrow, Peas, Potatoes, Radish, Spinach, Turnips, Redcurrants, Whitecurrants, Blackcurrants, Gooseberries, Late/perpetual strawberries, Summer fruiting raspberries
• Read the full article in Kitchen Garden magazine, July 2012!
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