July is a great month to be a vegetable grower. The fruits of your labour are realised and most of the anxieties that come with Spring have dissipated as all of the first plantings have been finished and the harvest is in full flow. However, it is also a really important time of the year to be thinking about autumn crops and successional sowings to ensure that the harvests continue through summer and autumn.
Sowings made through late June and July include fennel, chicory, kohl rabi, chinese cabbage, broccoli, chard and perpetual spinach, dill and coriander, and salad leaves such as lettuce and mustards, endive, buckshorn plantain and chervil. These can all replace earlier crops such as radish, salads and herbs, early carrots, early beets and fennel.
Generally we tend to plant out a crop about 3-4 weeks after sowing into module trays. This is handy to know as it means that we can make sure the beds that these crops are being planted in can be prepared in plenty of time. Our main method for bed preparation through the summer is to mow down old crops about two weeks before the bed is to be planted with a new crop and then water it if it is dry and cover with thick black silage plastic. Usually two weeks of covering with the black plastic will kill off any old crops and weeds, and then the plastic can be rolled up and the bed raked out before planting up. This means that we do not have to cultivate the beds again, minimising soil disturbance, and we can leave the crop residues and rely on the soil life to take them into the soil over the two weeks. It is always impressive how quickly this happens, but it does work better if the soil is moist so that the life in the soil can move more freely. If there is plenty of life in the soil, when you pull the plastic off the bed it will be nice and fluffy and crumbly. Voles do like it under there too, but once it is raked out and planted up they tend to find a new place to hide.
Sowing crops into module trays gives us the time needed to prepare the beds, whereas if we were to rely on direct sowing crops into the soil we would not have the time to mow and plastic the beds.
Harvesting is an important task through July, not only to be able to benefit from the produce of course, but also as a way to maintain the plants and encourage more yields through the summer, especially with fruiting crops such as courgettes, cucumbers, beans and tomatoes. So, enjoy the harvests but make sure you are sowing plenty of new crops for late summer and autumn so that you can continue to reap the rewards of your veg garden later in the year.
WHAT TO SOW THIS MONTH: chicory (first week of July), endive, summer purslane, winter purslane, mustards, rocket, land cress, chard, beetroot, lettuce, kohl rabi, chinese cabbage, broccoli, chard, perpetual spinach, fennel, broad beans (for tips in salads) & peashoots (at the end of the month), carrots, dill, coriander
WHAT TO PLANT THIS MONTH:
OUTSIDE: fennel, beetroot, lettuce, chard, kale, salad leaves — amaranth, orache, anise hyssop, buckshorn plantain, salad burnet, chervil, endive, chicory
INSIDE: summer purslane, late french beans, late cucumbers, basil
OTHER IMPORTANT TASKS THIS MONTH:
Try to clear beds where crop harvests are coming to the end such as broad beans, peas, spring onions, lettuce and shallots, so that you can put in newly sown crops straight away. We either flail mow old crops and cover with thick silage plastic for 2-3 weeks or remove the crops by cutting them off at ground level and then hoeing the bed before planting.