I enjoy July as a vegetable grower. A lot of the planting has been done, the main crops are all planted up, have been hoed and are almost all undersown with green manures—mostly a mixture of yellow trefoil, white clover, crimson clover, persian clover, buckwheat, linseed, oats, phacelia, cornflowers and calendula. These crops can then just be left to grow until harvest time. There is still plenty to do and there are plenty more plantings to be done and successions to be grown, but the main crop vegetables can pretty much be left to get along with things. July is actually a big month for sowing late summer and autumn crops, which will be planted in August to replace earlier crops, so don’t think that once those main crops have been planted up through June that you can sit back and relax!
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, shallots, peas, broad beans, early carrots, early beets and fennel.
Don’t forget to keep up with weekly training of tomato plants too—taking out all sideshoots, and a few lower leaves to encourage better airflow and also more energy going into the ripening of the fruit. If the plants are growing up strings they will also need to be twisted around the strings every week.
After a wet spring, it suddenly dried out a lot and through May and June there has been a distinct lack of rain. This has meant that we have been moving sprinklers around the garden a lot—making sure that the crops are well watered. We prioritise watering new plantings—giving them a good soaking immediately after we plant them. The polytunnel crops usually get watered three times a week through the summer with the drip irrigation, and then the next priorities are the leafy salad crops and fruiting crops like french beans and courgettes. We tend to put out drip irrigation on some of these crops that are in the ground for a fairly long time—courgettes and french beans for example. We then overhead water the leafy salad crops like lettuce as they are so quick growing that it is not really worth the effort of putting out drip tape to irrigate them at ground level. However, generally it is far better to be watering with drip irrigation as this is far less wasteful because the water goes directly to the rootzone of the plants rather than being sprayed about in the air—with lots being lost through evaporation especially on hot days. If we are using overhead sprinklers to irrigate crops during the summer we tend to put on the watering early in the morning or late in the evening especially on hot sunny days. This results in less evaporation and more water going directly to the soil and plants. We will be looking at digging a small reservoir/pond this autumn to harvest rainwater from the big polytunnel and barn which can then be used to irrigate our crops. We currently use a borehole which works well, but these last couple of dry summers have made us think more about water use and water storage. It’s definitely worth trying to collect as much rainwater as possible to use in the dry months not only for financial reasons, but also rainwater is far better for plants than mains water which is often treated with chemicals that have a negative effect on soil life, and it seems such a waste having buildings that can collect so much water for us and letting it all run away.
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 an 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.