July 2008

July 2008

Updates from July 2008.

Two lots of the same pea variety, Tall Sugar Snap.

tallsugarpeasReview to date: The weather has been much kinder in 2008 with adequate rain and sunshine, and no excess of either! Potato blight has not arrived, yet, although onion leaf mould has, but less vigorously than in 2007. Cucumbers and courgettes came into fruit earlier than usual after a warm May, basil in the polytunnel is cropping well and rooks have been eating too many broad beans. Globe artichokes have almost finished, a result of the mild winter which allowed much stronger growth than usual in early spring, from leaves that survived the winter. Garlic has finally succumbed to rust and is ready to harvest, with some good sized bulbs, and strawberries ripened in time for Wimbledon…

At such a busy time of year, this piece can only touch on a few areas of potential action. If you intend growing leeks, for example, the first half of July is an excellent time to plant them, if you haven’t already. Note that where I use the word plant, I refer to setting out plants, not sowing seed. Leeks need two months from sowing to being large enough to set out with some room to grow, at spacings which vary according to the size of leek you hope for. I space them at 4” apart in rows across my beds which are 12-15” apart.

Brussels sprouts, purple sprouting and winter cabbage can still be planted, just, while kale can still be sown by mid July. Some bird protection will probably be necessary – I drape black netting over cloche hoops – or a mesh such as enviromesh can be used to keep butterflies off as well. It does not look nice though and needs removing to weed. To keep flies off carrots you need a fine grade mesh or fleece, although any carrots sown in July will not have time to grow large, while beetroot can still be sown until mid month.

Some sowings in July depend for their ultimate success on the weather to come. If it stays warm into September, french beans sown in July’s first week will crop well, but if autumn comes early they may struggle. Lately we have had warmer than usual conditions in late summer/early autumn, but they are not guaranteed!

Many exciting salads can be sown in July, in fact it is the best month for sowing hearting chicories, often called radicchios. For sowing after mid month, choose a frost hardy variety such as Lusia or Marzatica (from Seeds of Italy). Endives for hearting will crop a little more rapidly and stand less well, being inclined to tipburn, a browning of some heart leaves, so they are best sown in small batches on different dates, if you want some all the time. The last sowing can be in early August. Lettuce for hearting needs sowing by late July, and is more prone to mildew as days cool down and the air becomes damper.

In the top photograph there are two lots of the same pea variety, Tall Sugar Snap. In the foreground their growing points have been repeatedly picked, so they have provided lots of pea flavour in spring salads, and are less than two feet high. The ones behind have been trained through polyester twine which is looped around a row of eight foot stakes, and the first peas are ready as I write this in late June. Peas suffer mildew after midsummer so I do not advise sowing them in summer to crop in autumn.

Strawberries growing at waist level in an animal feeder, to be out of reach of badgers. Also they were netted against blackbirds
Strawberries growing at waist level in an animal feeder, to be out of reach of badgers. Also they were netted against blackbirds

Oriental leaves and rocket grow fast in summer but are still inclined to be damaged by flea beetles so I mostly wait until early August, to have healthier leaves which crop for a longer period, well into autumn. They are an excellent second crop after summer vegetables such as peas, broad beans, beetroot, salads and so forth have finished.

Charles Dowding.