Now we have dry weather to deal with, quite a change, at least it means that slugs are on the back foot. Careful watering becomes important because if you have a given amount of water, best results come from giving it to the plants that need it most, at the best time, and with maximum time intervals between watering.
Which plants to water
- Watering in is always worthwhile after setting plants in a new place, usually once but twice in sunny weather, the second time after two or three days. Current new plantings could be leeks, beetroot, swede, purple sprouting, winter cabbage, kale, summer beans and salads. Also run water along drills before sowing, then cover with unwatered soil/compost from the sides and firm the drills with tools or feet.
- Water shallow-rooted plants every three to seven days, depending on your soil and depth of mulches. Main beneficiaries are salads, celery, celeriac and leaf crops such as chard, leaf beet and spring onion.
- Water plants nearing maturity, for example beans, peas, courgettes, cucumber which are flowering and fruiting, also tomatoes undercover are always greedy for water, smaller plants such as basil needing less water.
- Everything in containers and growbags for sure; in sunny weather every day.
Plants not to water at the moment include parsnip, carrot, winter squash, sweetcorn, first early potatoes, onions, shallots, garlic, beetroot and perennial vegetables. All of these are either nearing maturity and do this nicely in drier soil, or have deepening and spreading roots which are best left to forage for water and find what is there.
Sow, plant in summer
We are at the beginning of a season of many new sowings and plantings. From mid June to mid July is good to sow dwarf French bean (soon), Florence fennel, kale, savoy cabbage, beetroot, chard, leaf beet, carrot, chicory and endive. Raising plants in modules allows time for early harvests to finish, sometimes if there is space you can pop plants between finishing shallots, garlic and salads. Now is a good time to plant leeks – often I find I am setting them out to the rhythm of nearby Glastonbury festival.
More on harvesting and clearing
Harvesting and clearing. Picking vegetables takes more and more time as harvests increase and the next three months can be really busy. As soon as crops finish, it is good to clear plant residues of bean stalks, pea haulm, brassica stumps etc. I mostly twist them out. You can cut legume stalks at or just below soil level to leave the nitrogen nodules in soil for the next planting but most of legumes’ nitrogen has been used by the pea and bean plants themselves, up to 97% from a study quoted on Gardeners Question Time
Summer and autumn lettuce
Summer and autumn salads. Regular picking of outer lettuce leaves, with no cutting across their tops, encourages plants to live a long time, up to nine months in the case of overwintered lettuce from September sowings, see the photo. Plants of spring sown lettuce of varieties such as many cos and batavians, crop for ten to twelve weeks in well composted soil, so they will be finishing in July and now is a good time to raise more lettuce for planting in July, to crop from August to October.
More on weeds….
Perennial weeds like summer warmth and field bindweed never stops all summer: you have to keep at them, and many such as couch grass can be eliminated. Also I am noticing that after a season of regularly removing field bindweed with a trowel, extracting the top few inches of root, that plants are less vigorous than last summer.
Hedge bindweed, with its fatter and more superficial roots (and white flowers), is possible to clear completely. Homeacres had a lot when I arrived, mainly in front of the house where I mulched and now have flower borders: the only growth I am now seeing is from some residual roots under concrete paths, and under the fence from the neighbour’s garden.