Growing your own Vegetables and Fruit
Enjoy growing and eating fresh veg and fruit when you want it.
Here, help is at hand month by month so you can see what you should be doing on your plot when growing your own vegetables and your own fruit. The weather and where you live make a huge difference to what grows, or not, but doing anything is better than nothing. Use the links above if you want specific information on a fruit or veg, or to see what you should have done last month.
In July you should have too many courgettes (unlike me!), but keep picking them so more will develop to keep the season going (you’ll miss them when they are gone). You can put unwanted courgettes on the compost heap., or take them round to friends and family whenever you visit. Similarly with cucumbers, and peas, keep the flowers coming by cutting off the fruit.
In July there is so much coming from your plot that it is easy to forget to plan ahead, like you did in March. But, to paraphrase, as you reap, so shall ye sow. That means, sow veg now that can overwinter and provide you with crops until April next year. If you have done this you will of course find you have plants ready to go in the plot, but it’s hogged by other plants. If you have a big plot then you can have holding beds, such a luxury, but in a small plot you’ll just have to keep potting on until space becomes available. Be ruthless with plants that are finished, like peas. Cut them off and plant out your brassica.
You can probably treat yourself to some beetroot, carrot, turnip, French beans, Broad beans, Kohlrabi, lettuce by making a late sowing now. Check the seed packet, but if you keep the seedlings shaded from hot sun, you’ll hopefully be able to crop until the frosts arrive (or not!).
Some onions, shallots and garlic should be ready now – you’ll know because the foliage goes yellow and droops, and the onions appear to almost sit themselves on the soil. On a dry day, carefully pull up the onions, using a fork if necessary, and lay them on the dry soil, or a wall, or a conservatory floor; anywhere dry and warm. After a couple of days, store them somewhere cool and dark. If you store them damp they will start to grow again, using the bulb as fuel! If you find that your onions have pretty flower heads, cut them off now, and the plant should yellow and wither ready for harvesting in about three weeks’ time.
Potatoes that you harvest in July should really be used straight away, or within the week. So only lift what you need as early and second earlies are not suitable for storing. Wash off any dirt outside before using in the kitchen.
Stop most of your strawberry plants producing runners by snipping them off, but let a few produce runners, and pot up the new plant that is developing at the end of the runner. In September you can cut off the new plant from the parent and plant it out. Once you’ve picked all your fruit, trim off the leaves and clear away weeds and rubbish, like straw. Keep the plants well watered and happy so that they produce lots of new leaves ready for next year.
If a row of broad beans or peas have finished, cut the plant off at soil level and put on the compost heap, but leave the root ball in the soil. It will have fixed nitrogen in nodules that the next crop (usually brassica) need. Your runner beans will be producing lots, so keep them watered, picked and feed them some comfrey or nettle solution.
Bolting becomes a problem in July, it’s when the plant starts to set seed and the bit you want to eat goes bitter and unpalatable. Plants mainly do it when they have matured and the weather is dry, so the answer is to water well, or remove and replace with younger plants. Lettuce, spinach, rocket, radish seem to bolt overnight. It’s a natural progression as the plant has matured and is producing seed; all very well for its life cycle but not what you want, unless you plan to collect the seed.
Tomatoes really shoot up now, and if you do not control them they will branch and flower in all directions, and then collapse. Apart from tumbling varieties, (which you can leave alone, and are therefore worth growing!) grow the plant up a cane, tying it in as it grows. Make one shoot the main one, and pinch out the little shoots that try to grow out from where the leaf joins the stem. This happens all the way down the plant. Keep pinching them out otherwise the plant becomes too weighted and unmanageable. The plant will produce flower stems, with pretty yellow flowers that become the fruit, so don’t pick them off. If there are no bees around you’ll have to pollinate them yourself. Later on, once the fruit has set, you start to remove the leaves so that sun can get to the fruit. You can buy an organic feed for your plants, or make your own stinky concoction from nettles or comfrey left in a bucket of water. Traditionally you try to stop the plant growing in height once there are four or five flower/fruit ‘trusses’ by pinching out the top growing point (and the side ones). This gives the plant the strength to grow big fruit, rather than increasing in size. If your plants do not get a good, even water supply they may develop ‘blossom end rot’ when the base of the fruit goes black.
Any plants that like a regular water supply, like tomatoes, cucumbers and courgettes can have their own private supply. Cut the end off a large plastic bottle and put it top first in the soil (no lid!) near the base of the plant. Then fill the bottle with water. The water will be deep in the soil where the roots need it, and not evaporating off the surface. It’s efficient, effective and makes manual watering quick and easy. Keep checking these plants, picking fruit when ready, tying to a support if necessary, feeding once a week. Look after them and they will ripen properly and crop for ages.
Potato blight is a phrase that scares any gardener, as we’ve all read about the famine that struck Ireland after potato blight. You can visit www.blightwatch.co.uk to see if it is in your area. Check your potato plants and any that have brown patches on the leaves (or stem), or a fluffy mould are probably infected. Tubers infected will have a depression on the surface, and marbled flesh underneath; the whole potato goes mushy and rotten and smells foul. Blight can also affect tomatoes, and the fruit goes brown. That’s why you try and grow pots and toms together, and move them round the rotation together. Don’t use the same ground for both in succession. In the early stages of blight, remove the infected plant and burn or take away from your garden. Tubers may be OK, but check them. You can spray your plants with compost tea and seaweed extract to keep the plant healthy to fight the disease. Next year, plant resistant varieties, and early ones are less susceptible than later ones. You must try to dig up all the pots, so that none are left in the ground to grow next year, and pass on the infection.
Make sure your brasssica plants are covered with some sort of mesh or net. Otherwise the cabbage white butterfly will lay her eggs on your plants, and the resulting caterpillars will strip your leaves bare. If you opt not to cover, you can pick them off manually, but do it every day, or even every hour. From about end September no more eggs are laid, so you can take the cover off. You can plant out the young seedlings, but keep them watered. And keep sowing so that you have some spares if some die off. If you are away and cannot water for instance.
Weeds will still be everywhere, especially when you clear out a crop like peas. They’ll have grown under the canopy hidden from view. So hoe them off on a dry day, or lift and remove.
Keep your plot tidy by picking up leaves that fall. They’ll hide slugs and may harbour pests.
After rain, or a good watering, keep mulching plants with grass mowings, or compost. It keeps the soil moist, and keeps down weeds.
Flowers should be popping up all over your plot, either self-seeded or sown by you. Poppies, Calendula, herbs, anything with a flower that bees and hoverflies like should be left to grow. If you have space in the plot you could sow some flowers for spring – like forget-me-nots, polyanthus, sweet William, wallflowers. You can leave them in the plot to look pretty next year, or to move elsewhere in your garden.
You can prune your plum, damson and cherry trees, but mind the fruit. Prune out old dead and diseased wood, and trim back any over vigorous shoots to keep the shape. Trim any shoots that are crossing or congesting the centre of the tree. Apples and pears should be thinned so that there are just two fruits per spur. It’ll help them to swell and ripen without rubbing and causing damage to the skin.
Plant this month:
On 15 July 2007 I harvested, strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, courgettes, calabrese, potatoes, Dwarf French beans, broad beans, peas, parsnip, beetroot, turnip, rocket, salad, radish, carrot. Plenty for a delicious meal. I could have had some curly kale as well!
On 21 July 2008 I was picking raspberries, strawberries, scented sweet peas, courgettes, broad beans, peas, salad, rocket, radish, parsley, chives, calabrese, gooseberries. At the plot we had potatoes, salad, turnips and mini beetroot, plus strawberries. The comfrey plants were huge and the leaves were used to make a feed.
In 2009 the summer raspberries at home were perfect, and finished 17, and the strawberries which had been beautiful, got very small and finished 15 July. The beans kept growing, but watering was needed as there was not much rain to speak of in the first two weeks. After that they had all the rain they needed, and I picked my first Climbing French Bean on 28 July. Rocket, lettuce, chives were lovely and the tumbler toms were covered in flowers. The first sweet pea was picked 16 July, and the courgettes kept coming. The red gooseberries looked pretty and were Ok to eat. At the plot the globe artichokes were forming, the Sante potatoes lovely as were the Swift, there just weren’t many of them! All the spring brassicas were huge especially the kale. Small turnips could have been pulled and the onion tops started to flop. There were lots of peas and broad peas to pick, plus juicy blackcurrants and the wildflower patch was very pretty. The first autumn raspberries were eaten from canes that were 2m tall. The tall comfrey plants were picked and the leaves lain around the tomatoes to act as a mulch and feed. Wildflower patch looks so pretty with white, yellow, red, blue flowers (still under netting).
July 2010 saw the lifting of some lovely Charlotte potatoes, and lettuce, and parsley, and the first beetroot! Plus of course hundreds of strawberries, with the last being picked 24 July; lots of blackcurrants, and the autumn raspberries had a few red fruit. The onions were flopping but not very big. At home Mangetout, lettuce, rocket, chives, parsley were all picked. The sweet peas smelled delightful, but they were small due to the dry weather. The autumn fruiting raspberries started to ripen at the end of July but were very small.
July 2011 had some lovely courgettes and potatoes from the plot, and lettuces, with rocket. In the school plot there were carrots, spinach, broad beans, beetroot, potatoes, parsley, purple sprouting broccoli, and courgettes. At home there was lots of lettuce, radishes and courgettes!
July 2012 was a bit of a disappointment. Mainly because of the weather, the carrots, parsnips and beetroot sown in great quantity did not appear, except those grown under a cloche. Gardens are looking very verdant, with green lawns, overgrown hedges, toppling shrubs and perennials the tallest ever. The pumpkins look great, but the courgettes have been eaten away by the slugs and snails, again, as have the peas and beans. Some lettuces survive and the sweet peas are huge and now smell lovely. The large sweetcorn plants have just started to put up flower stems, but I do not know if they will set fruit and ripen before autumn! Blackcurrants swell on the bushes, but the Victoria Plums are nowhere to be seen, and the few apples seem to be dropping off the tree too early. Lots of autumn raspberries seem to have already appeared, but are lovely to eat anyway. Trusty rocket and chives are available. In the green house the tomatoes are setting, and I am waiting for the cucumber plants to get bigger.
July 2013 was the warmest for 7 years, which was lovely. Plants that had grown slowly in the cold May and June, finally put on a spurt, and then wilted or bolted. But seeds germinated and herbs did well. I still only picked salad and chives and parsley in the garden, but courgettes are on their way. The strawberries were plentiful and sweet this month, and there are lots of redcurrants and gooseberries on the bushes. Sadly the blueberries look to have shriveled up and dried, even in the veg bed. The apple tree has dropped lots of small apples, something that usually happens in June. And something brassica wise is growing well, but I can’t remember if it’s a cabbage or purple sprouting broccoli! The onion sets have done well, but are smothered by calendula and borage seedlings. Carrot and beetroot seeds sown late June did germinate but look sad with the lack of rain.