July is the month when you can really start to enjoy the fruits of your labor in the vegetable garden. Many crops are ready to harvest including potatoes, salad crops, beans and peas. However, in-between the joyous task of harvesting and eating your own home-grown produce there is still a great deal to be getting on with to make sure you make the most of the warm summer months to produce a bumper crop of fruit and vegetables to last throughout the rest of the year. So before you venture out take a moment to check this short reminder of some of the vital jobs to be getting on with in the vegetable garden during July.
Continue to pinch out the growing tips of runner beans to encourage busier growth and regularly pick beans as they ripen. Once strawberry plants have finished fruiting, remove the old foliage to help prevent disease. Thin out heavy crops of apples and pears and tie in new shoots on raspberry canes to support wires. Pick gooseberries once they begin to ripen. Prune out the oldest branches on blackcurrant bushes. Water your fruit bushes well and mulch around the base of each plant to help conserve moisture.
To protect brassicas from cabbage white butterflies laying their eggs on the leaves, cover the plants with thin netting staked with canes. Now is the time to sow seeds of cabbages to harvest next spring. Other seeds that can be sown at this time include lettuce, beetroot, radish, rocket, spinach and swede. Sow an autumn crop of peas before the middle of the month. Also sow dwarf beans for a late crop.
Lift early potatoes and allow to dry out a little before storing in a dry dark place. Towards the end of the month harvest early crops of onions. If you have planted sweet corn it should start to ripen toward the end of the month. To check if it is ripe watch out for the tassels beginning to go brown. Pick plums as they begin to ripen and start to harvest early apples such as ‘Discovery’.
Finally, continue to sow seeds of annual herbs throughout the month such as parsley, basil and coriander. Harvest herbs grown in garden planters to dry and keep for use over the winter months. Herbs such as thyme, sage, rosemary, lavender and oregano will all dry well if picked fresh and dried in a warm dark place such as an airing cupboard.
Jo Poultney is a RHS qualified gardener who has recently set up a business selling garden planters and garden related gifts via a website.