If we’ve played our cards right, then July is one of the best months in the kitchen garden, when our main jobs are keeping up with the harvesting of numerous crops, and watering – which can be a pleasant task if it’s not too hot, and allows us to spend some quality time with our plants!
For those contemplating going on holiday during July and August, this prolific bounty can cause a bit of a problem. Ideally you need to line up a friend or neighbour to keep an eye on your garden while you’re away. For a hand with the watering, they get to help themselves to anything worth harvesting. It’s helpful if they know a little bit about plants, and can be relied upon to harvest crops such as courgettes and runner beans, which can come to an abrupt stop if the plant is allowed to produce mature fruits.
In any case, it’s a good idea to harvest all beans and courgettes before you go, so you’ll come back to fresh crops. And to ensure that containers are well watered, grouped in the shade and sitting in trays. I usually pray that it rains while I’m away, but that always feels a bit mean, when I’m enjoying the sunshine on holiday!
It’s not too late to sow some seeds (do it before you go away, and they’ll have germinated by the time you get back…) for quick harvests now and carrying on into the autumn and winter.
Vegetables to sow in July
- Carrots – Early
- Chicory, for autumn/winter harvests
- Chinese Cabbage and other Oriental greens
- French beans, for a September crop
- Lettuce. In hot weather, sow late afternoon and shade from the sun
- Winter radishes
- Swiss chard and perpetual spinach
What to harvest in July
On the vegetable front, the more summery crops of tomatoes, cucumbers and courgettes should be joining the ongoing harvests of salad leaves, baby root vegetables and spring onions.
Whilst the broad beans will be over, French beans and even runner beans will be coming into their own, and there will be soft fruit to make up for the fact that the rhubarb season is over. Early varieties of blueberries fruit in July, together with strawberries, raspberries and blackcurrants.
And the Mediterranean herbs, such as rosemary, lavender, thyme and oregano will be lapping up the heat and sunshine, scenting the air with their fragrance and attracting beneficial insects with their flowers.
Think about water
Plants let you know when they’ve run out of water, by drooping and generally looking sad. It’s not ideal – they’re not growing when they’re drooping – but the situation can usually be remedied with a quick blast from the hosepipe or the watering can.
But what we don’t tend to see is that when plants are struggling for water, wildlife will be as well. It can be as important to provide a source of water as sources of food. For birds that can mean a birdbath, but that won’t help ground-living animals such as hedgehogs and frogs, which will need something they can reach. If you have room for a pond then it’s an ideal way to entice wildlife into your garden, but make sure that any wildlife that falls in to the water can climb out, by leaving a ramp for it to scramble up. Most animals can swim, but nothing can tread water indefinitely!
Insects also need to drink, including bees, and they can drown if they can’t climb out. Try adding some big stones to shallow dishes of water, or floating objects to deeper ones, to act as life rafts to thirsty bees.