What to do in July

IMG_9669

July is a month of lush growth and expectation in the container garden – with the best harvests of the year just round the corner. With luck, you might already be harvesting peas, courgettes, strawberries and beans now, along with the first tomatoes (cherry tomatoes are usually the first to ripen).

If you want to keep up a supply of salads and other leaves later in the summer and early autumn, it can be a good idea to sow some more now (to replace existing leaves that may go bitter or to seed over the summer months).

Jobs for the container garden this month include:

  1. Watering
  2. Feeding
  3. Sowing and cuttings
  4. Pruning, tying up, pinching out
  5. Harvesting
  6. Wormeries

1. Watering

Watering is as important as ever this month. As the days get warmer and plants get bigger and start producing fruit, they’ll need more water than earlier in the year. Without enough water (and it can be easy to forget when you are busy – so a daily routine can really help) plants get stressed – this in turn reduces yields, and increases the risk of pests and disease. You can find ideas on how to make watering your container garden easier here.  Hanging baskets baskets pose particular watering challenges, you can find out more about here.

This soil in this hanging basket has been covered (or 'mulched') with plastic to help prevent water loss. Just lift a corner of the plastic to water.

The soil in this hanging basket has been covered (or ‘mulched’) with plastic to help prevent water loss. Just lift a corner of the plastic to water.

2. Feeding

New multipurpose compost usually contains enough nutrients to support optimum growth for about six weeks – after that your crops will need feeding. And they’ll need it most in warm weather when growth will be at at its peak.

  • Use a liquid tomato feed for all your fruiting crops, once they start flowering and fruiting (see June for more info).
  • Mulch hungry crops like courgettes and tomatoes with worm compost if you have it. Not essential but this will give them a nice boost of nutrients and microbial life, and help retain water. Manure or homemade compost is an alternative if you can source some some, perhaps from a city farm. (‘Mulch’ basically means spreading a layer of an inch or two on top of the soil).
  • Water leafy crops with a general purpose organic liquid feed like liquid seaweed, nettle tea, or worm tea once a week.

3. Sowing and cuttings

Salads

Sow salads now if you want to keep up your salad supply in September and October. If you don’t have space in your pots, start them in trays ready to move when space appears. (If you find you don’t need extra plants, you can always eat the baby salad seedlings as micro leaves!).

Leafy Veg

Sow kale, cavelo nero and chard now for autumn leaves and to establish plants to grow over winter.

Oriental leaves and fennel

Now is a good time to sow fennel and oriental leaves like pak choi, mustard red giant and mizuna, as they are less prone to bolt than earlier in the year (bolting is when crops start to flower and seed before you want them to)

Beans, peas and courgettes

In southern parts of the UK and anywhere where the first frosts cannot be expected until late October / early November, there is time to sow courgettes, runner beans, French beans and peas and get a crop before the first frosts in the autumn (get them in as early in July as possible). In colder parts, where frosts may strike in early October, the chances of getting a good crop a lower.

Cuttings

July is a good time to take softwood cuttings (from this years growth) of herbs like lemon verbena, rosemary, Vietnamese coriander, sage, and thyme. This is a great way to expand your herb garden at low cost (free!). You just need to find a friend, neighbour or community garden with a nice herb collection where you can take the cuttings.

4. Pruning, tying up, pinching out.

  • Bushy plants that cast shade. In a small space it’s not uncommon for the leaves of big bushy plants like courgettes to start casting shade on other crops. Sometimes you can move the pots around to reduce the shading. Or you can remove a few of the largest leaves (up to about a third of the leaves) to create light for your other crops.
  • Tomato side shoots need constant pinching out to keep them under control.
  • Climbing crops like peas, beans and tomatoes usually need constant tying in to ensure they are secure. Double check this if windy weather is forecast.
  • Pinch out the growing tips of climbers (runners, tomatoes etc) when they reach the tops of their poles. This will encourage them to put their energy into producing fruit.
The bushy leaves of courgettes can cast shade on other crops. It won't hurt to cut off a few leaves to reduce this problem.

The bushy leaves of courgettes can cast shade on other crops. It won’t hurt to cut off a few leaves to reduce the shading.

5. Harvesting

As mentioned last month, keeping harvesting your crops to encourage them to keep growing and fruiting. Runner beans and courgettes, in particular, are best picked small. If your salads start to bolt, picking off the flowering shoot at the top (normally good to eat) will often enable you to extend the life of it a bit.

6. Wormeries

As the weather warms, check your wormery is not sitting in the sun all day – worms do not like to get too hot. A shady spot is best if you have one. Remember, too, that worms will usually eat more when its warm. If you plan to go away, they’ll be fine for a few weeks without food. Just feed them normally before you go (I sometimes add a layer of manure, too) and then as soon as you get back.

 

 

 

 

 

12 comments… add one

  • Has anyone else had a problem with blackfly this summer? Here in my garden – south Devon – it was so bad I had to pull up all my beans and start again. There’s normally some but this year it’s been terrible. And I’ve had a grand total of one courgette. I’m still waiting for the promised mountain and this is my tenth year of growing them!

    Reply
  • Thank you Mark for keeping in touch. I have been very lazy this year- the weather hasn’t helped, but you are an example of pushing ahead regardless. I will go and sow chard and salad leaves in the polytunnel and try to rescue my anaemic looking tomatoes now. The slugs and snails have feasted merrily on everything else!

    Reply
  • I will save this till January as I live in Tasmania. Loving your site and the excellent information that you share. Cheers for all of your efforts :)

    Reply
  • Really enjoyed reading your email. I’ve not done anything yet this year as have been a tad poorly. Newcastle, know it well my daughter did her degree there and is currently in the throes of her MA, is a bit further north that us. We are in the Peak District. I would love some advice on how you kept your wormery going over a wet and cold winter. I have tried several times, wrapped it in bubble wrap, moved it out of the worst weather and adjacent to the house. Nothing seems to work. Any advice would be appreciated.

    Reply
    • Hi Frances, I haven’t had a problem with my wormery’s over winter. I just make sure they are at least two thirds full so that the worms have got lots of matter to retreat into and keep warm when the weather gets gold. Keeping it out of strong wind will help. Also, if you can shelter it from the rain – particularly if it is a model with holes in the roof, that will make a big difference. Lots of water in a wormery is never good, but even less so in winter. Finally, if you have a tap on your wormery, leave it open.

      Reply
  • Thanks for the tips. I wanted to thank you for the post as it helped me a lot during the month, especially the pruning and tying recommendations. Please, go for an August post as well, I would love that. :) Cheers!

    Reply
    • Hi Kelly, you’re welcome – great to hear it was useful. Yes, there’ll be a post for August and September, too.

      Reply
  • Hi Mark,

    I’ve been harvesting my potatoes this month, any recommendations for what to plant in the bags afterwards for another crop?
    Cheers,

    Scott

    Reply
    • Great idea to make the most of the pot. Lots of things you could try. I’d go for either salad (eg rocket or mustards like mizuna and pak choi) or one of the winter leaves like chard or cavelo nero. Add some worm manure or a few chicken manure pellets or something else high in nitrogen as fertiliser – as the potatoes will have takem most of the nutrients out.

      Reply
  • Hi Mark,
    your strawberry photo sure looks delicious!
    Although a little later than in other places, many of my plants have started flowering and fruiting. Yay! I also get visited a lot by bumblebees, they like my cornflowers and nasturtiums.
    The only annoying thing is some leaf miners in my peas, nasturtiums and rocket.
    I got really annoyed when I saw them eating my poor little plants, I’m glad snails aren’t an issue up on the 5th floor, or I would get quite mad, I suppose.
    I’ve bought some coloured sticky traps (don’t know how they are called in English) and will see what that brings.
    I’ve read you can attract ichneumons, who’ll lay their eggs in their larvae, by hanging up pieces of wood with small holes. That’s another option.

    And I followed your advice and bought and used some tomato feed and since then I think my tomatoes (especially the bought one) have been busier producing flowers than before! I tried to pick a product that was eco-friendly, but those firms don’t really tell you what they put into the stuff. All I could find on the package of the stuff was that there was some portion of guano in it and it was “suitable for organic farming”, but as I read somewhere before that doesn’t have to mean so much. I mean, peat for example might be great for plants, but I’d rather not have my fertilizer or compost taken from moor landscapes when there’s alternatives that don’t harm sensible landscapes as much. I guess the stuff is mostly harmless and now it’s too late and maybe there’s only cool stuff in it anyway, but I don’t really feel great about that decision of mine and I still think they should be required by law to tell people their ingredients, just as it is with food.
    I hope you don’t take this as criticism against yourself or your choices of any sort, I just felt I had some afterthoughts I’d want to put to discussion.

    Read you later,
    Sarah

    Reply
    • Hi Sarah
      It sounds like you are doing really well, amazingly in fact for your first year. I share your frustration with leaf miners…. Keep an eye out for their eggs (white, on the back of the leaves) and you can squish them before they hatch :)

      Deciding what products you are happy to use and which you are uncomfortable with is a tricky part of growing in a city. In the end it comes down to personal preferences. At Vertical Veg, my aim is to give a range of options to help each person make up their own mind, depending on beliefs, budgets and time available. With time and a bit of exploration it is possible to do most things pretty sustainably and organically in a city (eg finding a source of comfrey to make your own tomato feed). But, for the busy person, buying and making comfrey feed may not be so easy or practical – so I try not to be prescriptive (I want as many people as possible to discover the benefits of growing!). It sounds like the comfrey route might be a good one for you? As you’ve found, buying fertilisers is a mine field – even organic ones, its hard to know about. This one (the one I’m using at the moment) is made out of totally natural seaweed sourced in Ireland -https://www.quickcrop.co.uk/product/pure-seaweed-tomato-and-fruit-feed-500ml – but it has other things added, too, and I can’t vouch for what they are. If you contact them, they might tell you.

      Hope this helps.

      And thanks again for sharing your experience and also your dilemmas, I always look forward to your updates.

      Mark

      Reply
  • Great list! Thank you Mark!

    Reply

Leave a Comment