What to do in July

July is exciting. Your plants will grow like triffids in the warm, long days, edible flowers will bloom, and more crops will be ready to pick – ripening fast in the current heatwave.

It’s a busy month… There are peas and tomatoes to tie up, plants to feed, seeds to sow and of course lots of watering –  for details of jobs to do and tips to help you, see below.

Luckily the long, warm evenings provide the perfect opportunity to potter outside,  catch up with all the growing jobs, and ponder life – and perhaps enjoy meeting and chatting to neighbours while you’re at it (see Nine ways food growing can help you meet your neighbours).

Here in Newcastle, we’ve had predominantly cool and windy weather over the last couple of months, interspersed with the odd hot day. It’s been a slow start… But the last few days have been warmer and things are beginning to catch up. The herbs have mostly been doing great!

Oregano, lemon verbena, thyme, savory and rosemary in terracotta pots
Oregano, lemon verbena, thyme, savory and rosemary in terracotta pots

On to the jobs for the container garden this month …. here’s the list:

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

1. Watering

As the days get warmer and plants get bigger and start producing fruit, they’ll need more frequent watering. For ideas on how to make watering your container garden easier see my Guardian article,  and for tips on how to keep hanging baskets watered, see 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 growing media 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. If you having trouble stopping your cane from falling over in the pot, check out this video for an easy way to secure it.

  • 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.

Your turn

Wherever in the world you are, I’d love to hear what is happening in your container garden this month in the comments below.

 

20 thoughts on “What to do in July”

  1. Colin Keith Stephenson

    Another great tip from you Mark, re : — Firm staking of the tomatoes. More simpler than my bits of string & canes, looks like scaffolding on a building site, so THANKS
    Colin

    1. I tie my tomatoes to canes with Velcro strips I think used by electricians. Much easier than string. Just move them up as the tomatoes grow.

  2. Hey Mark, great post, as always, many thanks. I’m just wondering why you don’t use bird netting to protect your plants(?!) I use it everywhere, find it works really well. Cheers, Sean

    1. Hi Sean, I was trying not to – simply because the plants are in public view and netting is not the most beautiful thing…. However, the blackbirds (and now the sparrows) are becoming more of a problem and I have just reluctantly netted the raspberries and blackberries. I think the blueberries will be next.

    1. Hi Glyn, I was told by a nursery that you need two different varieties to get a good yield – so I have Haskap Ruth and Haskap Rebecca. One of them produces most of the fruit but I can’t remember which! Other than that they seem quite straight forward, need feeding of course. They are beautiful plants but I haven’t fallen in love with the berries yet. Have you got some already or thinking of getting some?

  3. Colin Keith Stephenson

    Hallo Mark
    Liked the idea of mulching with the worm/compost + covering to help contain moisture ( Toms & Cues). Did hear but havn’t tried yet try using tea bags to contain moisture + used coffee granules on the garden to keep cats off.
    Thanks again for all your help
    Best wishes
    Colin

    1. You’re most welcome Colin, glad useful. Take care with coffee grounds around germinating seeds as they can sometimes inhibit germination and seedling growth – not sure if they’ll do anything to deter cats, but always worth a try. I know people who successfully use stones in between plants to keep cats off containers – also anything prickly like brambles or holly leaves work well.

  4. George Rayner

    Thanks for E-mail, Mark,
    My first sowings of runner beans, lettuce and chard were disasters, all spindly in the propagators and never reached a transplantable stage.
    However 2nd sowings more promising, and now I have runners (“Lady Di”) forming, chard ready to start harvesting. (this evening, first taste) and some tiny “Tom Thumb” lettuces on the way..
    If I knew how to do it, I would send a photo, but will try shortly. after some tuition by my grandchildren!
    Thanks for encouragement,
    George

    1. Good to hear your update George. Later sowings did better up here too – too cold and windy earlier in the year. Sadly, ot’s not possible to post a photo in the comments here (yet!) but if you emailed me one, I’d love to see your growing in action. All the best.

  5. Debra Johnson

    Cor thanks for the tip on pinching out the top of runner beans, I just didn’t think of doing that, I had rushed out and brought longer canes, will try your tip first.
    Mine haven’t any flowers on yet either, maybe they will after I’ve lobed the tops off.
    Thanks again.

    1. Good luck with that Debra, hope they flower soon – and I’m sure the longer canes will be useful somewhere, if not for your beans next year (I like a nice stall stand of beans I must admit). Mine beans were badly hit by heavy winds a few weeks back – they looked terrible for a while but I think are slowly recovering, fingers crossed.

  6. Hi. The idea of tying tomato works so well, now using it for cucumber and climbing french and borlotto beans, lots of hight needed but don’t need tying.
    If you have space, Wilko sell garden arch, 2.5 meter high, not expensive and good for vertical squash.

    1. The arch sounds nice Paul – always wanted to make a runner bean arch! When you say the ‘tying works well’ – are you referring to the string idea at the beginning of the video? Strings are great for lots of things, particularly tomatoes and squash (provides firm but flexible support) but I’ve never tried them on beans. Will be interested to hear how that works.

  7. Marilyn Kaplan

    All the years I watched my father (landscaper, horticulturist, and gardener) in the garden of our own yard, I never knew to pinch back runner beans at the top of the supports! That is a huge help as I never have done this and dealing with the tops had always frustrated me. Both that and the tomato support are ideas that I will implement this year. You are my new favourite blog!!!

    1. Hello Marilyn, glad that was of help 🙂 Of course, you don’t have to pinch out the tops but it does help keep them under control a bit. In a small space the other thing you can sometimes do, if practical, is attach strings leading from the tops of the poles to something on hour home eg a wall – so that they can continue climbing.

  8. Thank you for all this good information and I love to see the pictures of what you’re growing.
    After my success with sprouting peas and growing herbs for flavour in my north facing flat I do wish for some outdoor space.
    Best wishes and many thanks

    1. Herbs and pea shoots sound like a great place to start, Pam. Do you have any space outside or is it all indoors? If you don’t have your own outdoor space, it is often possible to find somewhere else to grow, if you want to. I know people who grow at work or at a place in the community (eg churchyard) or in the front or backyard of a neighbour or a bit of guerilla gardening on the street. Not sure if that would appeal to you but it might be an option!

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