July 2013 Newsletter

In a normal year July can be one of the hottest and driest months - but when did we last have a ‘normal’ year! Topsy-turvy weather seems to be par for the course these days and June was so chilly in my area – no barbeques in our garden yet!

But hey-ho we gardeners are an optimistic lot and must take full advantage of any nice days that manage to come our way and get out there and enjoy every chance we get in the garden. At least there should be plenty of lovely fresh veg and salads cropping, what is better than a plate of home grown new potatoes and peas with baby carrots and little courgettes, all served with a generous knob of butter melting all over them - who needs meat - I think I’ll turn vegetarian!

Happy gardening

July is the perfect time to grow your own tasty oriental vegetables they are quick to grow and varieties to sow in summer include Pak Choi, Chinese Cabbage, Mustard Red Zest and Chinese Broccoli Kailaan .  They all grow so quickly that in no time at all you will be enjoying tasty, home-grown stir fries. Sown late in this way there is a much lower risk of them bolting and you can start to harvest them at the baby leaf stage to spice up your salad bowl too!

Keep making small repeat sowings of lettuce and salad leaves to enable you to keep cropping well into autumn. Dwarf French beans, beetroot, carrots, radish, spring onions, and baby turnips can all still be sown now to give you an extra harvest in the early days of autumn.

 

When planning your over-wintering vegetable plot, don’t forget about Kale, it is one of the easiest and tastiest vegetables to over-winter, it’s as tough as old boots too (not in the literal sense, more in a - surviving through the winter sense!) Kale just sails through the worst of the winter weather, and is not fussy about soil as long as there is adequate drainage Kale Redbor adds colour to the garden and Cavolo Nero the Italian Black Kale has beautiful, very dark, slender savoyed leaves and is fast becoming one of the most popular varieties ( TV chefs love it!). You can even pick the very young leaves and add to salads. To get the best pickings over winter, cover with a cloche or fleece for a little protection from the harshest weather. As soon the sun peeps through in spring it really comes into its own, giving you lots of pickings to take you through ‘The Hungry Gap’ in early spring when fresh veg is scarce. As the plants get taller take out the tender growing tip and further new growth will usually shoot from lower down the plant.

 

There never seems to be enough time in summer to think about sowing seeds of late veg, which is where our Vegetable and Salad Young plants come into their own, they are grown to the perfect size for you to simply plant out, water and let them grow away. All you need to do is pop them in and keep well watered. Broad Bean Aquadulce is the very best Autumn Planting Broad Bean and will stand over the winter to give you the earliest broad beans next year.

As well as individual veg varieties such as Dwarf French Bean Primel, or Calabrese Marathon there are collections including Hardy Autumn and Winter Salad Collection which provides a super mix for a late salad bowl and the Winter and Spring Cropping Brassicas and Super Spring Cropping Brassicas will give you enough late season and early spring veg to keep you going for months.

If you only have a small plot to plant we now offer three different pack sizes, or why not share a collection with a friend or neighbour, it can give you a greater choice and extra value for money. Remember not to let any young transplants dry out especially if the weather is warm and dry (it could be possible you know!)

Once you have harvested your potatoes and other early crops, if you would normally leave the area unplanted consider planting a Green Manure crop to cover the space. The benefits of growing Green Manures are many - they cover bare soil which would otherwise encourage weeds and loss of soil nutrients through rain or snow over winter. They suppress weeds, protect soil from erosion and add structure.

Caliente Mustard is not just a green manure – it also acts as a biofumigant for the soil. Biofumigants suppress various soil borne pests and diseases by releasing naturally occurring compounds. The combination of biofumigation plus the digging in of the lush green material, increases beneficial soil microbes, which out-compete pathogen microbes helping to keep soil diseases down. The foliage must be crushed or finely chopped (a strimmer can be useful for this) for it to release a natural gas (isothiocyanate) which effectively reduces and suppresses a range of harmful nematodes and diseases in the soil. Allow at least 2-3 weeks before re-planting to begin the breakdown of plant material into humus, which will release nutrients slowly over time.

Some Green Manures such as Legumes (beans) absorb nitrogen from the atmosphere and ‘fix’ it into the soil through root nodules, making it easily available for crops that follow. They can be sown whenever the ground is to be left bare for more than 6 weeks. Most Green Manures should be dug in while the crop is fresh and green. Allowing at least 2-3 weeks before re-planting to begin the breakdown of plant material.  

Red Clover can be grown from spring to summer or left to grow over winter while Field Beans are of the greatest value when they are over-wintered. They can be cut once and allowed to re-grow to produce a second flush of foliage before digging in. Dig in any time up to flowering. Phacelia Green Manure gives good foliage cover for weed suppression, for maximum effect it should be cut down before the flowers open, but they are so attractive to many beneficial insects, especially bees that it can be a good idea to leave a few plants to grow and flower.

 

I know I seem to mention pests at every turn but we really do need to keep on top of them, it’s so demoralising to look out in the morning and find your lovingly nurtured crops with holes from slugs or covered in caterpillars all munching away and leaving their ‘frass’ all over your cauliflowers or cabbages – Ugh! If slugs are your particular problem a biological control such as Nemaslug watered on to the soils should do the trick. I have had fantastic results over the last few years by using Nemaslug on the soil and covering with Insect Netting to keep out the flying insects – my plants have never looked so good.  If snails are coming out of their hiding places at night you might be better off with Eraza Slug and Snail Killer it is the best performing pellet on the market and a little goes a long way and it contains an animal repellent to deter other wildlife.

Cloches can offer good protection to young plants at this time of year, fleece or mesh is the best option while the weather is still warm. A polythene cover is best for keeping plants snug against frosts and harsh weather during the colder months, maximising warmth and moisture. Alternatively you could cover the whole bed with a moveable frame covered with Extra fine Netting this will keep out just about everything especially the dreaded Cabbage White Butterfly! The caterpillars from these can decimate a whole crop very quickly. Avoid letting the crop come into contact with the netting as the butterflies could make a determined effort and lay eggs through the net onto the leaves!

 

 

Plants grown in pots and containers are at risk of damage from Vine Weevil at this time of year.  The adults feed on the leaves of many plants and shrubs, leaving tell-tale, irregular notches on the leaf edges. This can look unsightly but rarely does any lasting damage. The true culprit is the Vine Weevil Larvae living in the soil. It feeds on roots and bores holes in tubers and plant stems, causing devastating damage to many plants.  The grubs over-winter in the pots then emerge as young adults in late spring/early summer to begin the whole process over again! By using a Biological Control such as Nemasys twice a year – in the autumn (to control the larvae from eggs laid in the summer) and again in spring, you break the cycle and can maintain healthy container plants.

Tips for the garden...

Check cordon tomato stems regularly tying them in to canes or strings as they grow, remove side-shoots to ensure the development of fruit not extra foliage. Feed regularly with a balanced tomato food such as Nutri-Tomato Feed and keep compost well watered, drying out can prevent plants from taking up sufficient calcium which causes blossom end rot. Nutri-Feed is excellent for Cucumbers, Aubergines, Courgettes and most other fruiting plants too.

Regularly tie in stems of Indoor Cucumbers to the cane and pinch out the tip once it has reached the top of the cane and has 5 or 6 leaves. Pinch out the shoots from side branches holding fruit, leaving two leaves after each. All female varieties will produce fruit on the main stem, so laterals can be removed altogether.

Make sure there is adequate ventilation in the greenhouse at all times.

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Check apple and pear trees after the ‘June drop’ as there could still be a bit of thinning needed. For the best crop leave one fruit every 10cms. It may seem heartless nipping off all those baby apples but you will be rewarded with the best sized, tastiest fruit in the autumn. Reduce the side shoots on Cordon Currants and Gooseberries by pruning them back to about five leaves or 4in (10cm) long.
Fruit trees will often produce suckers (unwanted shoots) from the base and these should be cut off cleanly with a sharp pair of secateurs. They grow from the rootstock and if left unchecked they will grow quickly and sap the energy from the tree.
Don’t neglect the watering of any young fruit trees especially if wall-trained, the most common reason young Apple, Pear and other Fruit Trees fail to thrive is due them being parched in their first summer! You wouldn’t expect your patio plants to survive the summer without water - so treat all your young plants to the same care and attention! Unless it is really baking hot a really good soak to the roots of new trees a couple of times a week is all that is necessary and will pay dividends for the future. If there is a real hot spell they may need watering every day depending on their position.
Avoid the ‘little and often’ approach to watering, all this does is encourage weak roots near the surface, one really good soak every few days will allow water to penetrate deep into the soil and the roots will then go downwards to seek it out resulting in a much stronger and healthier root system.

 


The soft fruit garden comes into its own in July with plants loaded with fruit all getting fat and juicy and beginning to ripen - especially Strawberriesfruit grown in season and ripened naturally in the sun just cannot be beaten. Strawberries available all year round in supermarkets are hard, tasteless and just do not have that old-fashioned flavour and plump lusciousness that you get with home-grown varieties picked and eaten straight from the plant with the warm juices oozing with every lovely bite!
Avoid leaving over-ripe fruit on the plants as they will begin to rot and allow grey mould (botrytis) to set in. It may be necessary to net the plants if you don’t want to share your fruit with our feathered friends! Our Bird Netting has a very strong knitted construction, and is ideal for keeping them away from your ripening soft fruits. It’s perfect for covering ponds too.
There may be the occasional shower in July but don't rely on rain to water your fruit garden. Keep your eye on the soil and be sure to give a good soaking if it is dry. Your fruit will suffer if it doesn’t have enough moisture.

 



Potato blight has been rife over the last couple of years because of the poor growing conditions that have been prevalent. Keeping potatoes well earthed up round the stem can help but keep an eye open for the first tell-tale signs which are brown or black spots at the tips and margins of leaves. The patches may enlarge and the leaves start to curl and wither with brown patches appearing on the stems. Spread can be rapid throughout the aerial parts of the plant before spreading to the tubers which can then be invaded by secondary infections causing them to rot and give off a foul smell!

All may not be lost if you act as soon as you spot the first signs of the disease. By cutting off all the stems above ground level you may well halt the spread of infection before it reaches the tubers. Make sure the tops are removed from the area and destroyed before lifting the tubers. It is possible to give some protection by regular spraying with a fungicide such as Fruit and Vegetable Disease Control, but this must be done before plants are affected. To give the best protection they should be sprayed at an interval of 10-14days, particularly in years of high risk. Spraying will not be effective once the infection has occurred.