It’s that time of the year when the vegetable plot comes together, looks great and there’s plenty to harvest!
Granted, we’ve noticed the effects of this year’s wet spring and early summer and there’s all the evidence of rain-related damage to allotments and allotment crops. Garlic has been particularly susceptible to rust as you may have seen for yourself, and the slug and snail populations are sky-high.
It’s not all gloom though – there have been sunny days- albeit sporadically – and the combination of sun and rain allows crops to grow almost exponentially.
Now it’s harvest-time for many crops and you able to reap the rewards. When the sun comes out, it’s barbecue time and a chance to show-off your home-grown food to guests.
Jobs to do
You can sow vegetable seeds out now whether in containers, VegTrug containers or in direct soil. Before planting, weed the area and rake the surface to create a crumbly soil texture. Create shallow rills and sow seeds along the rill. Space the seeds according to the variety and be prepared to thin the seeds out after the seedlings start to produce their first pair of true leaves.
With carrots, space seeds so that there is no need to thin out later on. Thinning carrot seeds lets off on aroma that attracts carrot root fly, a pest that can devastate crops later on
Now is the time to pick your strawberries- a rewarding task. Be sure to have a ‘reject’s’ punnet too and pick all the damaged fruit to make sure there are no rotting fruits remaining on the strawberry plants. Rot can spread quickly and let off ethylene which attracts vermin which cause further damage.
Re-place the straw at the base of the plants to keep the remaining fruit dry and cover your plants with protective netting. Slugs and snails are partial to strawberries as are birds, particularly crows.
Grapes should be just starting to produce flower by now. They are also producing lots of leaves and leafy stems; so much so that they can easily overwhelm the clusters of flowers. It’s important that the developing flowers receive plenty of air so prune surrounding stems.
On apple trees you may notice the many clustering fruitlets developing around the tree and lots of naturally-falling apples – this is commonly called the ‘June drop’. Thin out tight clusters of apples that are on the tree by removing around half of the fruit. The remaining fruit should now have plenty of room to grow and develop unimpeded.
Cordon tomatoes such as tomato Sweet Million and Golden Cherry will be growing well now and producing flowering stems. Each morning or evening give tomatoes a generous water and feed with a high-potash formula.
Now is the time to pinch out side-shoots too. These are the secondary shoots that emerge at the point where the base of the leaves meet the main stem. Removing these side-shoots concentrates the plants’ energy on producing more and superior fruit.
Guard your well-developed summer cabbages from cabbage-white butterfly damage. Use a vegetable cage to contain your crops. You will need to make sure that the netting is set high enough above the cabbage leaves so the netting is not touching the leaves, otherwise adult cabbage white butterflies will stay be able to lay eggs through the netting.
Remove dying outside leaves as they appear to keep the area clean and the crops healthy.
Are your root crops of garlic and shallots ready to harvest and dry? If the leaves have yellowed and are wilting in earnest, lift a garlic to check the size and readiness for harvesting. If ready, handle carefully so they don’t bruise. Bruising can lead to rot in storage.
Dry outdoors for around a week if the weather is dry. In wet conditions bring indoors into a cool location. If storing in boxes cut leaves down to leave a 5cm (2in) stump on the garlic bulbs. If you are planning to suspend crops to dry, moisten the leaves and produce plaits.
We visited the busy central-England show this year to glean information and inspiration from fellow nurseries and other big names in the fruit and vegetable growing world. Here a gallery of highlights
A water butt is hugely beneficial on the allotment of by the fruit and vegetable patch. The rain that gathers is usually of the right alkalinity and the right temperature suited to most crops. You can also create an easy liquid-feed by adding nitrous material like Organic Extra into the water butt.
Add flowers to your vegetable patch to introduce welcome colour as well as attract a range of pollinating insects that will pollinate nearby tomatoes, tree fruit and beans too. Dahlias make an excellent choice as do nectar-rich Cleome shown here.
Growing in raised beds is an excellent idea for growing fruit and vegetables that are easy to harvest. You’ll be able to pick fruiting vegetables like sweetcorn and courgettes here at a comfortable height without having to crouch down so much.
Meal ingredients grown in a barrow! What a great idea. Local schools compete to produce crops that contribute to their favourite meals. A great way to get children aware of where their food comes from.
The month of Wimbledon is upon us and with Wimbledon we think of strawberries. Here are some interesting facts about this summer-fruit favourite.
- Strawberries naturally whiten your teeth on account of the acids, which help remove stains.
- The farm Hugh Lowe in Kent, the county fondly named as the ‘garden of England’, has been supplying Wimbledon with strawberries for 20 years.
- In German 'strawberries' is literally translated as ‘earth-berries’ on account of them fruiting low down near the soil, rather than on tall plants like raspberries.
- Breeding strawberries to get bigger and juicier fruit started as early as the 16th century and have gone from strength to strength since.
'Christine' (Early) -With large very bright orange-red fruit with an exceptionally fine sweet flavour. Christine is the best early variety for disease resistance.
'Malling Centenary' (Main)- A New introduction from East Malling to mark 100 years of unparalleled UK fruit breeding. Plants produce very attractive glossy fruit with a good shape and stunning flavour.
'Fenella' (Late)-Lush plants with attractive glossy, bright orange-red berries of a good uniform shape. Superb sweet flavour and juicy texture it has been proven to have the best ‘rain resistant’ fruit.
Strawberry EM1592 – Our new exclusive strawberry aroma-rich and easy to grow. Leaves grow high above the strawberries to protect developing fruit from the rain.
To say a big thank you for naming our new strawberry, you could be in with a chance of winning £50 of Marshalls gift vouchers for you to spend on our fantastic range.
For a chance of winning, please send us your suggested name to either firstname.lastname@example.org or Marshalls, Alconbury, Huntingdon PE28 4HY.
Shows abound in the summer
This month we are visiting the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show (5-10 July) as well as the RHS Flower Show Tatton Park (20-24 July). These two shows are great for seeing how fruit and vegetable gardening can be applied in different ways and both demonstrate how allotment-gardening is a hobby for all ages. Watch this space for highlights of the show in August’s newsletter.
Prepare your soil for late-summer planting
Now that you have started harvesting in earnest there may be parts of your plot that are now vacant. Prepare this treasured part of the plot now for further planting and more crops later in the season. Here’s a rundown of what to do in preparation for autumn-planting brassicas to continue the growing calendar.
- Remove any green waste and compost. Fork up the soil to expose any roots that you’ll need to dispose of too.
- Weed the area thoroughly. Use a fork to remove the perennial roots of weeds such as dandelions and mallows and a hoe to remove shallow-growing but prolific annual weeds such as chickweed.
- Test the acidity of the soil with an easy-use soil-testing kit. If your soil is too acidic for brassica crops you can apply Garden Lime Soil Conditioner to balance the soil.
- Add an effective soil texture-improving conditioner like Organic Extra. This will encourage healthy microbes into the soil which will work for you, the grower and improve the moisture-holding capacity of the soil.
- Fork the area over to incorporate the soil conditioner evenly.
- Rake the area finally to produce a level surface with a crumbly consistency.