July 2009 Newsletter

Have you ever thought about growing your own tasty stir-fry veg?

Have you ever thought about growing your own tasty stir-fry veg? July is a perfect time to sow lots of oriental vegetables, they are quick to grow and those you can sow in summer include pak choi, choi sum, chinese cabbage, mustard red zest and chinese broccoli kailaan. Why not try something even more unusual like shungiku greens (sometimes called chop suey greens). They all grow so quickly that in no time at all you will be enjoying tasty, home-grown stir fries. You can start to harvest these at the baby leaf stage to spice up your salad bowl too!

Make small repeat sowings of lettuce and salad leaves

Make 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 still be sown now to give you an extra harvest in the early days of autumn.

And don't forget about kale - it's 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!) Forget the horrors of the leathery leaves you find in supermarkets - they bear no resemblance to the tender and delicious flavour of home-grown, fresh-picked leaves from your own garden gently steamed or even quickly stir fried, it is delicious! 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)!

Once you have harvested your potatoes

Once you have harvested your potatoes and other early crops, if you would normally leave the area unplanted why not 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.

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. 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.

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.

Keep a beady eye out for slugs and other nasty little pests

Keep a beady eye out for slugs and other nasty little pests that might take a fancy to your nice tender young plants! If necessary cover them with fine mesh or use an appropriate insecticide or biological control such as Nemaslug. Cloches 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 carrot and cabbage root fly 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!

If you want to grow some late veg but don't have the time

If you want to grow some late veg but don't have the time or the inclination to sow your own seeds try our vegetable and salad young plants, 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 plant them up and keep well watered.

There are lots of varieties to choose from, the hardy autumn and winter salad collection provides a super mix for a late salad bowl and the quick growing oriental vegetables and hardy autumn oriental salad and stir-fry vegetables will give an exotic bite to your salads and superb choice for stir-fry dishes. Last year we added a winter and spring cropping brassica collection which proved to be very popular.

New to our vegetable starter plants this year is broad bean aquadulce, this is the very best autumn planting broad bean and will stand over the winter to give you the earliest broad beans next year.

Gardening Tips
Strawberries and Cream - the epitome of the English summer

Strawberries and Cream - the epitome of the English summer - will be on the teatime menu as the fruit garden comes into its' own. Many raspberry varieties will be ripening now too. It is important to check your soft fruit regularly and pick your fruit as soon as it is ripe, I am sure your neighbour wouldn't mind helping you out with the odd bowl of strawberries if you have too many! Avoid leaving over-ripe fruit on the plants as they will begin to rot and allow grey mould to set in. It may be necessary to net the plants if you don't want to share your fruit with the birds!

If you have more berries than you can eat you can freeze them, place them individually on a tray so they don't touch and put straight in the freezer. After a couple of hours, remove the tray and bag up the frozen fruit. When frozen individually this way they will take up less room in the freezer, keep their shape and be easier to use - just shake out however many you need.

Check apple and pear trees after the 'June drop'

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, 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.

Do not neglect the watering of any young fruit trees

Do not 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.

Potato blight has been rife over the last couple of years

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 Dithane, 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.