July 2010 Newsletter

If you have harvested your new potatoes or other early crops

If you have harvested your new potatoes or other early crops, don't leave the area unplanted 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 extra crops during autumn.

July is also a good time to sow 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. They all grow so quickly that in no time at all you will be enjoying tasty, home-grown stir fries. They can also be harvested at the baby leaf stage to spice up your salad bowl too. Mustard Ruby Streaks is very quick to grow and makes a superb spicy salad ingredient - it works particularly well with Watercress Aqua.

When planning your over-wintering vegetable plot

When planning your over-wintering vegetable plot, remember that Kale 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.

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 as 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.

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

If you don't have the time to sow seeds but want to grow some late veg try our Young Salad and Vegetable 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 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 Pongo, Calabrese Maypole or Kaibroc there are collections including Hardy Autumn and Winter Salad Collections which provides a super mix for a late salad bowl and the Quick Growing Oriental Vegetables and Hardy Autumn Oriental Salad Young Plants will give an exotic bite to your salads and superb choice for stir-fry dishes.

If you only have a small plot to plant 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.

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

Keep a constant eye out for slugs and other nasty little pests that might take a fancy to your nice tender young plants! I have found that in my garden the only way to grow decent brassicas is to cover them with fine mesh such as Enviromesh to keep out 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! Cloches offer good protection to plants while they are relatively small, at this time of year while the weather is still warm mesh is the best option. A fleece or 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 should keep out just about e verything.

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 couple of years by using Nemaslug on the soil and covering with Enviromesh to keep out the flying insects – my plants have never looked so good. 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 you have an area that is not going be planted up over autumn and winter

If you have an area that is not going be planted up over autumn and winter 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 to encourage these essential busy workers into the garden.

Don't neglect container grown plants and hanging baskets

Don't neglect container grown plants and hanging baskets make sure they are kept well watered especially in very hot weather, deadhead often to keep the flowers coming well into the autumn and feed regularly with a liquid feed – tomato food is perfect. Containers can be at risk of damage from Vine Weevil at this time of year especially those planted with shrubs or perennials. The adult Vine Weevils 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.

Gardening Tips
There may still be some thinning of Apple and Pear trees

There may still be some thinning of Apple and Pear trees required even after the 'June drop' so check trees carefully. 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.

The soft fruit garden comes into its own in July with plants loaded with fruit

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 Strawberries – fruit 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 lusciousness that you get with home-grown varieties picked and eaten straight from the plant with the warm juices oozing with every lovely bite!

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.

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 are going on holiday this month, remember to ask someone to keep harvesting your fruit and watering the plants if necessary.

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! 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.

Check cordon tomato stems regularly, tying them in to canes

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 and keep compost well watered, drying out can prevent plants from taking up sufficient calcium which causes blossom end rot.

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.

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 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.

It's a good idea to give your maincrop potatoes a feed as well. A major cause of poor crops with potatoes is poor nutrition. They are a very greedy plant and a boost now will pay a dividend in tubers. A feed balanced as for tomatoes is ideal.