Hartley Magazine

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July Sowing

julyThe greenhouse may be nearly empty but the plot is full. Completely and utterly chock full, just as is right and proper in July. The plug plants that jostled for space on the greenhouse table and floor have slowly found their places in rows of varying degrees of straightness, and – with a great effort in keeping them watered during these hot and dry days – seem to have got their roots down into the soil and look settled and healthy. There are robust rows of carrots, beetroot, dill and spinach, and towers of peas, sugarsnaps and mangetout. Cucumbers slowly snake up tripods of canes, and dwarf French beans are teetering on the edge of their summer-long bean fest. It’s been a good month for growing, by which I mean it’s been dry and pleasant and as well as them wanting to grow, I’ve wanted to be there, looking after them.

Broad beans are the only crop that is really nearing maturity though, the pods visibly swelling now. I am daily more aware that they will be the first crops to be ripped out to make way for the next generation and I am trying not to eye them too eagerly, or to be too envious of the space they are taking up. It is so easy to concentrate so much on the growing that you miss the eating, but space is required, or there will be a huge glut followed by an abrupt stop. Yes, there is going to be much bounty in August and September – there almost can’t not be, so well packed is the plot now – but there is absolutely not a space to start putting in any follow-up crops. The broad beans will come out early enough to warrant direct sowings, but beyond that I’m not so sure.

And so it has come to the time to gear the greenhouse up for its second big sowing spell of the year. It was not entirely empty before of course, but a few tomato plants, a single chilli and some recently potted-on cuttings are not taking up a huge amount of space. I wouldn’t normally sow seeds such as beetroot anywhere but straight into the ground. They are happiest with the least fiddling about and it seems a waste of effort and compost to sow then plant, but needs must right now. Once they have germinated and grown on a little (and presuming that some space has finally opened up at the plot) they can be pricked out straight into rows, to grow away through late summer and provide autumn and winter harvests. I have sown three different types: ‘Sanguinea’ (usual dark purple); ‘Touchstone Gold’ (yellow); and ‘Albino’ (guess…). With the same idea in mind I have also sown turnips for baby roots (‘Milan Purple Top’), rocket, pak choi, kai lan and raddichio. It feels like a fine set of things to be getting underway for late summer and autumn, and some of these will stay in the ground to make up my winter bounty too.

It is so easy to sit back at this time of year and feel that your work is done, especially if your plot is looking as smug and delighted with itself as mine is, but it really is worth keeping your foot on the pedal while the growing is good, albeit with a less hectic touch than you might have used in spring. Everything will germinate with ease now, and even if you don’t have the space to make the most of this outside, use your greenhouse to get crops waiting in the wings.