July has arrived with the promise of sunshine for many, so there will be plenty to enjoy in the garden.
Rain, warmth and long days encourage seedlings to grow rapidly, so continue sowing fast growing salad crops as part of your programme of successional sowing; they are more tender if harvested when small. There is still time to sow those which take longer to mature; early peas, turnips, early carrots, lettuce, radiccio will still provide a harvest before the end of the growing season. Hearting chicory, chard for winter harvest and herbs like chervil, coriander and rocket can be sown, too. If you were well organised and sowed Sprouting Broccoli in June or can buy them from the local garden centre, it can be planted out at the end of the month.
The rain and warmth has encouraged weeds to germinate – some find hand weeding, a chore, others see it as therapy. However you feel about weeds, removing them before they flower and set seed is essential and they are a good activator for the compost heap!
You may find that fruiting of courgettes has been slowed by lack of insect activity. This is easily resolved by hand pollination, taking a male flower – identified by the pollen and lack of an immature fruit behind the flower and dusting the pollen onto the female flowers with their prominent swelling behind the flower, that eventually becomes the courgette. You will need to remove the petals from the male flower for ease of access, before pressing it into the centre of the female flower. Courgettes are also prone to ‘powdery mildew’ which causes a white deposit on the leaves which eventually collapse. This is caused mainly by dryness at the roots. To control the problem, avoid wetting the leaves when watering, add plenty of well rotted organic matter to the soil before planting, to improve water retention and make sure they are planted where air circulation is good. In September 2011, the results of Ian Hodgson’s trial of courgettes was published in the RHS magazine, ‘The Garden’. In the year that they were trialled, ‘Soleil’ was the least affected by mildew. For anyone experiencing a ‘glut’ then there are some tasty recipes on the RHS website. http://www.rhs.org.uk/Gardening/Grow-Your-Own/Features/Courgette-recipes
Despite the erratic spring weather, a good crop of ‘fruitlets’ formed on the twenty four cultivars of cordon apples in my front garden. ‘June drop’ which often occurs in early July, means that some are naturally aborted but it is worth reducing the number of apples on each plant to ensure that they all reach their optimum size. Restricted growth forms, like cordons, are easy to manage and all operations from pruning to checking for pests and diseases are simple – and are done without the aid of a ladder. Because they are still growing, summer pruning will be left until late – possibly early August, so there is no re-growth after the side shoots have been pruned.
Happy Gardening! Matt