July gardening jobs
July is mainly a month of maintenance, of watering, feeding and pruning, as well as a time to pause and take pleasure in your achievements. Here's what to do in the garden this month. Words Aaron Bertelsen, illustration Alice Pattullo
Gardening jobs for July
For the last couple of years I have enjoyed fresh peas well into the autumn. How? By making a second sowing in July. As the first lot of plants go over, pull them out, making sure to leave the pea sticks in place. Sow your second crop direct, leaving about 10cm between each pea, and water in well.
For years I dismissed curly leaved parsley as useful only for fiddly garnishes. How wrong I was. This herb overwinters well for us and the flavour grows more pronounced with the cold. Sow now to ensure a plentiful supply for those winter salads.
This is also the perfect time for sowing peppery salad leaves such as rocket, mizuna and mustard greens. This way you will avoid attack by flea beetle and ensure a good crop going into the colder months.
Fennel sown now is less likely to bolt and will be ready to crop in autumn and early winter. This is the perfect timing for pruning trained fruit. With summer pruning, the aim is to reduce new growth, in order to keep the tree in shape to let in light and sunshine so the fruit can ripen. As a general guide, remove all upright growth, and cut back any new growth that is longer than 20cm to five leaves. As in winter, take the opportunity to remove any diseased wood or growth that is crossing over or close together that may end up rubbing.
Maincrop potatoes will need feeding. They are hungry creatures and will not crop well for you if they run out of food. I use liquid tomato feed. Crops in pots will need regular watering – that means every day for the more delicate things like salad leaves. Don’t forget to feed them too. A weekly dose of liquid seaweed will work wonders. Make sure you are watering the soil, not the leaves, unless you are particularly fond of the taste of seaweed.
What to do with your garden crops in July
First and second early potato cropping should be in full swing now. The main challenge is to get all the potatoes out without accidentally sticking a fork or spade through them – particularly challenging in our heavy clay soil. Any tubers that are left in the soil will pop up as weeds next summer, and could also spread blight. I am increasingly growing my potatoes in bags. It makes them very easy to earth up, and harvesting takes minutes. If space permits, try growing them in a one-tonne bag – the type you get with a bulk delivery of compost or bark.
July is also the month of plenty when it comes to soft fruit. I am not a huge fan of freezing food – it is so easy to forget what you have in there, and over time food will lose some of its goodness and flavour. But used wisely, it is a very helpful resource in times of glut. I stash some bags of fruit in the freezer ready to make jam in the autumn when things in the garden are quieter. But one thing I do always make time for is a fruit vodka – best made with fruit that is absolutely at its peak of freshness and flavour.
Having studied at Kew Gardens and spent two years at Jerusalem Botanical Gardens in Israel, Aaron Bertelsen is now vegetable gardener and cook at Great Dixter. His book, The Great Dixter Cookbook was published in March 2017.