From garden to plate
Over the past two years, more and more people have spent time in the garden and many have dabbled for the first time with growing their own veg. Ann Winwood offers a few tips to help the trend continue.
A legacy of the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 is that many people branched out into growing vegetables in their gardens. Even with a small plot there is plenty you can still grow in containers. And there is no denying that it is very satisfying to see produce you have grown yourself make it onto the plate as part of a lovely lunch or sumptuous supper.
Harvest peas and runner beans regularly while they’re young and tender; freeze any spares to keep you going over winter.
One result of this extra ‘grow your own’ activity, is that garden centres have experienced high demand for food growing products. If you have something specific in mind, it is always worth a quick check ahead to ensure it is in stock. Alternatively, why not enjoy a browse and maybe come across a vegetable you might not have thought of but takes your fancy.
You can still sow key crops such as salad leaves, kale and Swiss chard into July – successional sowing (sowing seeds week by week rather than all in one go) will ensure you have crops well into autumn. You can plant all of these in containers – do keep them well watered, especially in dry weather. Kale is a wonderfully nutritious vegetable that’s delicious roasted as ‘chips’ – just coat with oil and a little salt or soy sauce and pop into a hot oven until it’s crisp but not burned.
For new potatoes in October, or at Christmas, plant seed potatoes in tubs in July and August. Growth will finish in October; leave tubers in their pots until required for cooking. Remember they’ll need protection once the winter frosts appear in November and December.
Seeds of summer
You can still pop carrots and turnips in until August, but sow or plant out your last beetroots, peas and beans in July. Use fine netting to cover cabbages, cauliflowers, carrots and other particularly susceptible vegetables against flies, pigeons and butterflies.
Harvest peas and runner beans regularly while they’re young and tender; freeze any spares to keep you going over winter. Keep beans and peas moist, and spray over foliage to encourage pods to set.
July is a good time to add plants to your pond. Keep marginals on a ledge at the edges of the pool. Iris, caltha, primulas and bulrushes all thrive if you don’t plant them too deep.
Tomatoes and cucumbers need water regularly during hot weather. It’s best to water them first thing in the morning and last thing at night, as this stops mildew developing. Cucumbers in particular can be very susceptible to this, so be extra vigilant and remove any badly-infected leaves from plants. Good growing conditions will help to keep plants healthy. These include good light levels, low humidity, particularly at night, and the use of resistant varieties. Good husbandry will pay off and prevent diseases.
Hanging baskets need weekly liquid feeding – even with slow-release fertilizers added to composts, you’ll see the extra benefits from liquid feed. Baskets soon dry out, especially when they’re sheltered from rain under a porch, so morning and night watering is essential during very warm weather.
Now’s the time to plant lupins and delphiniums, plus astrantias, centranthus and the butterfly-loving verbena bonariensis. Stake and tie in taller herbaceous plants before they get too tall and floppy to manage. Trim back aubretia once it has finished flowering and you may get another burst of colour later in summer. Make the most of a warm sunny day and pull or hoe up any weeds lurking in your borders.
With all the wildlife flourishing, July is a good time to add plants to your pond. Keep marginals on a ledge at the edges of the pool. Iris, caltha, primulas and bulrushes all thrive if you don’t plant them too deep. They will also do well near your pool in a damp, boggy area. For the middle/deeper parts of your pool, water lilies can give protection to any fish that you have. Most plants come ready-planted in aquatic pots so just need placing straight into the pool.
Hostas come in a variety of colours and are deservedly popular for shady spots; watch out for slugs though, especially if the ground is damp. There’s still time to treat moss on lawns if the weather is not too dry.
To complete another gardening cycle – or start a new one depending on how you look at it – start thinking about your spring-flowering bulbs from August. It always pays to think ahead so it doesn’t all become a last-minute rush!