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Nature blog - Jenny Bourne

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The RPA Nature blog with Jenny Bourne.

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“Weed, water, mulch” should remain as much of a mantra as it was in June. All three are still high on the list of the most important tasks of the month. Regular watering, in particular, is vital for the successful growth of crops. It also reduces the risk of bolting and helps to prevent diseases such as blossom end rot on tomatoes. July is also the month for summer-pruning certain fruit trees and bushes as or just after they finish cropping – cherries, currants, gooseberries, and summer-fruiting raspberries.

Weed regularly

Don’t ease up on hoeing. Weeds will be growing as vigorously as everything else on your plot. One consolation, however, is that some plants – those that produce lots of foliage (potatoes, courgettes, squash, etc.) – may keep weeds at bay by covering the ground and depriving them of sunlight.

Water to prevent bolting

Certain vegetables have a natural tendency to flower and run to seed as days lengthen and temperatures rise. Lettuces, rocket, spinach, cauliflowers, and Florence fennel are particularly prone. Watering regularly can help delay or even prevent bolting.

If the weather is dry, give growing plants a thorough watering at least every couple of days.

If the weather is dry, give growing plants a thorough watering at least every couple of days.

Mulch to conserve moisture

As soon as possible after rain, spread mulches such as garden compost, well-rotted manure, and even grass cuttings to retain moisture in the soil and keep it damp.

Net against birds

Continue to ensure that peas, brassicas, and soft fruit are all securely netted to keep off scavenging birds.

Dry out garlic, onions, and shallots

A few days before you harvest them, loosen the soil around the roots. Choose a dry spell of weather, lift the bulbs, and lay them on the ground in the sun. The more thoroughly you dry them, the longer they will keep.

Pinch out tops of climbing beans

Climbing beans don’t really know when to stop. Pinch out the growing tips when they reach the top of your canes or they will quickly become tangled and top-heavy.

Cut down broad beans

Once your harvest is over, cut plants down to just above the surface of the soil and compost them.

Leave the roots of broad bean plants in the ground, as they are rich in nitrogen.

Leave the roots of broad bean plants in the ground, as they are rich in nitrogen.

Summer-prune blackcurrants

Lightly prune blackcurrants just before or just after picking the fruit. Prune again in winter.

Prune raspberries

As soon as you’ve finished picking summer raspberries, cut all the canes that have borne fruit down to the ground. Tie in this year’s new, green canes in their place.

Tie in blackberries and hybrid berries

Continue to tie in new canes – those that are growing up this year without bearing fruit. In the autumn, when harvesting is finished, you’ll remove the old canes, ready for the new ones to take their place next year.

Thin apples and pears

If your trees look overcrowded, even after last month’s “June drop”, thin them out still further in order to allow each fruit to grow to a reasonable size.

Prune cherries and plums

Summer-prune cherries and plum trees once you’ve harvested the fruit. Both are pruned in summer not winter.

Check all wire-trained trees

Inspect all espalier, cordon, and fan-trained trees to ensure all ties are secure but not too tight. Tie in or summer-prune new growth.

Branches of heavily laden fruit trees become increasingly weighed down as the fruit develops, and may need tying into supports.

Branches of heavily laden fruit trees become increasingly weighed down as the fruit develops, and may need tying into supports.

Grape vines

Continue pruning side shoots and, if necessary, continue to thin fruit. Also remove some of the foliage to increase exposure to the sun and speed up ripening.

Spray runner beans

It’s said that spraying flowers with water deters them from falling and encourages the formation of bean pods; regular watering at the base of the plants may be just as effective.

Pinch out tomato shoots

Nip off the side shoots that appear in the “V” between leaf stems and the main stems of vine tomatoes. And pinch out the growing tip at the top of the plant once four or five trusses have formed. If you allow any more than that, the tomatoes are unlikely to ripen.

Feed tomatoes and peppers

Start regularly watering tomatoes and peppers with a liquid feed as soon as you see that the first fruits have formed. Feeding encourages both flowers and fruits.

Cover heads of cauliflowers

Protect white heads from turning yellow in the sun by pulling outside leaves over them and tying them in place.

Blanch celery and endives

Earth up trench celery to keep the stems out of the light, and place plates over curly endives to blanch the leaves.

Earth up brassicas and potatoes

Pull earth up around the stalks of Brussels sprouts and other brassicas if they seem unsteady, and give them a top-dressing of nitrogenous fertilizer or an organic liquid feed. Keep an eye on potatoes and if necessary continue to earth them up.

Take cuttings of herbs

Propagate perennial and shrubby herbs such as rosemary, sage, and thyme by taking semi-ripe, softwood, or stem cuttings.

Tidy up summer strawberries

Once your summer-fruiting strawberries have finished, you can tidy up old foliage, remove straw, and either cut off and discard any runners or use them to make new plants.

Summer-prune gooseberries, redcurrants, and whitecurrants

Summer-prune gooseberries, redcurrants, and whitecurrants Cut back to five leaves all this year’s new side shoots, except any you might want to develop into new branches next year. Removing foliage lets in light and air, helping any remaining fruit to ripen and reducing the risk of disease.

Cut back new growth this month to encourage the development of buds that will fruit next year.

Cut back new growth this month to encourage the development of buds that will fruit next year.

Pest and disease watch

 

Vegetables

Asparagus beetles

Blackfly

Cabbage white butterflies

Cabbage root fly

Carrot fly

Flea beetles

Grey mould

Pea moth

Pigeons

Potato blight

Slugs and snails

Tomato blight

 

Fruit

American gooseberry mildew

Aphids

Birds

Bitter pit

Canker

Codling moth

Currant blister aphid

Grey mould

Pear leaf blister mite

Pear rust

Powdery mildew

Raspberry beetle

Sawfly

Scab

Scale insects

Slugs

Woolly aphids

 

 

 

Text and photographs copyright © 2010 Alan Buckingham.

 

Allotment month by month by Alan Buckingham, front cover thumbnail Allotment Month by Month
(Dorling Kindersley, 2009)
Grow Vegetables by Alan Buckingham, front cover thumbnail Grow Vegetables
(Dorling Kindersley, 2007)
Grow Fruit by Alan Buckingham, front cover thumbnail Grow Fruit
(Dorling Kindersley, 2010)