July Column: In the Garden and On the Plot

Published on: 04 Jul 2013

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In the Garden

I read a while ago of some research by Swedish scientists that growth of plants depended as much on length and quality of daylight as it does on temperature. Certainly during the last month, despite the cool temperatures, all the plants showed rapid growth as we had longer daylight and, latterly, higher temperatures.

What did June bring for us? Although the days were largely sunny the temperatures were rarely above 20C, due to the continuing cold wind. Nevertheless, in the first two weeks we saw, on a drive through Devon, some superb hawthorn, both white and red. Also locally some amazing displays of elderberry, pyracantha and hydrangea petiolaris. The clematis are now at the top of the trellis showing plenty of buds. All the fruitlets are formed on the fruit trees, and our beds and borders are filled with the perennials we have planted over the last few years. Have any aphids taken to the soft shoots? The experts’ advice is to leave the green and blackfly to feed the ladybirds, tits etc. But where they? Only ocasionally do we see any member of the tit family, and no ladybirds. So if I see any aphids around I rub them away with finger and thumb. I try not to use chemicals.

I have replenished our raised bed and refurbished the woodwork where the boards had become loose and the soil was escaping. What appeared to be a straightforward job proved to be somewhat complicated. I removed the top 18 inches of soil into a couple of wheelbarrows so that I could shift the remaining soil to one end, to gain acess to the panel. That completed I decided to add some good-looking leafmould, from a heap, into the bed. But both barrows were in use. So I filled a bucket and carried it to the bed. A drop in the ocean! I emptied the small barrow onto a piece of tatpaulin and filled it with leafmould. And then I had to shovel it out into the bed. A couple more and in the end I had completed the task and felt I had achieved something. The seeds went in and now we have rows of radishes, spring onions and lettuce.

Grass, lawns, call them what you will, all need cutting, trimming, feeding and so on. At the moment, having had some good rain, the grass is looking green and quite lush. I notice this year that there is an unusual amount of clover showing.  I do not mind too much about that as it provides a nice contrast to the green. I have cut the grass quite short to see if I can get the brown patches to become a little more alive. I raked the lawn in spring and removed some thatch, hoping to see a revival but no such luck. I shall look into this problem to find whether there is a particular problem. Dr Bessayan, The Lawn Expert is my usual reference. And here I must end because the sun is shining and the grass needs... cutting!

On the Plot

July is the month when you should start to see the rewards from your efforts. Most, but not all, plants should be in the ground and making progress with the weather staying warm. On the Plot

Despite the cool, overcast weather of late the ground is very dry so plenty of watering is required. The best advice is to give the plot a real good soaking, and avoid light watering as this is of no value and a waste of time. Try to get the moisture deep into the ground so that the roots have access to it. Despite the dryness the weeds manage to appear so continue with weeding and hoe on a regular basis. I always weed first then follow a day or so later with a good watering. 

July will also see the explosion in pests, green and black fly in particular. I don’t use insecticides and rely on nature and keeping the plants in good health to fight these nuisances.  Broad beans are very prone to black fly so to minimise this I sow the seed in autumn and overwinter the plants by covering them with a fleece tunnel. This way they start to grow again earlier and slightly ahead of the black fly. I have already picked most of my crop so I can remove the growing tips where the black flies are more prolific. Don’t forget to nip out the growing tips of the runner beans when they reach the top of the canes as this will encourage them to bush up.

One job for the beginning of July is to plant leeks. These ideally need to be the thickness of a pencil before planting but thinner plants will still provide you with a reasonable crop.  Before planting I clear the area of weeds and give the surface a dampening of water as this makes planting easier. The trick with leeks is to use a dibber to make a hole at least six inches deep so that the roots are well underground with just a couple of inches of plant tip showing.  If you don’t do this then you will not have leeks with long white stems. If the root ball is long and thick then you can lightly trim this with scissors and I always trim the tips of the leaves.  Spacing needs to be six inches between each plant and 12 inches between the rows.  Puddle the plants with water when planting is complete and don’t worry about filling the hole back in as subsequent watering and nature will take care of that.

It won’t be long before I crop the garlic now that the leaves have turned yellow. Carefully lift the garlic bulbs and leave them clear of the ground to dry.

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