July has to be one of my favourite months in the garden. It is the time when all the plans and hard work from the rest of the barren Winter months and slow progress of Spring start to bear dramatic visual results. Apart from a little weeding and minimal maintenance it is a time to enjoy your produce and to stand back and admire nature’s beauty.
I grow a lot of flowers in my Urban Farm to attract bees and other pollenators but also because I like looking at them. My vegetable spaces also have to work as garden, social space, washing area etc.
Bees are not doing too well by themselves these last few years. I see nothing wrong in offering them a little help and encouragement by sticking a lot of flora into the vegetable areas. It is great for courgettes, beans, peas etc it also looks and smells great!
My strawberries are providing me with a nice ripe bowl each morning at this time of year. They always seem so much more juicy and flavoursome than supermarket varieties. They are easy to grow and each year they provide at least two new plants per plant for next year. I tend to replace all my plants this way every three years via annual rotation.
The problems I have with strawberries tend to be with slug damage. I don’t seem to suffer much with birds pecking at my fruit, as many other folk do, but to cope with a slug problem I put many of my strawberry plants up in the air in hanging baskets. Mainly mixed up with flowers, for aesthetic purposes.
I also have strawberries in my flower bed. They are inter-planted with sage bushes and rosemary. I don’t have so much growing space so I have to mix up my bed for variety.
One of the jobs when the growing season is over is to replace what is left of my greenhouse! Still, for now it’s better than nothing and my tomatoes seem to do really well in there, year after year. I always mix up as many tomato varieties as possible to have variety on the dining table, and this way I hope to ensure that if one crop is weak there will be at least four or five different types to come good.
Some other friends who grow have given up growing potatoes and tease me for giving over so much of my small space to them every year. They are so cheap in the supermarket, they say! Well, they may be cheap, but they don’t taste the same at all. I grow mine in large containers. I choose waxy skinned varieties that are both slug and blight resistant, such as Charlotte.
I like to keep a plentiful supply of herbs and this year appears to be a bumper harvest. I have rosemary, sage (which bees love by the way!), spearmint, basil, applemint, chives, marjoram, oregano, parsley and coriander. They are easy to grow and most are perennials. Only basil, coriander and parsley need be replanted on an annual basis.
Some other easy plants, if you have space are chillies, spring onions, chard (my favourite salad leaf) and raddish.
The flowers on the tomato plants are hurriedly turning into green fledgling tomatoes and the climbing pea plants are also flowering and will soon be covered in pea pods.
My courgette plants seem to be maturing later than those of other people I know, this year. However, the first flower has opened this morning, so hopefully there will be no stopping ’em now. The taste of fresh courgettes, lightly steamed, on the table is one of my favourite vegetables to eat.
My runner beans have started ‘running’ and are just about to burst into flower over the next couple of days. They make for one of the most attractive flowers in the garden and will crop heavily from July right through to the end of October.
I always try to squeeze a couple of climbing nasturtium plants into the garden. They are easy to grow and provide a spectacular flower display. They serve more uses than this however. Nasturtiums are also a food in their own right. They provide a strongly flavoured salad leaf and the product from them can be pickled and made into ‘capers.’ Also, all those nasty critters, such as caterpillars, which will otherwise munch through all your produce over the next couple of months, find nasturtiums completely irresistible! because of the smooth leaves, the ‘critters’ are easy to see and ‘dispose’ of. It is them or you!
The UK is enjoying a rare heatwave this week so it is nice to sit out in the garden to simply look and enjoy the garden.
Just keep everything well watered early in the morning and after sundown to lessen evaporation.