What to do in your allotment in July

Blueberry (Vaccinium) Bluecrop from Suttons

Written by Lee Senior

You can tell when someone’s a gardener because they’re desperate for rain during summer! At the allotment, the greatest need for water comes at a time when it’s invariably in short supply. Some plot holders use a soaker hose, either above or just below the soil level. They work on low pressure and can be connected to water butts. But more water isn’t the only answer. Improving your soil with well-rotted manure really helps it to retain moisture, so it’s worth putting time and effort into this each year.

The recent sunny spell has meant heat-loving plants such as courgette, pumpkin, squash and sweet corn have romped away. Despite being initially slow off the mark, I’m happy to report that my strawberries have ripened earlier than usual and I’m enjoying their luscious flavour. I like to create new strawberry beds every two years, rather than three, to maintain good-sized fruits. Strawberries seem to cope admirably well without additional watering too.

And while the plot is full to bursting in July and producing bumper crops, my main focus is actually planning for next year. I’m already thinking about getting my spring cabbage and winter lettuce in as soon as there’s enough space. I’ve just ordered my garlic and onion sets to overwinter too! Happy Gardening.

Allotment flowers in July

  • Sow Sweet Williams into your allotment beds this month. The seedlings happily overwinter outdoors and produce flowers in late spring the following year.
  • Deadhead your flowering perennials and allotment bedding plant displays to encourage repeat flowering through the entire summer.
  • Try leaving a vegetable plant in the ground to ‘go over’ and flower. Not only are parsnip and brassica flowers particularly lovely to look at, they will attract pollinators while also allowing you to try saving your own seeds.
  • Stake tall summer flowering bulbs like gladioli to prevent the stems snapping on windy days.

Allotment vegetables in July

  • Direct sow Chinese cabbage ‘F1 Natsuki’ this month. Harvest the sweet, tender heads 35 – 45 days after sowing, and stir fry whilst they’re small. Make a late sowing of spring cabbage for harvesting next spring too. I like ‘Wheelers Imperial’. If you have club root in your soil, try this club root collection.
  • Sow other brassicas like broccoli and cauliflower in early July for a harvest next spring. These hardy plants will mature and overwinter out on the plot.
  • Make sowings of turnip ‘Purple Top Milan’, pak choi and kohlrabi ‘Purple and White Vienna Mix’ for quick maturing crops that’ll be ready at the end of this summer.
  • Start swede seeds out on the plot. Make sure you water the seedlings well as they develop, and protect them with mesh to deter flea beetles.
  • Sow carrot ‘Autumn King 2’ into well dug, light soil. This hardy variety can be stored in the ground and harvested up until Christmas.
  • Sow herb seeds like parsley straight into the ground, or start them off in trays before transplanting the seedlings into decorative pots for your kitchen windowsill.
  • Now’s the time to plant late season potatoes. Varieties like ‘Nicola’ will mature quickly in the warm summer soil and provide you with a crop from October to December.
  • Watch your onions carefully and cut out any flower spikes that emerge. This encourages them to focus on putting on size.
  • Protect your asparagus foliage from bending and breaking in the wind by staking any spindly stems.
  • Water all newly planted vegetables regularly until they establish strong roots, especially thirsty runner beans and leeks.
  • If you’re growing sweet potatoes this year, make sure they have plenty of moisture and remember to feed them every few weeks with liquid tomato fertiliser.

Allotment fruit in July

  • Your strawberry plants will be sending out runners now. Peg these little plantlets into pots or directly into the ground where you want them to grow for a new free strawberry patch. Just cut the adjoining stem when the new plantlet produces roots.
  • Water blueberries regularly to help the little fruit swell. Try to use collected rainwater to maintain their preferred soil acidity.
  • If you haven’t already done so, net your fruit plants to keep the birds off. This is especially important with juicy strawberries and currants.
  • Prune your apple trees this month, removing excessive whippy new growth using clean sharp secateurs. Avoid cutting older growth or removing fruit bearing branches.
  • Thin any overcrowded bunches of fruit on your trees to allow individual apples or pears to grow to a larger size.

Crops to harvest in July

  • Harvest beetroot, broad beans, summer cabbage, lettuce, peas, (early and second early), radish, salad leaves, strawberries and greenhouse tomatoes in July – a truly veritable feast!
  • Dry your overwintered onions and garlic in the sun after harvesting, then store in a cool dark place for use throughout the rest of the year.
  • Pick your currants this month – red, white and black currants will be cropping now.
  • Check a few second early potatoes to see if they’re a good size for harvesting.
  • Pick your mangetout and sugar snap peas regularly.
  • Harvest your pak choi either as ‘cut and come again’ leaves, or chop up the whole thing into a stir fry or noodle soup.
  • Try harvesting the male flowers of your courgette plants to stuff and deep fry, or to decorate salads. Courgettes need regular picking, otherwise you’ll end up with lots of marrows to deal with!

General July allotment jobs

  • Check your fruit cage or netting regularly for trapped birds.
  • Apply well-rotted manure to your allotment beds when the soil is moist. This improves water retention and helps plants cope with dry spells.
  • Regularly hoe around your developing plants to keep weeds in check.
  • If you run out of space in your beds, don’t forget to make full use of containers. Just remember that they’ll need more watering.
  • Consider installing a water butt to avoid queues for the tap and re-think your plot design if you find summer watering difficult. Raised beds dry out more rapidly than regular beds, and you could steer towards vegetables and herbs that naturally cope better with drought.
  • In July and August, try to water your crops in the early morning or evening to reduce evaporation.

Planning ahead

  • If you take on more space and need to clear large thickets of weeds, concentrate on clearing small areas at a time. If you get a few quick salad crops in you’ll make good use of the ground while using the rest of the month to plan for next year. If your new patch can be cleared by early September, prepare to plant spring cabbage and winter lettuce. In autumn, you can plant garlic and onion sets to overwinter.
  • If you’re planning on going away in August, remember that your tomatoes and cucumbers are very water sensitive. Make sure you install an automatic watering system in your greenhouse if you have them under glass. Alternatively, ask a friendly allotment neighbour to keep an eye on watering in exchange for a bit of your crop.
  • Make note of what’s working well. These notes will help you plan better for next year’s planting and seed buying.
Lead image: Blueberry (Vaccinium) Bluecrop from Suttons
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About Lee Senior
Lee Senior is an experienced horticultural writer, RHS Yorkshire in Bloom judge and horticultural consultant. He has also had an allotment for over 25 years. After initially spurning horticulture as a career option, to pursue his boyhood dream of becoming a train driver, Lee soon realised he couldn’t resist getting his hands dirty to make a living. Horticultural College training led, to getting an allotment at the tender age of 18 (in the days when you could actually get a plot quickly). My gardening hero, is Geoff Hamilton” says Lee. “It was Geoff who convinced me that you didn’t have to spray everything that moved in the garden. Watching him on Gardeners’ World in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s was a revelation. I was lucky enough to meet Geoff and I’ve also more recently had the pleasure of meeting Joe Swift. Now over two decades of practical experience has taught me to work with mother nature, not to fight against her and don’t try to tame her, as so many gardeners seem to be on a mission to do. Small-scale food growing is my passion and I can’t wait for my two daughters, one who is 8 years old and the other who is 5 to hopefully pick up the baton in the future. Nothing beats the flavour and satisfaction of growing your own food. You simply cannot buy the same quality and freshness. Everyone can have a go at growing something says Lee, no matter where they live. Lee has also written his two books; ‘Pennine Way, The Highs and Lows’ which is a humorous, personal account of walking this momentous iconic walk. His second book ‘Walking in the Aire’, features 14 short walks in Yorkshire.