What to do in your allotment in July

Blueberry (Vaccinium) Bluecrop from Suttons

Written by Lee Senior

July is a great month for enjoying the fruits of our labours as lots of exciting crops are now in season. The big ‘wow’ for me has been the start of the strawberry picking season. Those bright red, juicy, succulent fruits can’t be beaten by anything you can buy in a shop.

There’s also plenty of hoeing and watering to be done this month. Ensuring plants have enough moisture remains one of the biggest challenges at this time of year. As the summer draws on, my focus gradually starts to turn to autumn and winter. As soon as there’s enough space, I’ll start sowing spring cabbage ‘Wheelers Imperial’ for harvesting next April and May. July is a good time to order garlic and autumn planting onion sets to overwinter too.

Nationally, demand for allotments is increasing as more households wrestle with the cost of buying fresh fruit and vegetables. Most allotmenteers already know it’s cost-effective and, more importantly, how much fun it is. There’s nothing better than the feeling of growing your own nutritious and flavoursome food. Happy gardening!

Allotment flowers in July

  • Mid-summer is the glorious height of the sweet pea season. There’s nothing better to lift your spirits than the striking colours and subtle scents of this venerable old flower. Cut regularly to ensure a constant supply of new blooms – cropping is reduced if spent flowers remain on the plant and form seed pods.
  • Sow Sweet William ‘Pinocchio’ 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.

Allotment vegetables in July

  • There’s still time to direct sow a late crop of French bean seeds for a late summer harvest.
  • Continue to sow fast maturing summer salad crops.
  • 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’.
  • 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.
  • The first couple of weeks of July are ideal for a late summer sowing of carrots. ‘Fl Purple Haze’, ‘Amsterdam Forcing 3’ and ‘Autumn King 2’ are all suitable. ‘Autumn King’ is a hardy variety that 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. Earth up your potato plants as required and keep an eye out for any early signs of blight.
  • Watch your onions carefully and cut out any flower spikes that emerge. This encourages them to focus on putting on size.

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.
  • Apple trees have a ‘June drop’ of young fruitlets between early June and early July. This is when the tree rids itself of small fruits if there are too many for it to carry through to maturity. Young trees are especially prone to this. In mid-July, check to see if there are still too many fruits and thin out if necessary. If the tree carries too many apples in one year, the following year may be  disappointing.

Crops to harvest in July

  • Harvest beetroot, broad beans, summer cabbage, lettuce, peas, radish, salad leaves, strawberries and greenhouse tomatoes in July – a truly veritable feast!
  • Some early sown cauliflowers might be ready this month.
  • 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.
  • Summer strawberries will continue to crop until around mid-July.
  • Gooseberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants and whitecurrants are all coming into season now.
  • First early potatoes are at their most prolific now and I’ll be digging my plants up this month and preparing the ground for a follow on crop.
  • 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 netting regularly for trapped birds. I once had to rescue a young blackbird that had somehow got in, but couldn’t find any way to escape.
  • If slugs are a problem consider the use of nematodes. These living organisms provide effective biological control for up to six weeks.
  • Hoe regularly during dry weather to keep on top of weed seedlings and thereby reduce competition for vital moisture.
  • Apply well-rotted manure to your allotment beds when the soil is moist. This improves water retention and helps plants cope with dry spells.
  • 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 rethink 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 the hotter months like 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 30 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 had the pleasure of meeting BBC gardener, Joe Swift. Now, over three 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. I feel strongly that we should all respect nature and do our bit txwo help our ailing planet. Small-scale food growing is my passion and I can’t wait for my two daughters 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, no matter where they live and it is great to see how growing food in containers is taking off now,” says Lee. When he isn’t writing for the gardening press, Lee runs his own Allotment Consultancy business, advising individuals and organisations and Councils on how to get the best from their land, either in person or remotely. Lee’s website is: https://allotmentsandgreenspaces.wordpress.com or you can email him directly at: allotmentsguru@gmail.com. Away from horticulture, Lee is a keen walker and he has written a number of successful walking books which are available at his online bookstore: https://www.etsy.com/shop/WalkingintheAire/