They say you can always tell when someone is a gardener, when they start asking for rain during mid –summer! Apart from the occasional damp interlude, June was baking and dry for many. It always seems to be the case that the greatest need for water comes at the time when it is invariably in short supply. Our fruit and veg plants are growing strongly at this time of year and never has their need for rain been greater.
Some plot holders are resorting to using a soaker hose, either above or just below the soil level. Soaker hoses work on low pressure and can even work when connected from a raised large water butt. This option is good if you want to minimize water usage by using it efficiently. A soaker hose uses significantly less water than a conventional sprinkler.
Watering isn’t the longer term answer. The value of humus rich soil is clear during periods of sustained dry weather. Soil lacking in organic matter often cracks and becomes starved of moisture quicker. Improving your soil with well rotted farmyard manure will cut down some watering requirements.
The sheer amount of sun has meant heat loving plants such as courgette, pumpkin, squash and sweet corn have romped away. Despite being initially slow to start growing, my strawberries started to ripen very quickly. The first batch was ready, even before the start of Wimbledon. This is rare on my plot. Strawberries seem to cope admirably well without additional watering too.
There are still plenty of vegetables to sow this month. Turnip ’Purple Top Milan’ is a fast grower and if sown up to mid July, it will be ready for cropping in October. They have an excellent sweet flavour. I like to pick them while small as they are tender and would becoming woody. Kohl Rabi ‘Purple and White Vienna Mix’ can be treated very similarly. Carrot ‘Autumn King 2’ can be sown as late as mid July too. This late maturing variety will store in well-drained ground until Christmas or longer.
It may be summer now but good allotmenteers always have one eye on the next season. This month I’ll sow cabbage seed ‘winter jewel’ this month, for harvesting next April and May. Cauliflower ‘All year round’ can also still be sown early in the month. The plants should mature in November or December. Finally the white speared Broccoli ‘White Star’ can be sown now. The plants are exceptionally hardy and they will be ready to harvest next April and May for a nutritious treat.
I also sow Parsley ’Moss Curled 2’ at this time of year in the cold frame. As it is a biennial, I’ll gradually pick the leaves from the plants grown on my windowsill over winter, before it runs to seed naturally next summer.
In the greenhouse if you are growing tomatoes with an irrigation or self watering system, you have an advantage. The self-watering Grow Pot Tower, for instance has a four litre capacity reservoir. This is perfect if you are away for the weekend so you don’t have to worry about watering. These are perfect for growing sweet peas too outdoors.
Greenhouse shading is useful in the height of summer. Cucumbers in particular don’t like it too hot and dry. A solution is to use, ‘summer cloud greenhouse shading’. This liquid is easily applied externally with a brush. It can be wiped off with a duster. It is a quick and simple way to deflect some of the rays of the sun away from the greenhouse.