Your July garden

The time to celebrate the hard work, and plan your Christmas dinner!

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Becky Alton
Productive Grower at The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall
25 July 2022

July is the month of having all your hard work paid off by reaping the rewards from many of your crops. The garden should be exploding with ripeness and readiness. Beans and peas will be twisting and climbing, whilst hanging fruits are lush and juicy. It's time to celebrate your harvests and by whipping up culinary delights in the kitchen - but as always with gardening, you must not forget to keep forward planning...

Planning your winter harvest, beginning with potatoes

The preparation for autumn and winter begins now by figuring what summer seeds you need to sow for those autumnal crops. Kale, cabbage, sprouts, and spinach are all on the list, as well as potatoes for Christmas – yes, Christmas dinners are thought about in July! Christmas potatoes can be grown in a compost bag or large pot by filling it half way with compost and placing a few potato seeds inside – Duke of York is one we grow at Heligan which is a great heritage winter potato.

You need to just about cover the potatoes and water well to soak the compost – don’t forget to add a few drainage holes at the bottom of the compost bag. When the shoots begin to appear, cover again with more compost – keep doing this until the bag/pot is full – when foliage dies down leave the potatoes in the bag and they will keep until Christmas dinners are ready!

Preventing Blight

Blight is something that develops on potatoes and tomatoes. In warm damp weather a fungus called Phytopthera Infestans develops spores which can travel by wind. The spores can lay dormant on your crops in dry weather but once summer showers develop the spores spread and the first signs are dark spots on the leaves usually staring on the end of the leaves. If left the blight can then travel down to the tubers which will cause inedible crops. If you spot blight the organic approach is to cut the foliage and stem down to ground level as soon as possible – this does mean your potatoes will stop growing but it will help prevent the fungus travelling down.

Never put your blight waste in your own garden as its likely the spores will linger and the problem will carry on to next year – try and discard in your green waste bins as they will have a system which will have a higher temperatue in their composting bays meaning it will kill the pathogens.

Sprouts & kale - more produce that can be enjoyed through winter

The variants of kale and sprouts that I particularly like to grow because of their flavour are…

Kale –
“Nero Di Toscana” or better known as “Cavelo Nero” cultivated in 1792 from Italy is recognised by its beautiful dark foliage – it’s becoming increasing popular and this brassica can be enjoyed all through the winter months.

“Red Russian” is another ancient hardy heritage Kale cultivated around 1818 – it’s a sweeter variety and has a beautiful oak shaped leaf to harvest.

Sporuts –
“Evesham Special” cultivated in 1920 and described as a good all rounder as it produces a high yield of sprouts of a good size from September to December.

Other tastiness to sow now

There is still time to sow a few things for this season and also time to start prepping for the colder months. Basil, beetroot, broccoli, winter cabbage, carrots, chard, lettuce, radish, perpetual spinach and spring onions are just a few of the seed packets I recommend you collect this month, and have a go at.

I tend to sow a lot of my brassicas in cells and keep them in my cooler cold frame due to the cabbage white butterflies and the heat of the summer causing them to bolt. If you have sown them direct or bought plugs and planted them, please ensure to cover with a fine mesh and secure the edges at ground level as this will stop cabbage white butterflies laying eggs on your plants. To help with bolting, ensure your soil doesn’t get too warm and add a thick layer of mulch to the topsoil to stop the heat reaching the plants root system.