By Andrew Tokely, Horticultural Director at Kings Seeds
Many people think when you get to July, and summer has arrived the only need to enter the garden is to sit in a chair relaxing or lighting the barbecue. How wrong they are: July is always a busy month harvesting crops of peas, beans, courgettes and salad vegetables. Once the ground has been cleared, rather than leave it empty there are still plenty of crops that can be sown for later harvests, keeping the soil productive.
Late sowings made this month of dwarf French beans will be ready for a late harvest in September often continuing into October. Seeds can be sown direct outside into seed drills or into pots and planted out later.
Carrots sown in July will be ready to harvest as finger carrots at Christmas, a good variety for this sowing is Eskimo. This variety has good flavour and very good cold tolerance so can be left in the ground all winter.
Remember when sowing seeds direct and when the soil is dry, water the base of the seed drill first, then sow the seed, lightly rake soil over and then gently tamp down using the back of a rake. Watering the base of the drill first traps the moisture below ground where the seeds need it. If the soil was watered afterwards on top, this can cause the soil to cap preventing germinating seeds from emerging.
When the weather is warm, dry and hot, many salad crops like salad leaves, radish and spinach will quickly run to seed. One way of overcoming this problem is sowing these crops in between taller crops like sweetcorn, so they get a little dapple shade. Once germinated keep moist at all times until they are ready to harvest.
Lettuce can be sown little and often, these are best sown a few seeds in pots every two weeks and pricked out and planted out into spare gaps on the plot. Lettuces won’t germinate well if the temperature is above 20C: a handy tip is to put the seed packet in the fridge the night before sowing as this cools the seed down and germination will be much improved.
Not forgetting the flower garden, this month is also ideal for sowing some biennials and perennials, to flower next spring into early summer. Sow foxgloves, Canterbury bells, hollyhocks and delphiniums so the plants are large enough for planting out in October. These are sown in trays of compost in a cool greenhouse or cold frame.
You can also sow wallflowers and sweet Williams outside in drills on a spare piece of ground. Winter-flowering pansies, bellis and forget-me-nots can also be sown, ready for this autumn's displays.
Happy Gardening for the rest of 2018!