July in the Garden
Did you know that hoeing could help reduce water loss? I always thought that disturbing the surface would speed up evaporation but in fact breaking up the top layer interrupts capillary action and slows water loss from the surface. It’s another good reason to hoe beyond the satisfaction of chopping off any naughty weeds trying to make their home amongst the veggies. Mulching is also a good idea & using compost from your heap is excellent – better than fresh grass clippings which generate heat as they decompose.
The hectic seed sowing is over but as you are harvesting and making spaces there are plenty of choices about what you can pop in the gaps. Cool windowsills are great for starting them off as greenhouses and coldframes can quickly get very hot which is very bad news for seedlings. Open the windows and vents and use shading if leaves show signs of sun scorch. Scorch signs include the centres of the leaves developing light brown marks and a dry texture (think of drying autumn leaves), the leaf edges may curl. Wetting the path or standing a bucket of water inside will help maintain a good humidity, your plants will thank you.
Watch out for possible blight on potatoes and tomatoes: it is worst in dull and moist conditions. Watering toms from below to keep the leaves and stems dry will help. Be aware that if you have to handle suspect foliage you could then spread the problem. The good news is that often tomatoes in a greenhouse will escape. So the signs of blight are the edges of the leaves become browned (don’t confuse with sun scorch signs) and the fruits develop blackened patches: you should remove and burn diseased leaves
We all want lots of fruit from the tomatoes so once they start setting their fruit you can start to feed them – if you have comfrey you can make your own feed for free! As the fruits grow they can add a lot of weight: on the larger fruiting types I try to tie in just below each truss to give them a bit more support and sometimes (for the really big beefy toms) I will even tie in a support to the truss of fruit.
There are two good reasons to pinch out the leading shoot when your runners or climbing beans reach the top of their supports. Firstly your crop isn’t growing far above the height that you can reach and secondly it encourages the plants to put out side shoots (and thus flowers) lower down. Don’t panic as I never remember to do this and can be found harvesting from a step ladder later in the year.
Finally in hot summers runner beans need lots of water – as do hot gardeners! Quench your thirst regularly and do as much as you can during the early hours of the day or later in the evening