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July Gardening: 'This is the start of a super-abundant period in the veg patch'

As the produce starts to flow in, don’t forget to keep sowing too – no, it’s not too late, writes Michael Kelly.

Michael Kelly Grower

I KNOW IT’S something of a cliché to say “I can’t believe how quickly the year is going” but seriously – I literally can not believe how quickly the year is going. How can it possibly be July already?

It feels like only yesterday when I was prepping beds for winter and sowing the first tentative tomato seeds back on a chilly February Saturday. And now it’s July. How did that happen?

Well, get on board people, because July it is. We’re in to the second half of the year, with six full months behind us and the longest day of the year now in the rear view mirror. That means, rather depressingly, that nature’s grand pivot has happened again and it’s now getting darker rather than brighter and days are getting shorter rather than longer. Sure, Christmas will be here in no time.

July in the vegetable patch

But never mind all that, there are several reasons for cheer. Not least of which is the fact that July is the real start of a super-abundant period in the veg patch. Up to now our harvesting has been somewhat stuttering, but now it comes in waves – the copious quantities of salads are now joined by courgettes, kohlrabi, beetroot, new potatoes and wait for it, tomatoes.

Yesterday, walking around the big tunnel, I noticed that the recent fine weather’s combination of heat and sun has brought the tomatoes along and I brought in the first decent sized bowls of fruit into the kitchen.

Richard (our Head Grower at GROW HQ) and I are somewhat competitive when it comes to tomatoes (he’s a far better grower than me of course but I like to think of myself as the scrappy underdog). We’ve been watching each other’s progress all season, and each time I see his plants I am sizing them up mentally and comparing them to mine.

So it gave me a rather childish kick to bring a small bowl of my tomatoes to our Monday morning team meeting, knowing full well he wasn’t doing his first harvest until the next day. “Mine will be properly ripe and a little bigger” he promised Chef. Ah the joys.

All growers and gardeners are pleased with the rain of the last few days, which was much needed after a very dry couple of weeks. Yes, we’re an odd bunch. As the produce starts to flow in, don’t forget to keep sowing too – no, it’s not too late. A July sowing of beetroot for example can be harvested for storage in October, and of course we can continue sowing salads and salad herbs right in to August and even September.

The Basics – Knowing When to Lift Garlic

shutterstock_310677917 Source: Shutterstock/Shulevskyy Volodymyr

Knowing when to lift garlic can be a tricky proposition – harvest them too early and the bulbs will be too small, but harvest too late and the bulbs will begin to loose their quality. The old rule is to sow garlic before the shortest day of the year (Dec 21) and harvest before the longest (June 21). Some people also do a spring sowing which wont be ready until late July or August.

A good general rule of thumb is to do a test when a third of the leaves on each plant are gone brown. Carefully push back the soil around one plant and have a look at the bulb to check its size. If its too small, put the soil back around it. Lift all your garlic when a half to two-thirds of the leaves are gone brown.

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Recipe of the Week – Courgette Salad

Every year I sow too many courgette plants – we have about six plants this year, and while we have a manageable amount of produce from them at the moment, we are only weeks away from being at full blown “glut” stage when we’ll be eating courgettes in pretty much everything – courgette bread anyone? For now we are enjoying small, crunchy pencil-length courgettes in this zingy salad.

shutterstock_331986707 Source: Shutterstock/SewCream

Ingredients

  • 2 courgettes
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon or lime juice
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp poppy seeds
  • 1 small garlic clove, crushed

Grate the courgettes and then toss them with the oil, lemon juice, honey, poppy seeds and the crushed garlic clove. Season to taste. Serve straight away (it gets watery if left hanging around) – makes a lovely accompaniment to barbecued meats.

Michael Kelly is founder of GIY and GROW HQ. 

Click here for more GIY tips and recipes.

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Michael Kelly  / Grower

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