Jobs to do this month
This list isn’t exhaustive. You can get detailed advice from many organisations, especially those listed on this website under Help and Advice.
- Most strawberries will have finished cropping by now, so it’s time to clear out strawberry beds. Remove straw if you’ve used it, and put it on the compost heap. To make new plants, use a bent piece of garden wire to peg one runner from each plant down into the soil, or into compost in a 5cm pot (cut any other runners off). You should be able to cut the new plants off from their parents after about a month, ready to plant out into a freshly prepared bed, dug over with plenty of added compost.
- Prune sideshoots of minarette apple trees that are more than 20cm long, once those shoots have matured. Take shoots growing directly from the main stem back to about three leaves from the basal cluster; take similar shoots growing from existing sideshoots or spurs back to one leaf about 2.5cm or more above the basal cluster. Don’t prune the main stem leader; that’s a job for the winter or early spring. Prune established cordon and espalier trees (both apples and pears) similarly.
- Early apple and pear varieties should be ready for picking this month. Pick pears before they’re fully ripe, and allow them to soften for about a week.
- When you’ve harvested peaches and nectarines, prune out the old stems that fruited this year; the new growth will bear next year’s crop. Tie new leading shoots of fan-trained trees onto supports, and shorten sideshoots growing from them back to five leaves.
- Once summer raspberries have fruited, cut out the old canes and tie in new ones.
- If raspberry canes seem to be dying, the cause may be raspberry cane blight. This is a fungal disease that infects canes through wounds caused by raspberry cane midge, late spring frosts, or pruning. Cut infected canes off below soil level and dispose of them. Disinfect the secateurs between cuts. There are no fungicides available to home gardeners for the control of this disease.
- The late summer/autumn raspberries are starting to crop now.
- Pick gooseberries once the fruits have softened.
- Keep watering blueberries to keep them moist (preferably using rainwater), and harvest the fruits as they ripen.
- Harvest plums as soon as they’re ripe, and clear up any windfalls, to help minimise wasp problems.
Vegetables and salads
- If you’ve managed to protect your brassicas from the ravages of cabbage white butterfly and diamondback moth, they should be ready to start harvesting (if you haven’t started already, that is).
- Keep picking beans while they’re young, so you can go on enjoying them while encouraging continued cropping. July has been a dry month in recent years, so keep beans well watered, and mulch with a good layer of garden compost to help keep the moisture in. Cut off the tips of climbing beans when they reach the top of their supports. Beans are hungry plants, so weekly feeding with a high-potash fertiliser will pay dividends.
- The same applies to mange tout and sugar snap peas; pick them every couple of days.
- Start harvesting main-crop potatoes. They need regular watering to improve yields, especially if you’re growing them in pots or bags. If you want new potatoes at Christmas, buy second-cropping seed potatoes and plant them in large pots, or in a greenhouse or polytunnel border. Plants in pots will need frost protection later on.
- Be on your guard for blight. Blight in potatoes is (to quote the Royal Horticultural Society website ) “characterised by a rapidly spreading, watery rot of leaves which soon collapse, shrivel and turn brown”. Cut off all diseased stems straight away and burn or dispose of them; don’t compost them. Leave the tubers in the soil for a couple of weeks for their skins to harden, and then dig them all up.
- If you sowed spring cabbages in July, prick the seedlings out into modules or small pots, ready to plant out in September. If not, now is the time to sow them, along with calabrese and cauliflowers.
- Keep checking sweetcorn, so that you can pick it as soon as it’s ripe (the tassels will have turned brown). Check by piercing a kernel with your thumbnail: if a clear liquid runs out, the cob isn’t quite ready; if it’s milky, the cob is ripe.
- Remember to feed tomatoes and peppers regularly with a high-potash fertiliser, to promote cropping.
- Now is a good time to take the tops out of cordon-grown tomatoes; let the plants concentrate on the fruit they’ve already made. Remember to keep on removing tomato sideshoots, and also any suckers that shoot from the bottom of the main stem.
- Tomato watering is tricky. Try to keep the soil evenly most: too much water can result in weak flavour and split fruit; too little can cause blossom end rot.
- Harvest sweet peppers when they’re fully grown, either while they’re still green (to encourage further cropping), or once they’re fully ripe and have changed colour.
- Pick chillies regularly, to encourage them to keep cropping. Use them fresh, or dry them for long-term storage.
- Divide large clumps of chives.
- Harvest garlic once the leaves and top growth have died back.
- Sow herbs such as coriander, basil and parsley in the greenhouse for winter crops.
- Onion foliage should be starting to die back now. Ease the onions out of the soil to dry, or (if there’s a risk of them rotting), lift them and store them on open trays in the dry, ready for storage. Plastic mushroom trays are good for this, because they’re stackable once the onions have dried.
- Sow seed of overwintering varieties of onion, either in rows in the ground, or in modules or small pots, for planting out in the autumn.
- Keep cutting cucumbers in the greenhouse as soon as they’re big enough, remove sideshoots, and water and feed daily. Cucumbers like it humid; mist with water daily (this will also deter red spider mite).
- Similarly, harvest aubergines as soon as they’re ripe.
- Harvest spring-sown beetroot.
- If lettuces have bolted, take them out and compost them.
- Plant out chicory – either plug plants bought now, or plants raised from seed sown in late spring.