Action for July Fruit and veg
Vegetables to sow and harvest now
Sow beetroot, calabrese, oriental greens and spring cabbages in pots or where they are to grow. Also sow early varieties of carrots and peas, plus Florence fennel, lettuces, spring onions, radishes and rocket. Keep them well watered. If hot, dry weather is forecast, only make new sowings if you’re able to water regularly.
- Harvest garlic, onions and shallots once the lower leaves start to turn yellow. Don’t bend the tops over – this encourages rotting at the top of the bulb. Dry them outside if it’s dry and sunny. Otherwise, cover with a cloche or dry on an indoor windowsill or in a greenhouse.
- Courgettes should be picked when they’re about 15cm long
- Harvest beans and peas at least twice a week for the best yield.
- Pick French beans when they’re 15cm long and runners at 20cm.
- Pick peas when the pods are fat but the peas aren’t obvious.
- Pull carrots and parsnips when the tops of the roots, visible above the soil surface, reach a decent size.
- Pick tomatoes with the stalk intact when they’re ripe and store at room temperature for the best flavour.
- For a bigger crop of peppers, pick your first few while they’re still green. They’re ready when the surface of the fruit is glossy.
Squashes and pumpkins
Raise developing squashes and pumpkins off the ground with a tile or brick. This will stop them rotting and will help the fruits to ripen.
Once the tassels at the end of the sweetcorn cob start to shrivel and go brown, press your nail into a kernel – if the liquid is creamy rather than clear, the cob is ready.
How do you know when new potatoes are ready? Carefully lift a few potatoes from the edge of the plant. If they’re a good size and well developed, lift them all – left in the ground they’ll be a target for slugs.
Replace lost plants
If your first sowings of tender veg such as squash and courgettes failed because of the cold or slug damage, sow some new seeds in July. Protect with a mini-cloche made from a clear plastic bottle cut to size, and remove the bottle when the leaves grow to touch the sides.
Harvest these fruits now
Start to pick apples. Ripe fruit will come away easily when you lift and twist gently.
Harvest early blackberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants and gooseberries when they’re slightly soft. Dessert gooseberries are ripe when the seeds turn from yellow to brown. Pick raspberries when they pull away easily, and blueberries when there’s no trace of red next to the stalk.
What to prune now
Cut back strawberries
Once they have finished producing fruit, cut them back to 2cm high. Remove any diseased plants and remember that most varieties will crop well for only three years.
You can replenish your strawberry bed by potting up rooted runners – keep them outside until January when you can put them in the greenhouse or coldframe to promote earlier cropping. Use healthy plants with no leaf mottling, distortion or aphids. Remove any runners that aren’t needed.
Once blackcurrants have produced fruit, it’s time to prune them. Stems that have fruited should be cut down to the point where new shoots are starting to sprout. Aim to remove no more than one stem in three.