It is now summer everywhere; in the deep woods, beneath the shady hedgerows, even in dell and dingle, where twilight reigns at noonday, the warm breath of summer penetrates – the fertilising showers have fallen.
Wherever the eye alights, the ground is covered with flowers.
The Garden and its Work in Every Department in July, Mrs Beeton’s Garden Management
If June was characterized by vigorous growth and the promising first harvests of summer, then July is the summer in full flow. We have continued to harvest everything from salads to carrots, kale and tomatoes this month, and the first early potatoes have been a creamy, buttery delight on our plates.
We’ve had a few problems, mostly in the form of powdery mildew. Thanks to a warm damp spell in late June and early July, it has marched relentlessly through the garden, starting with the courgettes and squashes and continuing into the poppies and peas. The poppies were mostly over, but I have had to harvest the seed heads early – and these are hanging to dry. I hope that I will still have a harvest for use in baking! The courgettes and squash are recovering from some severe lockdown appropriate haircuts, and the peas I have unfortunately had to sacrifice, in a bid to stop the problem affecting anything else. But we’d had a good crop out of them, and we now have the beans in replacement.
The larger harvests have also started, and over 70 Red Baron onions are drying on a DIY rack on the patio. In true lockdown style, it is made from the old wire mesh shelves from our first (long dead) plastic greenhouse and was suspended above the BBQ in the BBQ hut. (We then decided to have a BBQ and so it is now balanced between 2 chairs.) Once the leaves are completely dry, the onions will be plaited and stored ready for eating over autumn and winter. Some online research indicates that they will last until midwinter, and I am hoping I can stretch them at least until then – if not longer.
Which brings me to the garden jobs this month. The winter veg is now (mostly) planted out, with the exception of some red cabbages I have yet to slip into a spot in my parents’ veg patch. The leeks are at theirs, currently sharing a netted cage with Dad’s cabbages and sprouts, and our brassicas are in their own netted arrangement in Chris parent’s garden. I say arrangement, because it is unfortunately not neat enough to be called a cage. But they are nevertheless protected, and growing well. We hope to have sprouts for Christmas, and leeks to take over where the stored onions leave off.
The first winter crops had promised to be ‘Tender and True’ parsnips sown in March and the Jerusalem artichokes I planted in April. Since then, we have sold our house and are facing down a house move (likely in early-mid autumn) so suddenly my carefully planned crops are a problem. I hope that the parsnips might be carefully moved to a new home in a potato bucket, but the artichokes are more of an issue. Standing well over 7ft high (and going on for 8ft), they are planted very solidly in the back corner of the garden, and I have no hope in moving them. I am instead going to have to harvest them last minute before moving, and hope that even if we don’t get a full crop, I may at least have some to store and plant next spring. We will wait and see!
I also had grand designs on Christmas potatoes this year, and am currently trying to chit some newly dug (but rather tiny for eating) first earlies. The plan is to plant these in buckets to grow for Christmas. The buckets now being doubly handy both to bring them in out of the first frosts, and to move them to the new house. But for now, despite the plans not quite going according to plan (when do they ever, really?) I am focusing on enjoying the abundance of mid-summer, considering plants to take cuttings of to come with us on the move, and looking forward to autumn planting of garlic and onions for next summer. The cycle goes on!