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Summer Crops


I love the start of the summer and, for me, that is the month of June. It’s the time of the year when you start to harvest all those crops sown earlier in the year. The days are at their longest which means more hours on the plot, or in the garden, even after work.

Over the years I have kept a notebook in which I keep all sorts of bits of information. In recent years I have been keeping a record not only of what has cropped well but also what has cooked well or frozen particularly well, and their taste.

I keep a lot of information on sowing dates, spacing, how much and often I water, all that sort of thing, but it has only been in the last few years that I have recorded what I feel about how a crop tastes to me.

What this has taught me is it is best to try several varieties and record what you and your family like best. This stops you being tempted by all those clever descriptions in the catalogues which have you ordering without any experience of what the variety is like.

June is also the month when I am keen to make more of my vegetable plot and continue to make successional sowings, especially of salads but also of peas and beans so that I have more tender pulses into the autumn. I am often surprised when gardeners tell me that they have sown the whole packet of seed. I often say to them, “Do you really need 250 cabbages all ready on the same day?” Remember to sow a few seeds at one time and then a couple of weeks later sow some more. This will help make sure you have a long supply of the crops you want. If it’s dry over the summer months remember to keep the seed bed well watered.

Recently I was asked what tool I would select to take out a seed drill, and I had to say a draw hoe because this is what I have always used, and, of course, I also use it for hoeing up crops like potatoes and celery. However, the person concerned only had a small plot and did not want the expense of buying a draw hoe so I told her to use the corner of her rake. She seemed very pleased with that idea.

I am constantly surprised how the new gardener often harvests their crops in June and July and then leaves that plot of ground vacant until next season. If you are unsure what to follow your harvested crop with have a chat with the other gardeners in your area or chat to your fellow allotment holders. The older, and more experienced ones, will show you the way.

July is the month of the year in which I spend more time up a ladder than in any other. Wisteria needs to be pruned during July, when it’s time to give them their second prune of the year. I find it strange that people plant this very large plant knowing that it will get enormous and will cover the front of the house, or shed, but do not consider how they are going to prune or look after it. It is not a hard job, just one that takes time.

Prune all the long whippy side growths to 3 buds, or leaves. This often looks like you will have killed the thing, as it removes most of the growth that has been produced during the early part of the year. Ensure that your secateurs or long-armed pruners are sharp as it will make the job so much easier. If the plant is not too old using an extension pruner may be possible.

After pruning your Wisteria use a good quality rose fertilizer sprinkled generously around the base of the plant. If dry, water this in. Always grind up the prunings, as they are light, but bulky. This will reduce the space needed in the compost bin and will ensure they rot down quickly.

Do not go up a ladder unless you feel completely safe. Ask someone else to do the job for you. Remember that the weight of a ladder can also be a problem. Aluminium ones are much lighter than wooden ones and it makes moving them so much easier.

I have also found that ladders with flat rungs are so much more comfortable than round ones if you are standing on them for a long time, and remember good strong shoes will also help prevent damage to your feet by spreading your weight. A couple of years ago I developed great problems with my feet that made walking very painful, and it was only after seeing a consultant that he identified the problem had been caused by my standing on a ladder with round rungs far too long. So please be aware that the type of rung and time you are standing on them may be an issue for you.

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