July: One step ahead
GIYer Michael Kelly visits a community
garden that could transform the country
The luck of the crop rotation draw and bad design in my veg patch means that particular veg families tend to have what might be described as ‘off years’ depending on the area they are destined to spend their growing season in. There’s a particular part of my veg patch that is hampered by being simultaneously the closest to the garden perimeter and the lowest point in the garden. Thanks to the shading from the aggressive hawthorn hedge nearby, it gets less light than the other parts of the patch. And since it is comparatively low-lying, lazy frosts also converge there, slumping in from all parts of the garden. They could happily hide out there from the sun’s rays until lunchtime, and I’ve seen occasions when they’ve got to stay there for days on end.
If all that weren’t bad enough, the beds there also suffer from the attentions of the always-encroaching ditch, with errant briars going out in search of nutrient rich soil. The grass that surrounds the vegetable garden also tries to make its way into the veg patch through the picket fence. In high season, it’s a constant battle to keep the beds near the fence clear. None of this, as you can imagine, is particularly helpful to the vegetables growing there and I always feel bad for whatever family is due a visit there. This year it’s the turn of allium family to do a stint and so I am already mentally bracing myself for a poor crop of garlic, onions and leeks.
I could, of course, try moving the entire vegetable patch about 10m further away from the garden perimeter and closer to the house. However this would take up a further 10m of lawn and I think I have already pushed that particular boat as far as is acceptable to the rest of the family. So I have learned over the years to bear this rotating problem with stoicism – and I like to think the veg families do too. So, yes, once in every five years, they have an ‘off’ year. But sure doesn’t that make the other four years all the sweeter?
Check List for July
Any ground that has finished cropping must be quickly cleared away to take more vegetables. Use your produce – eat it, freeze it, process it, exchange it, give it away. Continue to water and feed plants and practise good weed control. Earth up brassicas such as Brussels sprouts – these plants will grow tall and require a good deal of support. Net plants to keep butterflies and the cabbage moth away. Cut down legume plants that have finished cropping – leave the roots in the soil as they fix nitrogen in the soil. Give pumpkins plenty of water and apply a high-potash liquid feed.
Continue successional sowings and use quick maturing varieties for autumn use – Swiss chard, lettuce, rocket, salad onions, radish, turnips, peas, French Beans (dwarf), carrots. Sow for winter use – spring cabbage, Hungry Gap kale, parsley, perpetual spinach, chicory and coriander. Plant strawberries now for a good crop next June. Propagate rosemary, sage and mint from cuttings now.
July is a peak month for produce – enjoy it. First crops of French and runner beans, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, courgette and aubergine, marrows, globe artichokes. Continue to harvest new potatoes, beetroot, calabrese, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, carrots, turnips, shallots, garlic, radish, spring onions, salad crops, strawberries, raspberries, tayberries, currants (black, red and white), gooseberries, loganberries, peas, broad beans. Ask yourself – do you really need to go to the supermarket?
Tip of the month – red spider mite
Red spider mite is a common problem with aubergine plants. Leaves begin to appear pale and even eaten, and you can see the little red mites on the underside. A small infestation can be killed off by squashing with your thumb. Garlic or seaweed spray will work as a prevention – spray leaves every week to 10 days. This will prevent attacks and strengthen the plants. For a home-made garlic spray, add three crushed cloves of garlic to a tablespoon of vegetable oil and leave to soak overnight. Strain the mixture into a spray bottled, add one teaspoon liquid soap and one litre of water. Shake well.
GIY is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to create a healthier, more sustainable world where people grow their own food. We inspire and support people to grow food more successfully by bringing them together to share advice, tips and ideas. There are approximately 50,000 people involved in the GIY movement in Ireland, which is proudly supported by Woodies DIY. For more information check out www.giyireland.com.