Gardening in mid-late July – time for soft fruits and summer puddings!

berries It’s a real ‘Berryfest’ down on the allotment at the moment!  The ideal time to make summer pudding.  I think the last 2 months have been excellent growing conditions with a variety of weather – sun, cloud, some cool days, some rain (in June), basically a bit of everything.  A great contrast to last year’s over abundance of rain, flooding and the ‘Snailfest’ (e.g. remember the mega-downpour on 7th July before the Olympic Torch came to Cambridge?).  I’m heartened to see that bees (honey and bumble), butterflies (e.g. Small Tortoiseshell) and insects in general are much more plentiful than 2012 and busily feeding off the nectar of garden plants.  I grow some especially on my allotment to help these pollinators. At the moment popular insect plants include Lavender, Comfrey, hardy Geraniums, Stachys (‘Lambs Ears’), Lamiums, Oregano/Marjoram,  Phacelia (a green manure, if left to flower) and Red Campion – a very long flowering wild flower.

The summer is hurtling along and it’s the time of plenty in the garden and allotment (assuming you planted or sowed things a few months ago!).  Just as the strawberry crop wanes, the plants start to produce runners now, from which new plants will arise.  A great chance to increase your stock of plants by pegging down the new plantlets and allowing them to root.  As strawberries are short-lived it’s best to replace a third of your crop a year with new plants.  Remove any netting, especially the very fine type, as soon as you have used it protect fruits – they can so easily become a trap for birds and hedgehogs.  It’s much safer to use more rigid netting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou may find lots of small apple fruits lying around trees – do not worry as this is a sign of good spring pollination and harvest to come in the autumn.  The ‘June drop’ usually starts around Wimbledon week when trees naturally thin their crop. With more bees around at flowering time and no air frosts, pollination has been good and the trees thin their crops.  As the season progresses you may find you still have to thin the apple crop later in the season if the branches are bending over with the weight.  The little fruits make great non-returnable but biodegradable ‘balls’ to improve your tennis practice (as long as no greenhouses are nearby!). The couch grass is high on some plots (almost 5 foot!) and going to seed and bindweed is even higher (ah, with those lovely pure white trumpet flowers like Morning Glory!).  In both cases try to control now rather than later,
and if nothing else, don’t let them drop seeds unless you want to increase your workload next year.

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