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"July" is a blind date with summer

What seeds to sow in July

In between lugging watering cans around the garden, weeding and harvesting the soft fruit before the birds do, sowing more seeds hardly seems a priority. However to ensure a good supply of salad leaves, baby spinach, spring onions and radishes I need to keep sowing ‘little and often’. I try and sow my lettuce leaves in the shade of more established plants – if the soil temperature is above 25oC then germination may be poor.*  Slightly shaded they are also less likely to bolt (form flowers and seed heads) instead of leaves. I try to sow sparingly but if the seedlings are too crowded, I can thin them out as ‘microgreens’. It does add to the round of watering as leafy crops need to be kept well-watered.

*  TIP: water the drill or channel before you sow the seeds, sow thinly and then cover with a shallow layer of dry soil.

Lettuce such as Little Gem can be eaten as baby leaves (all harvested at once) 4-6 weeks from sowing, picked as cut and come again (outer mature leaves eaten) at 6 -8 weeks or left to heart up. Other vegetables to consider include kohl rabi (fast maturing), beetroot (use thinnings in salad), kale (of which there are several varieties to try) and turnips. Later in July as summer progresses Florence fennel, Swiss chard and winter radishes benefit from the gradually cooler temperatures.

Don’t forget your herbs, often expensive in the supermarket and can be grown repeatedly for just a few pence worth of seeds. These tasty plants add beauty and fragrance to the garden while attracting pollinators and beneficial insects. Certain herbs are better adapted to grow during the heat of summer than others. Amongst the best herbs to grow for summer are basil, chervil, chives, coriander, dill, fenugreek, oregano, parsley, sage, savory and thyme. Sow either in open ground or containers.

Planning ahead for your flower display, July is an ideal time to start spring and summer flowering perennials for next year. Sow aquilegia, coreopsis, scabious and echinacea in trays of peat free compost to keep under cover throughout winter. If you are thinking of winter baskets then sow winter flowering pansies and violas for your containers. Biennials too can be sown,- foxgloves, sweet william and wallflowers you just need lots of space to fit everything in!

Some terminology explained

What is a seed drill? A channel or groove made into the soil. The size of the seed determines how deep the drill or groove is made. Small seeds like carrots and lettuce are sown at a depth of about 1cm deep.

What is staggered sowing? This means repeated sowing of seeds every few days or weeks depending on the variety so that as the mature plants are harvested, seedlings are ready to grow in their place for a continuous harvest.

How do you succession plant? This can mean the repeated sowing of seeds of the same variety or as the season for one variety ends a different variety is sown or planted in its place to fill the gap.

Why do plants bolt? Bolting occurs when a vegetable flowers and sets seed early, (runs to seed) reducing its edibility. It can affect a wide range of vegetables including lettuce, spinach and fennel as a response to stressful conditions such as lack of water, root disturbance or hot weather.

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