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GARDENING: Time to enjoy garden delights

July 17th, 2022 3:30 PM

Joyce is enjoying getting stuck into cherry picking in her garden. (Photo: Ben Russell)

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THE  much needed rain did flatten some plants in the garden, but most bounced back with the arrival of fine weather. Flower borders are bursting with colour and a little disarray doesn’t create much of a problem. Stake and tie anything that really needs it, or cut sprawling stems and bring bunches of cut flowers into the house or deliver some to friends and neighbours. We are entering a time of garden excess and it isn’t hard to be generous.

July can be busy between weeding, watering, and harvesting, so do your best to prioritise and tackle the jobs that most need doing. Picking fruit and vegetables while they are at their tasty best is always my priority – this is a time to enjoy some delicious delights so make the most of it.

Cherry time

Cherries are ripe on the tree so pick them when they are a good colour and juicy to eat. If you don’t net your tree to protect the fruit, birds will pick it all for you – they can strip a tree in a few short hours once they decide the fruit is perfect for eating. Lift the net if you want to pick some fruit and replace it carefully afterwards. If children are the main harvesters, then teach them how the net should go back when they are finished. 

Morello cherries aren’t as sweet as dessert varieties but they are delicious and are perfect for pies and jams. You can freeze cherries for using later – they won’t come out like fresh fruit, but are good for using in cooked dishes. It’s a good idea to remove the stones before freezing. This is a messy job at any time - so do it in the kitchen sink and wear an apron – you may still look like you have had a nasty accident, but at least the juice will be contained a little. 

If at all possible it’s always best to dry garlic in the sun.


Garlic and onions

Spring planted sets are growing slowly and won’t be ready to lift for a few more weeks. They do like plenty of water and some sun to reach a good size. Keep an eye out for any sign of wilting leaves that have a grey coating. This is downy mildew and it’s a good idea to remove any affected plants before the problem spreads.

Autumn planted onions and garlic have made good sized bulbs and should be lifted if you haven’t done this already. There’s no advantage to leaving them in the ground once the tops flop and leaves start to brown – you may have problems with garlic bulbs splitting open and starting to re-sprout. Both crops can be affected by rot if they are left in the ground too long.

Knock off any soil around the roots and spread bulbs out in the sun to dry. This is the best way to dry them but you can use an airy shed if the weather is wet. Bulbs should dry in a week or ten days at the most. If they take longer then they may start to moulder, or if garlic dries too fast the necks can be too brittle to plait into strings. I often bring bulbs into a spare room in the house to dry off for the last couple of days before making strings.

Lovely legumes

Broad beans are at their delicious best right now. Keep harvesting regularly to make sure you get the beans when they are still young and sweet. Small, green coloured beans taste much better than when they are large, white and starchy.

Fresh small broad beans freeze very well and will last for up to 12 months. You can blanche them in boiling water before freezing but I often don’t bother. 

Mangetout peas are cropping prolifically. It can be hard to keep up with harvesting. Keep picking and eating while small – they don’t freeze too well so enjoy the glut and move on to other crops when these are finished.

Climbing French beans are one of my favourites. Keep harvesting when pods are slim and crisp and they can crop for months. Dwarf varieties are a good option too – look under the foliage to find the dangling bunches of beans.

In the greenhouse

You can’t beat the taste of homegrown tomatoes! Pick eat and enjoy, but with one word of caution – don’t pick all ripe tomatoes until lower ones on a truss are starting to colour. The gas given off by ripe ones helps ripen lower fruits, hence you can slow down the overall ripening process if you harvest too early and too thoroughly.

It’s time to start thinking about sowing a few seeds for some autumn and winter crops. Sow Swiss chard, spinach, Florence fennel and parsley now and they should crop well in the colder months.

There’s plenty of bright colour in the flower borders right now.

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