Kitchen Garden Tasks in Mid-Summer

Mid-Summer

With the middle of summer there comes a lull in gardening activities. Most of your crops will be well on with their growth and, apart from routine training, watering and feeding, will not need much help from you. In fact, some of them will reach or finish their harvest stage and you will be more occupied with picking, cutting and lifting than previously. Cleaning or clearing the ground they have occupied should be fitted in when the ground is moist and catch crops or winter crops put in to replace them, according to your rotation plan.

The gardening cycle is continuous and as crops finish you can start off others; even in summer you can be putting in plants for harvesting late next winter and in spring, while you are still lifting this season’s harvest.

This is the best time for herb gathering and drying; most herbs will begin to flower and the leaves can be harvested now, or the seeds collected later in mid-summer, depending on which part of the plant is used for cooking. Those which have been harvested can be cut back, and should then produce growth from which you can take a second crop in autumn.

The hottest weather of the year can occur in mid-summer, with the longest periods of drought, so be prepared for considerable watering. A large water storage tank comes into its own now, especially if watering the garden from the mains is temporarily prohibited by the local council; keep it tightly covered so that no light at all can get in and so that mosquito larvae, other insects and small mammals cannot infest it. The mulches you put down earlier in the season should be helping to keep the moisture in the soil; black plastic sheet on top of these will ensure even more retention.

As far as troubles are concerned, they are much like early summer, except that greenfly will be much less in evidence. They will have reached the final winged stage of their life cycle, when they fly oft to other plants than crops, or die, after laying eggs. Blight on potatoes and tomatoes should be watched for and mildew may begin to appear on a variety of plants, as it thrives, like red spider mite, in warmth and drought. Wasps and ants are a nuisance in some years.

Jobs to do

Preparing the soil for outdoor sowing

As with early summer, there are still some crops which can be sown, either for quick maturing or for storing through the winter; one or two of the latter can be left in the ground in winter and pulled or picked as required. They will all be sown where they are to grow, so no separate seed bed will be needed.

Preparing the soil for planting

Late summer is the time to start planting strawberries, so the ground for these, if vacant, can be prepared now. They will do best in a sunny place, on a slightly sloping site and, if you have the time, they will develop the best root system in soil which has been double dug. A mildly acid soil, pH 6.5, is preferable, though neutral will do. Alkaline soil can lead to nutrient deficiencies and should be avoided if possible. While digging, mix in rotted garden compost, or similar bulky organic material at the rate of about half a garden barrow load per square metre (sq yd). Clear off all weeds thoroughly – couch grass, bindweed, ground-elder and other perennials – roll the dug soil lightly and rake.

Sowing the seed outdoors

beetroot is one of the vegetables which can be grown for ornament as well as use - a useful attribute where there is a shortage of spaceYou can sow seeds of the following: French (kidney) bean, beetroot, borage, cabbage (spring), carrot, chicory (Sugar-loaf), endive (Batavian Green), kale (Hungry Gap), kohlrabi, lettuce, parsley, radish, spinach (summer), turnip.

The beetroot sown now will be for salads; it will not have time to grow sufficiently for storage and round varieties should be chosen. Cabbage for spring cutting can be sown where it is to grow, though if you have no space for the time being it can go into a seed-bed and be transplanted in autumn. Carrots can be grown both for salads and immediate eating and for storing. The lettuce-leafed endive is hardier than the curled endive, which will not survive past mid-autumn. Kale will provide ‘greens’ next spring and early summer. Kohlrabi should be sown early in midsummer to ensure its maturity by autumn.

Lettuce sown now will be just matured by autumn; any sown later will need cloche or tunnel protection. Parsley will provide fresh leaves through the winter from this sowing. This will also be the last date for sowing summer spinach; after this change to the prickly-seeded, winter variety. Turnips sown now will provide roots for storage.

Planting outdoors

The brassicas sown in late spring will be ready for planting now. Moist soil and watering in are more important then ever. Leeks will also be ready to go in – in some ways this later planting is better than the conventional one of early summer, since you will have more of the crop ready at a time – spring – when there is a dearth of fresh vegetables. If not already done, you should plant as soon as possible outdoors, ridge cucumbers, marrows, squashes, melons and tomatoes. It is just worth planting them still, although a lot will depend on whether the summer is a good one.

Thinning

Continue to thin crops, mainly those sown in early summer: beetroot, borage, carrot, chicory (Sugarloaf), dill, endive, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, parsley, radish, swede and turnip. Thinning is done more easily in dry soil, but water the rows afterwards to settle the soil down round the plants that you have left in place and ensure that they are all very firmly anchored.

Earthing up

The winter celery planted outdoors in late spring will need its first earthing up towards the end of mid-summer. Any suckers at the base of the plants should be removed; look for slugs on the plants nearby and in the soil. Then wrap brown paper round the stems; this practice is mainly an insurance to prevent soil getting into the centre and you can dispense with it if you are careful, or you can twine string round the stems up to the leaves. Pile soil from the top of the ridges loosely round the stems up to about 10cm (4in) high. You will be doing this again twice more in the growing season, about once every four weeks. Pick off any leaves infested with leaf miner as you work.

Compost heap

If you finished one heap in early summer, or one is just finishing now, make sure that there is some moisture in them; they can get very dry at this time of the year. If the bottom of the first heap is ready you can use it for preparing the strawberry bed.

Feeding

Routine liquid feeding should continue on more or less the same crops, with some additions, as last month: globe artichoke, aubergine, French (kidney) bean, chicory, endive, leek, lettuce, pepper, and tomato. If the early sown summer spinach is beginning to slow down in its leaf production, a liquid feed every week or so will do it no harm. The brassicas planted last month will be the better for an occasional liquid feed, too, especially if it is one which contains more potash than phosphorus or nitrogen. Do not overdo it, otherwise you will have ‘blown’ sprouts, loose curds on the cauliflower and leafy ‘soft’ cabbages.

If your soil is light and stony, give the rhubarb a solid feed, watered in, of a compound balanced fertilizer. Garlic which was spring-planted can also be given a dry feed, watered in, but use a potash-high compound, such as a tomato fertilizer. Continue to liquid feed the greenhouse plants, but stop feeding the strawberry bed when the crop has been picked.

Staking, training and tying in

A final tie can be given to the Jerusalem artichokes if you are supporting these, and to the aubergines if they need it. Pinching out the tips of the artichoke stems will keep their height down. Runner (pole) beans will have done their own climbing and supported themselves; cucumbers, marrows and squashes will need ends of side-shoots stopped to keep them in the space allowed, and to divert energy into fruit production.

Peas will need the support of brushwood twigs or chicken or plastic netting; tomatoes will need stout stakes, well driven in, and sometime in the next few weeks should have the growing point pinched out at about the second leaf above the fourth flower truss. Fruit from flowers produced later than this will not ripen, although it may set. Brussels sprouts and sprouting broccoli are the better for being tied to strong supports, otherwise summer gales can have them very quickly lying on the ground and pulling them upright always damages them. The new shoots on blackberries, loganberries and raspberries will need tying in.

In the greenhouse, tomatoes, cucumber and melons will need stopping; tomatoes can be allowed to carry six or seven fruit trusses before being stopped. Continue to remove runners from strawberry plants, as they will be produced in even greater quantities as the crop begins to end and the bed will become a tangle if left. Let perpetual flowering strawberries flower normally from now on, to crop from late summer. Tie in vine growth as in early summer.

More jobs for mid-summer in the kitchen garden …

29. August 2011 by admin
Categories: Kitchen Garden, Organics | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Kitchen Garden Tasks in Mid-Summer

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