July in Stephanie's Kitchen Garden is when the main harvest begins.

Stephanie's Kitchen Garden Diary - 26th July 2016

July in Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden is when the main harvest begins. I have just spent a pleasant summer morning picking blackcurrant trugblackcurrants with only the birds and a radio for company. A back breaking job, but one of huge satisfaction gained from harvesting a bumper crop of fat juicy currants that will soon adorn my larder shelves in the form of jam. On the darkest of winter days the taste will transport me back to the hot sunny day when they were picked.

This month we have taken countless trugs full of fruit and vegetables to the kitchen. We have been harvesting broad beans, French beans, courgettes, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, chillies, peas, carrots, beetroot, salads, spinach and broccoli almost daily.   The larder is now home to new potates, white and red onions, shallots and garlic all laid out in the sun to dry before being stored ready for cooking.

We have enjoyed an excellent crop of strawberries this year and have spent many happy hours in the sunshine picking them. Our freezer is now well stocked with prepared fruit and ice-cream. I’ve enjoyed fat, sweet, home-grown blueberries for my breakfast for the past couple of weeks. If ever anyone needed convincing of the reason we grow our own organic fruit and vegetables, they would only have to look at the end result to know that every dig of the spade through the cold winter months is absolutely worthwhile.

As well as harvesting, much of our time this month has been spent tending our crops to keep them happy and productive. For the past two weeks we have been enjoying a heatwave , with constant sunshine and very warm temperatures. This is great for ripening fruits and for sun loving crops such as courgettes, but others will suffer in the heat. In the early part of the day and in the late evening, when the sun is at its least harsh, we have been out with the watering cans and soaker hoses giving all our plants a much needed drink. They have also been treated to a weekly feed and consequently the kitchen garden is a riot of green and crops are thriving. Our water butts are now empty with little rain forecast in the near future so we are having to resort to the tap for the moment.

As I write, there are no attacks from pests or diseases to report which is a sign that plants are happy and healthy. However we never rest on our laurels in this garden and we are constantly checking on our plants for early signs of attack. The sooner you can identify a problem, the easier it is to deal with it so it’s important to be vigilant. I am happy to report that our snail problem has certainly become less of a problem in the current dry spell.

The main pest evident in the garden this month is the weeds. They have loved the warm weather and are popping up everywhere. At this time of year we are out twice a week hoeing off the beds to catch the weeds when they are small. This is so much easier than having to dig out established weeds that have taken hold.   Hoeing the beds also turns the soil, exposing any pests or grubs for the birds to snack on. And of course it keeps the garden looking good too.

squash obeliskThis month we have performed the annual prune of our espalier apple trees. The trees have put on huge amounts of growth this year and were looking really out of shape. Side shoots were pruned back to around three inches to form fruiting spurs for next year. As we replaced our supports last year with an arched frame, we are trying to add more layers to our espaliers. New branches have been tied in and left to grow to form new horizontal branches. I love this job. The transformation from a morning with a pair of secateurs is always deeply satisfying. The fattening apples have been exposed and the end result looks amazing.

We have a very good crop of squash growing this year in various beds around the kitchen garden. Some are scrambling along the ground and other are being trained up obelisks as a feature. Whether grown in raised beds or in the ground, the plants are trying to take over every available space. They have set lots of fruit and are swelling beautifully. We have made little hammocks from bird netting this month to cradle the fruit and take the weight off their branches. The nets are attached to the cross bars on the obelisks and are working brilliantly.  

peach fruitOur sweet potatoes are also being trained up obelisks and, after a slow start in the cold spring weather, are now putting on growth and beginning to climb. Our beans have reached the top of their supports and are reaching for the skies! We have pinched out their tips several times and they just keep going. They are flowering profusely and we have already picked two large trug fulls of beans.

The newest crop in the garden this year are the peach trees planted last autumn. They were covered over the winter with a special peach tree frame and cover, and hand pollinated when they flowered. I am now the proud grower of one peach fruit currently the size of a golf ball. As the trees are so young we weren’t really expecting a crop this year so I am nurturing this little fruit with extra special care and attention, in anticipation of a very juicy treat in the not too distant future.

Here are some of the jobs we've got planned for August in Stephanie's Kitchen Garden:

  • Prune pear arch.
  • Trim box hedges.
  • Cut back strawberry plants after they have finished fruiting.
  • Order garlic and onion sets for autumn planting.
  • Continue weekly feed of all crops.

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