Allotment Associations & Horticultural Groups in Harrow, Middlesex
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In July the cuckoo starts to fly, unlike the Royal Prince he was born with his wings. Why this monthly reference to cuckoo? After all they are mainly in clocks, but they are mentioned in a good, old crooner’s song “Let there be cuckoo, a lark and a dove, but most of all, let there be love”... of gardening, of course. Remove the shoots from Raspberries which have borne fruit this season, leaving only four or five strong young shoots to each plant.

Roses: when a rose shoot has flowered cut it back to two-thirds its length. New growth will soon appear and produce blooms later in the season. After the first flush of blooms, feed the bushes and hoe it well into the soil, this will enable them to be more resistant to pests and diseases, as well as producing beautiful blooms. Sweet Peas spoil them with a liquid feed every 12 days and continue pinching out tendrils and side shoots.

Bulbs: this is the chief month for lifting and storing spring-flowering bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, and hyacinth. And bulbs for autumn can be planted this month. They provide a touch of unusual form and colour among shrubs and trees at an otherwise dull time of the year.: Examples are: Amaryllis belladonna, Nerines & Autumn Crocuses. Looking ahead, it is time to prepare the soil for planting the spring bulbs: dig deeply and break up any clods. The best fertilizer to use is potash, but they may have to put up with second best as the price of potash suddenly went potty last month, almost double. Probably this will affect the liquid fertilizers, too, for the tomatoes etc. need regular drinks of potash based elixirs.

Turnips: some people confuse them with Swedes, but the appearance and taste are completely different. People in the USA grow turnips mainly to eat the green tops, quite a turn up for the books! But at the beginning of July make a sowing for storing and using in the winter.

Potatoes: continues spraying with Dithane or if you prefer a natural alternative, use Bordeaux Mixture. Lift early potatoes as required, have you got some mint to eat with them? Sink an old bucket or metal container to restrict the growth of mint, as it shoots out roots, but not if you want if you want it to expand- plants can be quite contrary! Most gardens have mint, you could try some of the more unusual mints: Apple mint, orange mint, peppermint (make a nice tea which aids digestion) pineapple, old lady, or old man (an old favourite because of its aromatic leaves, which, when dried can be used for pot pourri and against moths). Fill land cleared of potatoes with winter greens, or think of sowing green manure. This is a very valuable crop as the green manure traps the nitrogen that would be leached away by autumn and winter rain - more details in later monthly notes.. Remember to sow seeds of forget-me-not for spring flowering. They will germinate speedily ad will require frequently thinning out.

Onions: sown in spring need to be fed liberally now if large bulbs are wanted. But shallots can be lifted and their ripening process completed by leaving them on the ground - if the weather is sunny.

Fruit: Raspberry pick the fruit as it ripens then cut off the old canes close to the ground to leave room for the new growth which will carry next year’s crop. Also cut out weak new shoots, so that the row will not be crowded. Similarly with blackcurrants, prune back the established shoots and the new shoots, coming from below ground level will bear next season’s fruit. Let us hope that your blackcurrant bushes are healthy. The presence of enlarged buds in early spring is due to big bud mite means that the bushes will not be fruitful as they are suffering from the reversion virus, and there is no cure, lift the bushes and burn them.

Runner beans: Growing rapidly, spiralling like inflation, up the canes. But there has been no mention yet of a pest - black fly. Have the spray ready, or dowse them with washing up water, though it was in an article that it is not a legal practice as washing up water has not been tested and approved by the relevant authority!

Herbs: Make further sowings of chervil, dill and parsley. To retain their flavour and aroma, herbs must be harvested at the right time and in the right condition, whether flower, seed or stem is being used. Pick only a small portion at a time. Lay the herbs on flat containers, and dry immediately to prevent decomposition. Dry the herbs in an airing cupboard or the warming drawer of a cooker. Handle the herbs as little as possible. Maintain temperature of 32 degreesC (90 degreesF) for 24 hours then reduce it to 21 degreesC (70 degreesF) until the drying process is completed. Herbs are ready for storing when they are brittle and rattle lightly when touched.

General tasks: Dead-head all flowers, checking once a week. Clear away all vegetables that have finished cropping. Holiday preparations: hoe between plants, this will stop the weeds and make sure any rain will penetrate and not bounce off a hard crust. Check all ties of plants growing up a fence or canes. If you have a friendly neighbour who will water for you, leave the hosepipe ready (unless of course there is a hosepipe ban!). Also ask him/her to pick any fruit or vegetables when they are ripe, if not there will not be courgettes when you return but whopping, great marrows. Someone asked his neighbour to look after his chickens but he did not collect the eggs, and he returned to find a lot of eggs in one nesting box, broken and scrambled!

Ralph of Roxbourne Society

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