There is much to sow, grow and enjoy in July. It's a busy month of watering, weeding and pest management but it is also the time to enjoy the fruits and vegetables of your labour.

Savour the taste of produce you’ve grown, from fresh basil to flavour filled mangetout while you enjoy the beautiful displays of our summer flowers in this magnificent month.

General tasks

Water at dusk to avoid leaf damage through burning or around the roots in the morning.

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During a hot spell mulch around the plants to improve water retention.

Keep watering, weeding and harvesting. Water and feed plants in containers regularly. With terracotta containers it’s worth dampening the pot as well as watering the plant roots themselves.

Remain vigilant for signs of pests and act immediately.

Set the mower blade higher during hot spells to help grass retain moisture.

Keep weeding!

Voluminous veg

For a constant supply of winter leaves thinly sow spinach, perpetual spinach and chard in warm, sunny positions with a little general fertilizer. Thin leaf spinach to 8cm, perpetual spinach to 22cm and chard to 30cm apart. Water well in dry weather.

Plug shady gaps with lettuce and spinach or dwarf French beans in sunny spaces to extend your cropping season.

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Sow Florence fennel direct in light soil, 2.5cm deep then thin them to 25-30cm apart. Water little and often as it needs good drainage. Earth bulbs up as they grow to keep the skins pale. Warmth is key, so fleece on the cooler nights of late summer. Make late sowings of salad leaves, radishes, spring onions, peas, courgettes, beetroot and carrots for cropping in late autumn.

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Sow spring cabbages for early spring harvest. Either sow in modules or into the ground. Plant in a warm, sunny position when around 10cm high. Space larger varieties 45cm apart and compact ones 30cm apart and net against caterpillars, butterflies and birds.

Planting second crop potatoes now will provide a mid winter crop if you plant them in containers that can be moved under cover when cold weather bites.

Keep training cucumber plants and feed with high potash fertiliser once fruit grows.

When aubergine plants have set half a dozen fruit pinch out the growing tips so that energy can be concentrated on the fruit.

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Likewise pinch out the tips of courgette and squash to encourage growth. A glut of courgettes is common and can feel almost overwhelming but try picking the flowers and savouring them stuffed, and tiny baby courgettes are wonderfully tasty.

Beetroot, artichokes, peas, carrots, garlic, mangetout, spring onions, celery, chard, new potatoes, salad leaves, lettuce and tomatoes are ready to harvest.

Keep picking vegetables while young to promote even more fruiting. This is especially important with runner beans which do freeze well, if you have a deluge of them at one time.

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Store produce that you can’t use. Sand works well for carrots and beetroot, so lay them in a shallow box and cover with sand. Keep pinching out tomato side shoots and liquid feed weekly. Removing branches below the first fruit helps to prevent damage from slugs and the improved air circulation reduces chance of disease.

Pick, dry and freeze fresh herbs. Air drying is simple, simply tie a bunch of herbs and hang upside down indoors.

Once the top leaves of garlic start to yellow, lift with a fork and let them dry in the sun before hanging in a well ventilated place.

Keep mulching or earthing up potato plants to prevent potatoes nearer the surface turning green.

Pest watch

Keep a keen eye out for:

Slugs and snails

Aphids on under sides of leaves

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Cabbage white butterfly's bright yellow eggs, on brassicas in particular

Black fly, especially on broad beans

Sawfly larvae on gooseberry bushes

Red spider mite, particularly in greenhouses

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This is a monthly feature written for Smallholder magazine. For your copy subscribe here, call 01778 392011, email subscriptions@warnersgroup.co uk or ask your local newsagent.