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This month in the garden - 2018

July in the garden

July is the month that really starts to reward the gardener for all their hard work. Courgettes, cucumbers, green beans and tomatoes should be abundant by now and as there's really nothing new to plant at the moment, the focus is on maintaining what you've got. It's important to harvest tomatoes, beans, melons and cucumbers regularly. Allowing fruit to go overripe and rot on the plants not only smells bad but attracts fruit flies and other pests which can get into your crop. And please pick that monster courgette! The plant will think it's achieved it's mission of making seeds to ensure the next generation and will stop putting out new flowers and concentrate all it's energy on securing those seeds in that giant fruit. Beans not only taste better when they are young and tender but must be picked to stimulate the plants to continue flowering and produce more beans. When the seeds start to form in the pods, bean plants too will concentrate on seed production and your yield will be considerably less than if you pick the beans every day or three.

In the case of basil and rocket, the leaf is the crop, so when those plants start to flower and start their seed producing mission, they will stop putting out new leaves. Pick the flowers off to prolong the harvest. When the flowering tip is pinched out, basil will put out two leading tips in it's place so you will end up with bushier more productive plants that will yield much more over a longer time. When you can no longer keep up with the plants' desire to run to seed, allow them to do so and save some seeds for next year. Bear in mind that different types of basil will cross pollinate, rampantly, because the bees love basil flowers, so if you do decide to save some seeds, make sure only one variety flowers at a time.

Tip: When pinching out your tomato side shoots, try potting a few up to produce new plants for later in the season. Tomatoes planted in August can produce fruit as late as December.

Reader's question: Will my tomato plants grow bigger and stronger if I take off the first flowers? - Imbal. Tablones
No, I shouldn't think so. Tomatoes will produce fruit on the lower parts of the plant first and continue to grow upwards producing fruit higher up the plant. You would be wise to pinch out the side shoots that sprout out of the axis between the main stem and the leaves. This makes the plants have a more upright and manageable form which is easier to tie to the poles. You can leave the side shoots but you will end up with wild and bushy plants that are harder to manage. You may also like to take off the lower leaves. This allows air to flow and decreases the chance of fungal diseases. The plant doesn't really need the lower leaves once the low fruit has been harvested so it's good to take off the leaves two junctions below the harvested fruit. Some growers in cooler climates strip nearly all the leaves off (leaving a few to perform photosynthesis I hope) to maximise the sun and help the fruit to ripen. This is not necessary in our hot climate and the fruit really needs the bit of shade provided by the leaves otherwise it can get sunburned. Take off any damaged or diseased leaves too and any leaves that are touching the ground, but be careful not to remove the main growing tip.

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