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This month in the garden - 2022

July in the Garden

July is all about watering, maintaining and harvesting. Everything will be growing really vigorously now, the weeds included. The main work is tying up tomatoes, keeping melons, cucumbers and pumpkins under control as they try to climb all over everything, weeding and most importantly, harvesting. Daily harvests of tomatoes, courgettes, beans and cucumbers will keep you busy in the kitchen as well as in the garden. Keep pinching out the tops of the basil plants to prevent them from flowering. This will give you bushy plants with a prolonged harvest.

Pay attention to watering. Mulch to conserve moisture if need be, but be vigilant. Mulch can harbour snails and wood lice that can do a lot of damage to your crops.

A final sowing of French beans can be put in now for an autumn harvest. Also think about where you want to plant your potatoes in August and get the space ready. Winter veg can be sown in seed trays this month and next to get the plants ready to go in the ground in September. All the brassicas; broccoli, cauliflower, kale and brussels sprouts, as well as leeks and onions. However, it's pretty tricky to keep these seedlings going in the extreme summer heat. They must be in a shady spot and not allowed to dry out. You need to get the plants off to a good start so when they go into the ground in September they will still have time to develop before the winter cold and shorter days halt their growth. They can then over-winter in the ground and in early spring - when the temperatures start to climb and the days are getting longer - the plants will be big enough to give you an early harvest.

If you haven't saved your own seeds before, consider saving some this season. Summer vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, chillies. cucumbers, melons, courgettes, pumpkins, beans and basil are very easy to save seeds from. The only problem is that different varieties cross. This can be annoying, for example, in the case of sweet peppers. If you are growing chillies in the same garden, you may not want your sweet peppers to get cross pollinated with them and end up carrying the hot gene. In this case you can take action to isolate the plants and save pure seeds from a particular variety. Saving seeds year after year in this way eventually leads to inbreeding and the risk of inbreeding depression which means your plants may become weaker over time. Accidental crosses are not a bad thing – they add new genes to the gene pool and result in more vigorous plants. It's important to select the plants you like the best for seed, either because they were the tastiest, they were the ones that survived a drought or they just grew really well in your garden.

By selecting carefully for seed, you can turn your crosses to your advantage. Maybe you accidentally crossed a small sweet tasting melon with a big bland one. Eventually, through selecting your seeds every year, you could end up with a bigger sweet tasting melon. The way plants survive generation after generation is by incorporating new information into their seeds and passing it on to their offspring. Through paying attention and making intentional seed selections we can grow plants that not only taste great but that will also thrive in the changing climatic conditions. If you are interested in learning more about seed saving, come along to one of the monthly workshops hosted in different gardens around the Alpujarras by SEEeD (Semillas Españolas Ecológicas en Deposito).

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