Monthly Tasks: Elder Stubbs Charity allotments is a member of NSALG (National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners) and their website gives a lot of useful information (www.nsalg.org.uk). This monthly task list is based predominantly from information from them.
Overview: July is one of the driest months (though this does not appear at all likely this year), so watering can be essential. You will have noticed moisture retaining benefits of having incorporated manure or organic material into your soil last Winter/Spring.
To improve the soils ability to soak up water, hoeing and cultivating regularly to break up the soil and removing weeds will help with this. Watering is best done in the cool of the evening or early morning.
Harvest: Keep up with the harvesting of all crops because the allotment is now in full production. Lift early potatoes and carry on earthing up the rows. Harvest garlic and shallots as the foliage becomes yellow and strawy. Pick the first of the early tomatoes. Lift Autumn planted onions for immediate use. Continue to pick rhubarb until the end of the month and begin to harvest the main crop of your strawberries. Start to pick plums, early pears and apples.
Sowing and planting: Start sowing the seeds of of the overwintering crops of kales, spring cabbage, radicchio, chicory, spinach beet, and a hardy type of onion to mature in the early summer of next year. Now is the best time to sow the main crop of carrots to avoid attack from root fly. Continue with successional sowings of beetroot and lettuce. Follow instructions on the back of the seed packet and sow every 2-4 weeks for a continuous supply of crops.
Plant out the last of your marrow, pumpkins, squashes, overwintering cabbages and leeks. Cover with netting to protect them from birds.
General: Start to draw the soil up around the base of Brussels sprouts and sweet corn plants to encourage extra roots.
Pests and diseases: This is the start of the potato blight season, and if the weather is wet and humid then your crop is likely to be at risk. Crop rotation with keeping potatoes away from where previously grown for at least 4 years will help if blight or other diseases have previously been a problem. An infected plant will have a blackening of the leaves and develop a wet watery rot – infected matter should be binned or burned. The potatoes in the ground can be saved if the tops are cut back to ground level and removed before the rotting gets into the potatoes in the soil.
The main pests are aphids, cabbage white butterflies/caterpillars and pea moth. Aphids can be controlled to some extent by spraying with soapy water. Badly infested plants should be removed. Crops will gradually see the benefit of predators – ladybirds and hoverfly larvae as the season progresses which feeds on the aphids and some chemical sprays can kill these natural predators. Cabbage white butterflies can be kept at bay with a suitable fine meshed cover.