Summer vegetable growing

Caroline Cassidy

Summer is here and at this time of year, the vegetable patch is beginning to offer up its warm weather bounty. While it's been a topsy turvy spring and summer weather-wise, there is still plenty to be done on your allotment or vegetable patch.

summer vegetable growing tips
summer vegetable growing tips

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By now your patch should be producing plenty of crops so now is the time to start harvesting. Beans of the French, runner and broad variety should be picked, along with salad goodies like early tomatoes, peas, cucumbers and courgettes.

Root veg such as carrots, onions, turnips and early potatoes are also ready to go, but do be careful to remove all the tubers when digging up your spuds. Any that are left over will sprout next year and are likely to bring disease such as blight with them.

Garlic and shallots are ready to go when the foliage begins to turn yellow and straw-like, and you may also have lettuce, radishes, cabbages, kale and cauliflower to harvest.

If your soft fruit hasn't been reduced to jam-making material by the wet weather, make the most of the season's strawberry and raspberry harvest.

Harvesting is the fun part but there is plenty to do to ensure another good crop next year. July is the time to sow next season's spring cabbage, lettuce, peas, French beans, beetroot, carrots and radishes. Any remaining marrow, pumpkin, squash and leeks should also be planted out in July - if birds are a problem, consider covering them with netting for a little extra protection.

General maintenance
The wet and the warm has no doubt sent the weeds into overdrive so keeping on top of the situation is a must. Small seedlings are easier than taking on established plants, and regular hoeing will not only remove these but kill any tiny ones that you've missed. Hoeing will also help to prevent water loss.

Both tomatoes, onions and potatoes could do with a balanced feed (available from garden centres) at this time of year, and should the weather turn dry, a layer of organic mulch will help to keep moisture in.

On that note, if we are suddenly blessed with a dry month, regular watering is essential as the summer heat can quickly cause problems. To ensure deep watering that won't encourage the roots up to the surface of the soil, do so in the early morning or evening so that it doesn't evaporate during the midday sun.

Pest control
The harvest might be in full swing but so are the pests. Aphids and blackfly are a particular problem at this time of year, along with Cabbage White butterfly eggs and caterpillars. An insecticidal soap (there are environmentally-friendly varieties available) will help to keep them in check but continue to keep an eye out for these prolific pests. Depending on the size of your patch or allotment, you can simply pick off the butterfly eggs and caterpillars.

Now is also the time to watch out for potato blight. To spot an infected plant, look out for watery rotted leaves and get rid. Anything you remove should be binned or burned - leave it on your compost heap and the disease will make back for revenge next summer.

If you have added a layer of mulch to your spuds, it will unfortunately encourage the slugs, and the wet weather has already given these slimy pests a boost. The debate over how to rid your patch of slugs continues to rage... but a little late-night hand-picking might just prove the most effective way!

And with all that hard work done, it's time to sit back and enjoy the fruits or your labour.

What are your top tips for a successful summer vegetable patch? Leave your comments below...