July Notes from the Garden Shed

Happy Hill of Summer! – I hope you’re all enjoying this the most productive time of the year in the veg garden. Now many wildflowers, shrubs and fruit trees are past their flowering period and are busy setting fruit and seeds. The Dog Rose flowers of the hedgerows, along with many other hedgerow shrubs are long gone and are now replaced with ripening hips - food for next winter’s hungry birds and the wild harvesters amongst us (who dream of rose hip syrups, jams and teas). 

Our fruit trees are now heavy with fattening young pears and apples – even after the ‘June drop’ (when the tree discards some of its fruit) there’s still plenty to look forward to harvesting. 

Not a problem in the vegetable garden where many of us are experiencing ‘veg gluts’ like the fabled E.U. Veg. Mountains! It can be quite shocking just how many courgettes one courgette plant can produce and three or four plants can literally overwhelm you.  Check out the Guardian’s ‘The 10 best courgette recipes’  to extend the possibilities of this productive vegetable.

Archaeologists have traced the origins of the courgette back to Mexico between 7,000 to 5,500 BCE where they were famously part of the ancient pre-Columbian companion growing trio; beans, maize and squash which we now call the ‘three sisters’.

Now’s the time to harvest your ‘first early’ potatoes – here are some unusual ‘Pink Fir Apple’ potatoes – delicious straight from the ground.

With all this midsummer plant activity and growth our minds turn to applying some summer pruning of our apple and pear trees.  We use the wonderfully named ‘Modified Lorette system’ developed by Professor Louis Lorette at the Wagonville School of Practical Agriculture in northern France before the 1st World War.  In essence you trim back this year’s new shoots to encourage fruiting buds to form with a massive increase of fruit. Interestingly this system was accepted more readily in this country than in France where the older winter ‘three buds system’ held sway. Never forget we owe so much to past gardeners.

Happy vegetable gluts to one and all !

Bumblebee Fact of the Month from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust

Bumblebee colonies don’t last long with all of the bees dying off naturally after a few months, except for the new queens which find a place to hibernate elsewhere in the soil – ready to start next year’s colonies!