Growers Corner - Summer Jobs
London often suffers from hot, dry conditions and long periods of drought. Here Carolyn Wilson shares ways of keeping your plants happy through the summer.
Soil retains moisture best when it has a good structure and plenty of organic matter. Bare soil is susceptible to being damaged by the wind and sun. You can protect your soil by ‘mulching’ – covering it with something – to help keep it moist.
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Woodchips are often used for mulching around fruit trees and bushes. As they slowly decompose, they make the soil more acidic, so are best suited to plants such as raspberries, rhubarb, sweet potatoes, blueberries and gooseberries. Most annual vegetables prefer a more neutral- alkaline soil. You could use leafmould, grass clippings, chopped up plant matter or straw. You can also use cardboard, entire newspapers, fabric, or even non-biodegradable materials like thick plastic sheeting or carpet to block unwanted plants from growing, thus reducing the need for weeding.
Consider netting fruit to keep the birds off. Gooseberries, redcurrants etc might need some summer pruning. Blackberries can be ‘tied in’ and side shoots snipped off grape vines.
After the last frost it’s time to start planting out young vegetables – sweetcorn, aubergines, chillies and peppers, cauliflowers, celery, tomatoes – but it’s not too late to sow some more. In June, you can still sow peas, beetroot, broccoli, runner and french beans, swedes, courgettes, pumpkins, and winter squashes.
Oriental and salad leaves – things like pak choi, mizuna, mustard greens, corn salad, rocket, lettuce – can be sown in succession (every few weeks) throughout the year. Some seeds (e.g. lettuce, coriander, basil, dill, parsley) won’t germinate reliably in high temperatures, so it’s worth finding a cool/ shady space for your seedlings to start off.
Want to learn more? Check out Capital Growth's brilliant training programme for budding or experienced urban growers.