You might think that it is too late, in July, to start a new vegetable garden. But this could not be more wrong. There are still plenty of crops you can plant in the UK this month to provide you with food over the rest of the summer, the autumn, and the winter months, and even for next spring. (This is especially true when you are growing with some protection such as under cloches or row covers, or in a polytunnel).
Here are just some of the top crops to plant in your vegetable garden in July:
Lettuces are one of the best crops for new gardeners. They are very quick and very easy to grow, and don’t take up a lot of space. You can succession sow lettuces (especially mixed cut and come again varieties) from March right through to around September. And quick maturing loose leaf types can be ready to eat in just 3-4 weeks.
Radishes are another great quick crop that will allow you to obtain a harvest by the end of summer or beginning of autumn. Succession sow radishes in small batches every couple of weeks and you can enjoy harvesting them over a long period. Radishes are also a good trap crop and make good companions for a range of other vegetables.
Pak Choi and Other Asian Greens
There are also plenty of Asian greens such as mustards, mizuna, mibuna and pak choi which are great for sowing in July. Sow some pak choi this month and you could be harvesting baby leaves in as little as a month. Or more mature hearted plants after 6-8 weeks. Like lettuce, these Asian greens can also be great for smaller spaces, and can be treated as cut and come again crops. Some Asian greens can also fairly easily be overwintered with protection.
Swiss Chard/ Perpetual Spinach
Swiss chard or perpetual spinach are also great leafy crops to sow in July. These are also great crops for successional sowing, and can provide you with a good harvest in a relatively small space. Eat small leaves in salads, cook in stir fries, or use larger plants in a range of recipes. They can also successfully overwinter with a little protection for bumper crops in the spring.
This is another leafy crop to sow in July for a bitter but fine tasting addition to autumn salads. Broad leaf types are also hardy enough for winter cropping, and can be sown later this month or next month under cloches or in a greenhouse or polytunnel. Cut and come again crops can be harvested after only 5-6 weeks.
Spring onions are not just a spring crop. Spring onions can also be sown right through to September, every couple of weeks, for a consistent supply. Sow some this month and they should be ready in as few as 6-8 weeks. Remember, cut off at the base, and the stubs will regrow. These are good companion plants for other crops, and are easy as long as you keep the area around them weed free.
July is a great time to sow autumn and winter plants in the brassica family, such as broccoli. Calabrese broccoli and other options like broccoli raab can sometimes be ready to eat in around 3 months. You can also grow kale for baby leaves over the autumn months.
It is also worth considering many other Brassicas which will overwinter in your garden (with some protection in colder areas) and provide you with yields over the winter or in the spring next year. Cabbages, kales, cauliflowers, sprouting broccolis and more are all options to consider sowing this month.
Kohlrabi is another brassica which can provide you with a crop before the end of the growing season this year. It is better known on the Continent than it is in the UK, but young kohlrabi can be wonderful raw, and larger ones can be great in a diverse range of recipes. So consider sowing some this month.
Dwarf French Beans
July is your last chance to plant dwarf French beans and still have the beans ready to harvest before the colder weather arrives. So consider popping some of these smaller nitrogen fixing beans in your garden as soon as possible.
July is also your last chance to sow some peas outdoors so pods can develop before the first frosts arrive. Consider mange tout varieties for a quick crop before the end of the year. Remember, these are nitrogen fixing legumes, so can be very useful in your vegetable garden.
July Potatoes for Christmas
Sow some second early potatoes in July in pots. Give them some protection or place them in a greenhouse or polytunnel when frost threatens, and you could be eating some fresh new potatoes with your Christmas dinner.
Carrots are another crop that can be succession sowed from spring onwards. July is your last chance to sow some more. Choose a fast-growing variety which will produce roots quickly. Often this will be within a couple of months. Alternatively, provide some protection and sow a variety suitable for overwintering.
July is also a good time to sow some beetroots. Sow this month, and you should be able to harvest some small, tender, gold-ball sized roots by the end of the summer or in early autumn. Just make sure you keep these well watered to avoid woodiness in hot and dry weather.
Compact turnips are another great option to squeeze in harvests before the end of the growing season. Consider growing them as catch crops like lettuce or radishes between slower growing vegetables. Harvest as baby turnips in as little as 6-10 weeks, or leave them to grow on.
These are just some of the things you can sow this month, whether you have an existing vegetable garden, or are starting a new vegetable garden a little late this summer. Don’t give up on planning ahead for the months to come. Don’t imagine that it is too late to start gardening for the first time this year. Get cracking right away, and there is still a lot you can do before the colder weather arrives once more.
Which annual crops are you sowing and growing this month? Let us know in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.