July was a busy time in the garden. The mangetout and runner beans were in full swing and growing as fast as we could eat them. The summer squashes were starting to produce and we ate the first of the small tomatoes. It was a month of sowing, growing and harvesting galore. Come see the photo highlights along with my tip of how to grow slug free lettuce.
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St. George Runner Beans: Pretty and Prolific Grower
4 runner bean plants growing up a wigwam made from 8 ft bamboo sticks. Mangetout shown to the left in the photo and marrow growing in the foreground.
I've never grown runner beans before so this was a first. I looked around at reviews and settled on St. George by Thompson & Morgan. These have very pretty red and white flowers instead of the typical plain red ones.
These were sown into 9cm pots on the 13th April and planted out at the base of a wigwam style bamboo frame on the 9th May. I had 4 plants in total so one for each cane. 3 grew well straight away and 1 struggled as it was eaten heavily by slugs. Despite that, all four plants grew terrifically well and produced lots of flowers and beans.
I did not do anything to discourage the slugs except for occasionally picking them off and placing them elsewhere in the garden where they could go munch something else.
By the end of June, we were eating our first load of runner beans. Through July, I was harvesting them in bulk and having enough to eat and stockpile in the freezer.
St. George runner beans are a really good variety. I was very impressed with the growth and how nice they taste. If you pick while still young and flat (I tend to pick more by thickness than length) then they won't be stringy. Runner beans picked when they are old and tough are not so nice to eat. Picking frequently seems to be the key.
Mangetout Oregon Sugar Pod: Heavy Cropper but Got Mildew
Mangetout growing up to around 4 ft up the netting. Very easy to grow and lots to pick.
Mangetout was a no brainer to grow. We really like eating this and, compared with other greens, it can be quite expensive when you eat a lot. It works particularly well in stir fries where it packs a bit of a crunch. Otherwise we tend to lightly steam it and use alongside many hot dinners.
Mangetout Oregon Sugar Pod is meant to be a good variety of this flat pea. We were not disappointed with how it performed. These were planted at the base of netting on the 24th May after growing them in containers. By May, they were becoming such a nuisance in the containers with the tendrils curling round one another and I was having to stake them all. I was glad to finally plant them out.
They grew well straight away and we were eating them a month after planting out. These grow so incredibly quickly from flower to pea. You really need to get them while nice and flat and not when they are starting to bulk up. If left, they will produce peas inside. They taste best when flat.
These produced a huge amount of mangetout for about 4-5 weeks of picking more or less daily. But after this they got mildew and, despite my best efforts, died off. I pulled them all out at the end of July. I would grow these again for sure.
Marrow Long Green Bush: Superb Small and Large
Courgette sized marrows forming on the plant. This has been a star cropper in the garden.
I've not had any luck growing courgette plants this year or squash, except for summer squash. I tried and failed at getting butternut squash, winter honey bear and winter sweet dumpling to grow. I also failed at getting gold rush, one ball and soleil varieties of courgette to grow. All of them germinated and were grown in containers initially with no issues. All were planted out but only the summer squash and marrow survived.
Marrow Long Green Bush has been a big winner for me. It has been easy to grow. I just deadhead leaves which look worse for wear - some start going mouldy - and I water them most days unless it rains. Apart from that, I've left them to do their thing. They were planted out at the start of June and I starting picking my first courgette sized marrows to eat in July.
Long Green Bush marrows, summer patty pan yellow soft skin squashes and a Burpless variety of cucumber.
One of the 4 plants has been the heaviest cropper perhaps due to position with the sunlight. It has so far given me 3 large marrows for storage and numerous small courgettes. The bees love the yellow flowers on these and they are all round them early in the mornings.
Burpless Cucumber Plant: Very Fussy Grower
This isn't how they normally grow! One of my cucumbers started out as a double cucumber with two growing together (freaky twins!) and then developed into this round monstrosity.
I was given this cucumber plant by a family member. They grow several in a conservatory and always get a great crop.
Initially mine was in the polytunnel but, after producing 2 small cucumbers, it seemed to give up. Around the same time, we had a heatwave and I don't know if the extreme hot weather caused issues as well. Anyway, I moved it outside.
After moving outside, it picked up again and got a new flush of flowers. This was the first odd looking specimen it grew. After this, it made two of the best cucumbers we've had from it. So it's been quite hit and miss. I think I prefer growing the less troublesome tomatoes.
Lettuce: A Slug Free Way of Growing
Growing lettuce in a raised planter with legs stood in water has given a slug free way of growing this. All of the young lettuce seedlings grew perfectly for the first time.
I've grown lettuce before and it's a magnet for slugs. But who wants to eat half chewed lettuce leaves in a summer salad! This year, I had to think of something to outsmart these clever little creatures.
I saw this large Elho grow table on Amazon and had a brain wave about what I could do. Garden slugs cannot swim - I know this from the dead ones I occasionally find floating in the frog ponds. So I found some wide tins, stuck the legs of this planter inside (making sure that the legs are in the middle and not touching the tins at any point) and filled them with water.
This simple little trick has given me the best crop of lettuce ever. Not only are the slugs not attacking my lettuce but the ants we always get in containers are not in this either. Win, win. You can see how healthy the lettuce looks just from the photo - no holes!
Of course, this doesn't stop butterflies and spiders. I guess I could construct some netting if I really wanted. But just keeping slugs off is giving great results.
More Notes from Growing in July
- I sowed a second set of runner beans in the hope of extending the season for these
- The flowers on the Inca Berries are developing into fruits
- The summer sunburst squashes are small but delicious - no need to peel as the skin is soft
- Dwarf peas were a waste of effort, being close to the ground they were nibbled relentlessly by slugs
- We had a heatwave and the temp reached over 40 in the polytunnel
- Started eating the first tomatoes Terenzo which are truly delicious little fruits