Chinese cabbage matures in six or seven weeks, can be eaten raw or cooked, and is an excellent vegetable for this time of the year, being something fresh and different for the table. It needs warm temperatures, but if sown before July, it might bolt prevent this by sowing through to August. We find that the best results are obtained by sowing in plug trays, not in open ground, and then planting out as soon as the cabbages are big enough to handle. This way, you’ll get assured germination and predictable cropping. As it’s a member of the brassica family, seedlings outside can be prone to flea beetle attack.
It’s worth sowing more parsley seeds now to keep continuity during autumn and winter, even if the slow germination puts some people off growing it. Parsley’s best sown indoors in good compost, kept on a warm window-sill or heated bench, and, when large enough to handle, potted-up into a 3in pot. It does well when planted outside, but do keep one or two pots at hand in the kitchen while the others acclimatise. Here in Lincolnshire, we use curly parsley in our speciality, Stuffed Chine, but many people prefer flat-leaved.
It’s important to protect your brassicas from attentive pigeons now that the farmers’ oil seed rape has set seed. We’ve found that pigeons nesting in the garden quickly get used to humans and our barriers; they will ignore protection and get down to a hearty breakfast when we’re still in bed. Builders’ red-and-white-striped tape, old CDs strung to a cane or, at a pinch now that they’re rarer, a plastic bag tied to a stick will all deter the wilder pigeons. It’s more effective to put wire netting around the bed and bird netting over the top, although you’ll have to remove the net to do weeding.
Summer wind damage
It pays to keep an eye on your fruit trees so that you don’t lose branches because of the weight of fruit. Plums are especially vulnerable if they
have a good fruit set coinciding with heavy rain or high winds. It’s better to lose some fruit by thinning rather than risk permanent damage to the tree. New raspberry canes are also prone to wind damage, and it’s worth tying them in temporarily when the old canes are still fruiting. The new flowering growths of climbing roses are vulnerable, especially those on pillars, so it’s a good idea to tie them in, too.
Celebrity chefs are recommending pea shoots for salads, but be warned that picking them will slow down flowering. It would be better to sow some leftover seeds specifically for picking shoots; they can be sown at any time during the growing season. Make sure the household know which plants they may pick for salads and which they should leave untouched.
Philip Maddison is head gardener at Harrington Hall, Lincolnshire (www.harringtonhallgardens.co.uk). There will be a charity open day at the gardens this Sunday, July 20, 2–5pm, in aid of St Barnabas Hospices.