To be sure of getting redcurrants, which are fruiting now, it’s best to grow your own, as few shops sell them. Their summer pruning is more similar to the method used for gooseberries than for blackcurrants. Prune now, to let the light in to ripen the fruit, cutting back the new growth to five leaves. (Cut again in the winter, back to a single bud to encourage the development of fruiting spears.) Redcurrants need not be grown as bushes you can fan-train them against a warm wall, which makes both pruning and picking easier. They can ripen a few weeks earlier than those in the open; the trusses are more visible, too.
We lost much of our strawberry harvest last year because incessant rain rotted the fruit. During wet spells, it’s most
important to keep checking your strawberries and remove any showing signs of rot; otherwise, the rot will spread by touch to those around them. This year, we’ve increased the depth of straw mulch, to hold the fruit higher off the ground. If you rotate your strawberry beds every two or three years, try not to disturb the plants’ new runners; let them
find and root into bare ground. Then you can dig them up and replant in late August.
Dry weather in May affected the germination of our carrots this year. But it’s still worth sowing some now try an early or quick-maturing variety. You could even sow them in an empty container, as long as it has some depth. If you’ve covered your crop with fleece to protect it from the carrot-root fly, you should be able to pick out the largest carrots, as long as you replace the fleece. Where beds aren’t covered with fleece, be careful to harvest the carrots from one end in sequence, irrespective of size, to lower the incidence of pests attacking the remaining ones.
Keep ‘heritage’ seeds
Saving some vegetable seeds is worthwhile, but is particularly important when it comes to the rarer, ‘heritage’ varieties. Peas and beans are simplest; just leave a few pods unharvested and the seeds will be ready by autumn. Do make sure that all in the household know which plants are being left to set seed! You can help reduce your bills by keeping the seeds of annuals, such as lettuce, tomato and marrow. Late season brassicas, parsley and leeks should be left in the ground to flower and seed next year. Saved seed should be dried and stored in paper bags or sealed containers. If you’re saving heritage seed, be careful to grow only one variety of each type, or you risk cross-pollination and the loss of individual characteristics.
A dedicated cutting bed of dahlias in the kitchen garden will prevent flower-arrangers from raiding the garden borders. There are plenty of dahlias for sale at fêtes and plant fairs at this time of year if you want to restock. Water existing plants regularly in the summer. When flowering starts, keep deadheading, and you’ll have flowers until the first frosts.
Philip Maddison is head gardener at Harrington Hall, Lincolnshire (www.harringtonhallgardens.co.uk)