Blooming Times – Focus On Fruit
by Flo Whitaker
The crops are coming in! Flo Whitaker explains how to harvest your fruit and veg regularly and make the most of summer’s bounty!
It’s all go on the fruit and veg patch in July. Regular harvesting and inspection of crops, (daily, if possible) is the key. Far better to pick small-size produce, rather than delay for a few days and be faced with unappetising bullet-hard peas and over-ripe fruit. You’ll also be able to quickly spot any problems as they arise.
Blackcurrants, raspberries and gooseberries are reliable croppers that are relatively easy to grow, but they can suffer from mildew, (a white/grey mould.) Affected leaves can be removed but mildew is difficult to control. The microscopic spores easily spread and the condition is often weather-related; bad in some years, absent in others.
If it’s a persistent problem, try planting some mildew- resistant varieties. Keeping foliage dry by watering the soil, not the leaves, helps, as does having good air circulation around the plants. Bear that in mind when pruning out old stems in spring – leave plenty of space and air flow for new growth.
Pests and diseases seldom trouble rhubarb, but it is known for being a ‘Goldilocks’ plant. Rhubarb is ultra-sensitive to environmental conditions and dislikes being too wet, too dry, too hot or too cold – like Goldilocks, it wants everything to be ‘just right’. You should stop picking rhubarb by mid-July, but if you have vigorous plants, you can continue with some gentle harvesting, although the stems will eventually become woody and unpalatable. After using so much energy during spring, rhubarb needs moisture to bulk up its reserves now. As July and August are usually the driest months, you can help by giving the surrounding soil a really good soaking, followed by a thick mulch of compost or leaf mould. Rhubarb sometimes produces curious-looking flower shoots. If left, they will rob energy from the plant, so cut them off at the base.
Strawberry plants produce ‘runners’ in high summer; long, non-fruiting stems with ‘nodes’ – specially adapted joints that root when they touch soil. Runners should be removed, unless you want to make more plants for free! Strawberry plants run out of steam after a few years so it’s always useful to have some vigorous replacements in reserve. Cut stiff wire into 10 cm lengths and bend them to make ‘U’ shaped pins. Fill small pots (approx. 8cms diameter) with gritty compost, lay a runner across a pot, press the node area gently into the surface of the compost and secure it in place with a pin – you may get several new plants from each runner. Keep the compost damp until the new plants are well-developed, (4-6 weeks), then cut away the now- redundant runners to make individual potted plants that can be easily transplanted. They will happily overwinter and crop for you next summer.