Midsummer’s day came and went, much like England’s world cup dreams. For me the sadness of shortening days is tempered by the joy of much less chat about football. Now we’re in high summer; it’s all about the long drowsy days of Wimbledon (much more civilised) and – even better – most of the season’s hard work is done on the allotment. There’s lots to pick – everything’s growing apace – from chard and lettuce, the first courgettes, bundles and bundles of herbs and raspberries galore. I adore this time of year.
However, it’s no time to be complacent. One of the secrets to good vegetable gardening (and, it has to be said, gardening in general) is to always think a couple of months ahead. As I harvest and clear the broad beans and garlic, my thoughts turn to late summer and autumn crops. Many of these are things that live fast and die young (get eaten after only a few months).
So, I’m off to sow dwarf French beans, fennel, beetroot, more basil, carrots, lettuces, chicories and courgettes. With the warmth and long days they’ll romp away and give the plot a boost of freshness in August and September, when many of the early sown crops will have been eaten or stopped producing.
At this time of the year I like to sow in the evening, because it means the seeds have the cool overnight period to absorb water from the surrounding soil and get growing. There’s no scientific evidence (that I’m aware of) to back this up, but it’s a gut feeling and it seems to work. And what a lovely way to spend a warm summer’s night, gently sowing and watering in as the sun sinks below the horizon.