July is a fantastic month for sowing seeds, as both soil and air temperatures are high. The long, warm days with good light levels speed up the germination process, helping you to extend your season of cropping in the vegetable patch and boost stocks of perennials, biennials and indoor exotics in the ornamental garden and cuttings patch. Bear in mind, however, that the water table is lower at this time of year and so extra watering may be needed.
In the UK, plenty of flower and vegetable seeds can be sown in July, including biennials such as foxgloves, which should flower the following spring. Quick-growing crops like radish, French beans, soybeans and carrots can be sown now, too.
July is also a good month to plant out young plants grown from seed in previous months. It's the last month to plant out young courgettes, squashes and sweetcorn – plant these early in the month to give them the best chance of cropping before the first of the autumn frosts. Now is also the best time to plant out winter cabbages that were grown from seed in April and May, so they're mature in time for Christmas and beyond.
Vegetables to plant in July
Lettuce and other salad leaves are a quick and easy crop – sow seed continually from March to September for fresh salad for the best part of a year. Sow seed in shallow drills or in pots. Thin seedlings to 30cm for hearting lettuces and simply harvest young leaves as and when for cut-and-come-again varieties.
July is considered the last month to sow carrots for an autumn crop. Sow direct and thinly into shallow drills of well-prepared soil or in pots of soil-based compost. Try to avoid thinning seedlings to prevent carrot fly.
Often forgotten, turnips can provide you with two harvests from one plant – the delicately sweet taproot can be eaten, as can the leaves or 'greens'. Eat them soon after harvesting as turnips don't store well. Sow direct in shallow drills, for a delicious winter crop.
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Quick to mature, easy to grow and almost pest-free, radishes provide a peppery burst to salads. They can also be grown as companion plants to other crops.
Dwarf French beans
As with carrots, July is the last month to sow French beans, to allow the pods time to mature before the first frosts of autumn. Sow dwarf cultivars in the ground or in pots and keep well watered.
Now's the best time to plant out winter cabbages so they have plenty of time to mature before temperatures fall in autumn. Plant 45cm apart, leaving 60cm between rows. Firm in gently and water well. You may need to use netting to protect your cabbages from cabbage white caterpillars and pigeons.
Flowers to plant in July
July is the last month to sow these cottage garden stalwarts, for flowers the following summer. Many single-flowered delphiniums are excellent bee plants, too.
Fancy sowing something a bit different? Strelitzias (bird of paradise) are vibrant perennial greenhouse or house plants, and can be sown throughout the summer months. The spectacular blooms make beautiful cut flowers, too.
Forget-me-nots (Myosotis) can be sown from May to September, mimicking the natural process of seed dispersal and germination that follows their spring flowering. Scatter seed in gaps in the flower bed or in seed trays to plant out later.
By sowing pansies now, you'll give them plenty of time to develop before planting them out in autumn, ahead of flowering. Sow early in the month for spring blooms.
Sown in summer and planted out in autumn, wallflowers bloom from early spring. Sow in multi-celled trays or small pots now, for orange or yellow blooms early next year.
Sowing foxgloves in July will give them plenty of time to mature and flower the following summer. Scatter the fine seed on the surface of moist, peat-free seed compost and cover with a fine later of vermiculite. Other biennials for summer sowings include honesty (Lunaria annua), sweet rocket (Hesperis matrionalis) and stocks (Matthiola incana).