July is the start of the fruit picking season in the garden.
Currants, raspberries and gooseberries should be ready for harvesting in July, so check your defences against birds. If you are placing netting around ripening fruits to deter them, ensure that any gaps around the edges are properly sealed or the birds will get in and become trapped.
As main crop strawberries finish, begin tidying up the beds. Runners will be growing thick and fast now, and unless you need them for propagating (see June), remove them. Rake up the straw or remove the protective sheeting and cut off the old foliage with shears. If your plants are past their prime dig them out and replace them with rooted runners from earlier in summer.
Perpetual-fruiting strawberries should be left to flower now in order to produce fruit for late summer and autumn.
Once early fruiting raspberries have finished fruiting, cut out all the old growth at ground level and begin tying in the new shoots that will provide next year's fruit.
Late in July you can start layering blackberries, loganberries and blackberry hybrids. Do this by simply by burying the tip of a young shoot about 5cm (2 in) into the soil, making sure that no leaves are buried with it.
Continue thinning apples, pears and grapes this month, as for June, and should be finished by the end of July. Some of the early cultivars may be ready for picking now, if the summer weather has been good.
Thinning grapes results in nicer looking fuller bunches with fewer, but larger, berries. As with fruit trees and bushes, thinning should be done gradually. Once the berries have started swelling, remove any obviously diseased or small ones first, and take from the centre of the bunch outwards, using special vine scissors. Leave a slightly denser concentration of berries at the top of the bunch. With heavy cropping vines, a good third, or even more, of the berries should be removed.
It may be necessary to support some of the more heavily laden limbs of fruit trees as the weight of the fruit can cause the limbs to break. Use strong, vertical stakes that are forked at the top, to cradle the limbs. Alternatively, tie a stout pole to the tree trunk and run strong cords from the top of it to support the heavier branches. Such supports should always be padded where they come into contact with the branch to prevent damage to the bark.
From July to autumn is the time to summer prune fruit trees. Prune is slow easy stages, for the trees' benefit as well as yours. On the whole, summer pruning is more often done to trees trained to a particular shape such as espalier, cordon, wall-trained or bush trees, rather than to large, fully established fruit trees, due to the scale of the work involved.
An espalier-trained tree consists of a vertical central stem that has horizontal fruiting branches running from it. It is often used to form a natural boundary in a garden or to hide walls. Cordon trained trees require less space, allowing fruit trees to be planted fairly close together. This is done by leave the leading shoots alone and only pruning back the side shoots, or laterals, to leave 15cm (6 in), or about three or four leaves. With fruit trees trained against walls, you can combine summer pruning with training and tying in, removing shoots growing at right angles to the wall, and any diseased, weak or crossing wood.
Pests and diseases can still be troublesome in July. Keep watch for the persistent ones like woolly aphid, tortrix caterpillars, red spider mite, and mildew, spray as necessary at the first signs. Plum trees should be inspected for 'silver leaf', a particularly nasty fungal infection which shows up as a silvery sheen on the infected leaves. Cut out and burn any infected branches immediately, and paint the wound with a fungicidal paint. Apple and pear trees can also suffer from silver leaf.
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The following fruits will be ripening in July: