“I drifted into a summer-nap under the hot shade of July, serenaded by a cicadae lullaby, to drowsy-warm dreams of distant thunder.” –Terri Guillemets
July heralds the hottest month of the year when the Northern Hemisphere is at the height of its green. July days are made for rolling out picnic rugs and lazing on the front lawn with a dish of cold fruit and a battered copy of your favourite paperback (the one you reread every summer.)
Julys are for cycling country lanes until your sun-bronzed legs ache, stopping to pick tiny juicy strawberries growing wild in the hedgerows or plunging into the salty-sweet ocean.
There is no doubt that July is glorious, so we’ve pulled together a little Almanac guide to celebrate the month in all its splendour.
How July got its name
In 46 BC, Julius Caesar reformed the Roman Calendar to the Julian Calendar, and to acknowledge his achievement he named the month of July after himself.
In Manx, the name for July – Jerry-souree – means summer’s end. For us modern folks, our summer begins in July but traditionally May, June and July were the summer months, with August signalling the beginning of harvest.
Mead Moon – July was when the first honey of the year was taken and so mead-making could begin. Mead is a fermented honey drink, similar to wine and was an important past-time in medieval Britain. Perhaps thirsty villagers gathered under the bright July moon to make mead after a busy, sweltering day in the field – hence the name Mead Moon.
Flower of the month: Larkspurs (Delphinium)
Tree of the month: Oak Tree
Most of the folklore connected with July speaks of the weather. No doubt our ancestors looked to the month’s weather as an indicator as to what kind of harvest and winter lay in store
15th July – St Swithin’s Day – Whatever the weather on this day determines the weather for the next forty days:
‘St Swithin’s Day, if thou dost rain,
For forty days it will remain.
St Swithin’s Day, if thou be fair,
For forty days ‘twill rain nae mair.’
July 25th — Puffy white clouds on this day foretells of snow in the coming winter.
July 26th — St. Anne’s Day — Rain on St. Anne’s will continue for a month and a week.
What’s in season
In the garden: Apricots, peaches, nectarines, cherries, raspberries, gooseberries, loganberries, blackcurrants, blueberries and strawberries.
In the allotment: New potatoes, carrots, salads, peas, asparagus, globe artichokes, mangetouts, spring onions, lettuce, runner beans, French beans, celery, courgettes, fennel, shallots, globe artichokes, rhubarb, asparagus, radishes, wild rocket, spinach, beetroot, turnip.
Mint, basil, dill, chives, marjoram, thyme, oregano, edible flowers
In the wild: Strawberries, cherry plum, wild gooseberry, green walnuts, cleavers, hairy bittercress, hedge garlic, lemon balm, wild pineapple, wild thyme, wild fennel.
Lore of the month
July is the month for crop circles appearing in the fields, often overnight. Flattened areas of crops make up intricate geometric patterns with precise mathematical formulation.
Some speculate crop circles are supernatural; others attribute them to human handicraft. Either way, there is something utterly spectacular as the golden fields are transformed into a work of art. Crop circles seem a fitting celebration to the land as it begins to yield up her bounty in the coming harvest.
If you would like to delve deeper into the year, we recommend reading Lia Leendertz’s collection of Almanacs, (which has informed more of this guide than any internet search ever could) or, you can listen to her podcast.