August 2019 new sowings, planting tips, seed saving, pest protection, onions, tomatoes, pyralids

Be ready with seeds of this month’s top sowings; spinach, salad rocket, mustards, pak choi, land cress, spring onions and spring cabbage.

August can be a second spring in the garden, when it rains. Here its desperately dry after only 19mm/0.7in rain in the last six weeks, and we are watering many vegetables. However the grass is less brown than in 2018!

The photo is summer squash Twinkle F1, from T&M seeds

Sow now

Early August brings us to a fantastic time for sowing salad rocket, pak choi and other oriental leaves, for both autumn and winter harvests. I have not sown these since last autumn and look forward to their reappearance in the salad mix, now they are in season for growing leaves not flowers, and with less flea beetle damage.

Then around 10th August is my optimum date for sowing (true) spinach, the prince of vegetables, which crops for seven months when sown in August – this is it’s sowing moment! I recommend Medania, see about saving its seed below.

Land cress is good to sow by early August and after a slow start, it often survives and crops until its flowering time next May. It survives frost and snow without any protection, except a net against pigeons, and the leaves taste of all the iron you need to steel up for winter.

Towards the end of August is good to sow spring onions and spring cabbage, to overwinter as small plants which bulk up next spring, when you will be so glad you remembered to sow them in summer.

Planting tips

At the last weekend course I demonstrated dibbing holes and planting modules, deep! Then everyone had a go and enjoyed feeling how quick and simple it can be. There is no need to fill the dibbed hole after planting, because watering does that, and still leaves a slight hollow where the module is sitting, making it damper around the roots and with less chance of modules drying out, in the few days before roots can grow into surrounding soil.

There is another weekend course on 24th-25th August. September’s day courses have just a few places available.

Tomatoes, picking and plant care

In cooler areas, you can increase tomato yield by picking fruits half ripe, so that plants can then use their energy to grow and ripen more fruit. However this means some loss of flavour. It’s same story for picking peppers green rather than waiting for them to ripen, which can take a long time in the UK!

August 10th is a key date for tomatoes – pinch out their tops, then continue to remove side-shoots. This ensures that plant energy goes into existing fruits, rather than new trusses which wouldn’t have time to ripen before the ‘devil spits on them’ (due to reduced light levels) in mid October.


This is harvest time, if you have not already. Once you see a few plant stems fall over, best pull all onions and bend the necks at 90 degrees to help develop a thin neck, and better drying of the bulb.

An issue may be some onions boiling, and they want pulling and using soon, before the flowering stem becomes too hard, inside the onion. I have that happening at Homeacres, on just one variety Lilla, red onion grown from seed.

Another issue may be mildew on leaves, and best pull all onions asap if you see this, and use before too long and they will probably go mouldy before winter. I have this on Lilla!

Saving seed

Harvest from now any of peas, broad beans, tomatoes (not F1) and lettuce if they are in a polytunnel. Lettuce outdoors need probably another month. 

I pull out the whole seeding plant once most of the seed-heads or pods are say 90% dry and seed-like. Then I hang plants in the garage until we have time to thresh or knock out the seed. I had a few mustards for green manure seed, which we walked on over concrete to break seed out of the small pods.

When we pulled the spinach, there was a lovely toad in the compost surface, under a rootball. The spinach seeds need rubbing off stems.


Pest protection

Cover carrots with mesh by mid August, to prevent laying of eggs by root flies. See my video on using mesh in the summer.

Brassicas suffer a lot of insect damage in summer – sometimes one just has to accept it, as long as plants survive, and can then grow strongly in autumn’s cooler and damp weather, which they prefer.

Remedies against slugs are:

  • keeping the garden tidy and weed free, especially around the edges
  • if damage persists, go out at dusk with a torch and knife, you may be surprised what you find.

For rabbits we use mesh or bird netting, over susceptible plants, mainly seedlings. I have run out of wire hoops and sometimes it’s fine to lay mesh directly on the plants.

Bacillus thuringiensis

For protection against caterpillars, the powder of Bt soil bacteria has become difficult to buy in the UK, except for half kilo tubs from Ebay, with instructions in Italian.

The dilution rate is about one level teaspoon per litre of water. Just give a light spray of leaves, so no surfactant is needed. It’s best applied in cloudy conditions, and to all brassicas you want to protect from caterpillars. Possibly also into the hearts of leeks if you are concerned about moth damage, and are not using a mesh cover –


We give main water to new transplants in their first 5-7 days, salad plants and fruiting plants. I aim to give a decent watering say twice a week, rather than a light watering every day. Water is from the mains supply, given with a hose. The water butts dried out a long time ago.


Wish I did not need to write about this. Check my new video for information about this powerful poison.

Most damage shows as curling new (growing point) leaves on tomatoes, potatoes and beans – these are the worst affected vegetables. You see new leaves curling inwards, leaves yellowing between the veins and stunted growth. The aminopyralid causing this will break down in time, but has a half life of perhaps more than a year, depending on temperature.

I have seen damage at prominent local gardens, and my own, from grass made into hay that was sprayed and fed to horses. On the herbicide containers’ label it says to use for cattle and sheep only. It’s claimed not to affect horses but who has checked this? Not to mention humans.

This poison may also be in green waste compost, if gardeners had taken sprayed lawn clippings for recycling. See how bad it was even in 2012 when Westland’s compost was often mentioned in comments to this article in Which? Gardening. In 2019, Westlands Jacks Magic and New Horizon have caused problems, among many others.

68 thoughts on “August 2019 new sowings, planting tips, seed saving, pest protection, onions, tomatoes, pyralids

  1. Dear Charles,

    this is now they second year we use the ‘no dig’ methode we learned from whatching your YouTube videos. We like them because the information is kept simple and they have a chill vibe. 🙂

    Still we have two questions..

    First.. We read that you use potting compost to germinate seeds and grow seedlings. But could it be that in some video’s you used home made compost for germination and transplanting? Is that just random or for some specific plants?

    Secondly.. Year one and two we applied 7cm compost on the new beds. (Green compost from pruning wood, hedges,leafs, plants, etc. When planting seedlings we see that some become yellow and die. We planted them deep into the compost and wathered them the days after that. Do you plant them in de compost or with their roots in de spoil? What other problem could there he?

    Greetings from Brussels, Belgium

    1. Hi Fabian and nice to hear.
      Yes either compost is fine, I like to try different ones, it just needs to be good for seedlings.
      I can’t think what is wrong with yours unless it’s too young and a bit fresh, so the wood is till taking nutrients.
      If so, growth will improve but not for those plants I imagine.
      I wish you success in the end

  2. hi Charles, excellent as always! One question please, when you say now is the time to sow spinach and soon for spring onions – do you mean sow in modules/trays, or sow direct in the ground please? Bit of a novice, and don’t want to get it wrong (again 😀 ). thanks and we are still on red alert (ie, no use of mains water for outside use at all) here in Creuse, France. using gray water for flower beds and shrubs, and only rain water butts for veg and some planters – consequently we won’t get much of a harvest this year (our butternut is only just flowering females now!, but we will eat them fresh rather than mature).

    1. Gosh that sounds difficult, water-wise.
      You can sow them either in modules to transplant, or direct. Whichever works best for you.

  3. Hi Charles,
    I’m having trouble with club root which is reducing the growth of my brassica’s,I know to use resistant strains but when you have seed already you do not want to throw it away and waste it what would you suggest I should do to improve the ground that is no dig for the last two years , just pulled two Brussels sprouts plants because of stunted growth and club root that looked like a fist. I limed the ground last year but it was pelleted, not sure if it was the correct type .Hope you can help, looking for any tips to help me grow my greens.

    thanks in advance


    1. Hi Dave and I hope others may see this as I am not a clubroot expert.
      One guy said watering with some vinegar helped.
      Many say that no dig helps but is not a rapid cure.

      1. Hi Charles, I saw that you recommended Uchi Kuro squash so I tried them this year but can you harvest them in August before the leaves have died and dried up? I thought these squash were suppose to be small but the ones I have planted in the compost heap have spread 4 metres and produced about 12 enormous fruits. Do I just let them carry on going or is their taste compromised if they become giant?! Thanks , Vic

        1. Hello Vic, you are doing well. They are normally medium weight but grow large in favourable conditions, can be almost any size.
          Best time to harvest for winter storage of all squashes is when skins are hard, necks starting to shrivel and most leaves dying down.
          Their flavour should improve all the time until leaves start to die, so no worries on that score.

  4. Great post as always Charles. & thanks for the info re the aminopyralids too – whilst I was aware of it, I wasn’t aware of the damage caused etc. I have also been using New Horizon, & now I’ve seen your pics I think I have also suffered some damage, altho most things seem to be pulling through with some success.
    Was also wondering, can you still eat Kale etc following flea beetle damage – mine have a few holes, but I’m not usually that put off by such things …??

    1. Yes Sue the New Horizon this year has been anything but organic.
      It’s fine to eat leaves with holes, I do nd see no reason why not to, and this year the holed leaves are in a majority.

  5. Hi Charles (31/7/19),
    I am addicted to your channel.
    I discovered on my broad bean patch a rust on the leaves. The beans have filled out although not quite ready for another week to harvest. They are the Aquadulce seeds.
    What can I do?


    1. Thanks Tina.
      Rust often arrives if roots are dry. Sowing beans earlier helps, this is late now for broad beans and they are less healthy than bean plants sown either early November or February-March.
      Rust just reduces photosynthesis, is not too serious.

  6. Hi, few questions about composting I have a 3 bin system all about 1m³ but am struggling to get the temps over 30c. A lot of what we compost is raw kitchen and garden waste (family member has a food concession) along with thing like egg shells, coffee grounds and single ply cardboard and none shinny paper , all of which is put thru a garden shredder or paper shredder, also we add any spent compost we have used to grow in pots nothing in the compost is bigger them 10mm and I try to layer it and only add very little grass cuttings.

    Capped a bin off the other day with 2 layers of cardboard on top of the composting material and then some thick ply on top of the bin to keep the water out ( there is a foot gap between the two) checked the temp today and it’s 32c need to know is this hot enough and how long to leave before turning?

    First year growing veg and have had some really good results so far but as with a lot of people making posts brassicas getting hammered by white fly and cabbage whites even with the netting but too early to say what survives !

    1. Sounds ok polo but you need more green for heat, say grass, any fresh leaves.
      32C won’t kill weed seeds but is fine for slow composting, with more fungi than bacteria, might take a year.
      Yes the insects are terrible on brassicas esp. July plantings, June was better.

  7. Second year as a convert _thanks Charles and you tube -now feel oddly guilty at having to dig out an oxalis epidemic. Any idea how long the quorms would last if I covered up instead? Thinking about doing another no dig bed on top. ..

  8. Hi Charles,
    I had some great success with Patty Pan squash last year and was excited to have them on my choice of home grown veggies this year. They have produced huge leaves and lots of flowers but none of which are female flowers – so sadly Its not produced any squash as yet. I am using the same variety of seeds I had great success with last year, they are located in a healthy no dig bed with adequate water. I’m wondering, should I cut out some of the huge leaves so that the flowers are more obvious to pollinators?
    Any advice would be gratefully received :-).

    1. Hi Leece and this is strange. They do fruit better when dry, once they have many leaves, maybe reduce watering but cutting leaves off won’t help instigate female flowers.

  9. Hi Charles,

    My onions Bedfordshire and Kamal F1 multisown and reduced to 4/5 per bunch didn’t seem to make a great size. I may not be giving them enough space. Like most that I have read my brassicas have been eaten alive by both beetle and caterpillar despite being covered with mesh. I clearly left a gap somewhere. I would like to try Bacillus Thuringiensus next year. Best learn Italian.

    1. Brian, sorry to hear that, I allow 12in for multisown onions if wanting smaller ones, 15in for bigger, say 4 to a clump.
      It could be fertility, weather etc too.
      Yes it’s odd that Bt is so hard to buy in the UK.

  10. This seems like such a widespread problem this year! I bought a bag of steer manure at our island’s building center to amend my seed starting mix in February, and despite its claims of purity and careful practices, my seedlings ended up with a severe case of herbicide poisoning. I lost all of my tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and some perennials. I tried salvaging my onions by rinsing the soil off of them, but they haven’t really grown very well. I’m just grateful the stuff never made its way into my garden. Now we’re try to figure out whether it’s possible to produce enough compost ourselves in order to avoid having to bring it in from elsewhere; I really don’t want to go through this again! Maybe fish based soils would be a safe alternative (though expensive)?

    1. Hi Cheryl,
      Yes it’s a nightmare, feels like we are surrounded by poison we cannot see or detect until it’s too late.
      Organic-certified compost is ok but expensive.
      Potting blocks use less compost &more soil but take time to make.
      I wish you well.

  11. Having used local manure for first time in my polytunnel beds I now have stunted leaves on tomatoes which might be Aminopyralid poisoning, yet I DON’T have other symptoms such as distorted fruit or papery leaves. Is there anywhere to send photos to have someone commented? Or any photo image library that can be used as a reference?

    1. Frank sorry to hear this, and you could post a photo on the forum, and just google aminopyralid for loads of images, and this website Search too.
      The key sign is curling specifically of newest leaves at plant tips/tops. Older leaves can lok ok.

  12. One thing I have found this year is that swede surrounded by parsnip plants does not get attacked by insects. This was done simply because one row of parsnips had poor germination so there were gals big enough for two swede plants in early July.

    Just an observation, not a scientific test.

    The other observation is that winter squash planted alone produce twice as many fruit as those planted as ‘sisters’ to corn. Should get 12-15 good sized Red Kuri from two plants this year, last year I had seven from those sown under corn. Looking like five or six Crown a Prince from two plants below corn and all six are set where plants have ‘escaped’ into the sunlight.

  13. I pulled my onions and left them all out to dry off yesterday, but now it’s raining and looks set to continue a few days – should I leave them out or try and dry them off inside (there are loads!)

    1. They will be fine Jules at this stage, it might be a concern if they were more than half dry. There is wind and some sun I am sure.

  14. Thanks for yet another great update from Homeacres – so useful, and always looking gorgeous!
    I’m going against the majority here by thinking it’s been a great growing year! Or maybe I’ve achieved some sort of balance on my 3 allotment plots in London.. Rain seems to come when needed, apart from a week or 2 two of a dry spell. I mesh all my brassicas straight away, apart from kale which has butterfly netting, and they all have minimal damage – I’m beyond excited!! The only slight problem I have is that my home made compost does not get hot, and therefore I have a lot of annual weeds, but they are pretty easy to hoe off when tiny. Some volunteers I leave, so there’s tomatoes popping up everywhere, and the bed I prepared for chicory has the loveliest volunteer squash plants growing – good thing too as my chicory Pain de Sucre didn’t germinate..
    I feel for everyone who’s been affected by the aminopyralid, so devastating! Maybe we need to to rely more on home made compost?
    My only slight negative thing is, I’m going away for 3 weeks, and everything will ripen just about then!!!!

    1. How lovely to hear this Meta and congratulations.
      I think that most people feel positive, but we hear more of problems than successes, rather like the “News”!
      So it’s nice to hear your news except the headline is “Owner of 3 allotments abandons harvests for holiday!!”

    2. Meta

      I am also around London and I too think it has been a generally good growing season, although I fear main crop potatoes suffered in the fierce heat of late June and late July. We have now had around 130-150mm of rain in July after two bouts of nearly two inches each the past week, which is over double the average monthly rainfall.

      For me, the following have been good or excellent so far: radish, chard, lettuce, dwarf bean, French climbing bean, spring turnip, tomato, winter squash, onion, carrot, parsnip, beetroot, leek, spring onion, rhubarb and asparagus. cherry, plum and apple are superb and pear looking very good. Raspberry now cropping.

      Cavalo Nero Kale have been nibbled, swede nibbled a bit and first Brussels sprouts and aisle were massacred. Runner beans grew and flowered beautifully but the fierce heat precluded pod set. We are now getting a few emerging as temperatures have dropped.

      Nothing has really failed badly, and I have already made four cuts of comfrey for compost, tea making, chopping n dropping etc. never seen four cuts so quickly before, especially as first cut was May 1st. We are about on a four week turnaround, when normally it is five to six weeks. Cut five expected around 18th August.

      I also trialled some biodynamic prep balls in compost daleks and maturation proceeded rapidly, letting me move the mature compost to a big builders bag within six weeks to allow another 0.4 cubic metres to be created in the daleks. Another two will get five balls this week to be mature mid September. It is a compromise but we shall see what we end up with.

  15. Hi Charles
    My red cabbage look just like yours, no heart. Will they develop a heart of is the damage permanent? I’m wondering whether just to get rid of them or leave them and see what happens.
    My brassicas have been badly damaged by flea beetle. I used netting rather than mesh! Mesh next year!!

    1. Hi Charlotte, yes mesh is incredible for its level of protection, and sadly I suggest removing those red cabbage to plant something else.
      I don’t know what’s up this year but insect damage to brassicas is awful.

      1. Victoria I am sorry to hear this. Yes what does one do: I think most PAS 100 green waste compost is ok, am doing a bioassay on my recently delivered pile, with broad beans.
        And you mention Country Natural – their manure has caused grief to many. And those who complain to them are told “you are the only one to have a problem”!
        If you can face it, I would complain again, quote my name if you like and also please report it to, and don’t let anyone fob you off with excuses like weather, viruses, trace elements etc.

        1. Thank you Charles. I will contact the nursery again about Country Natural . Funnily enough, they are selling the bags at vastly reduced rates now. Will report to manure matters.

      2. Thanks Charles.
        My brassicas have been battered this year, pleased to know it’s not just mine!
        I’ve had to replant lots! Thanks for all the great advice.

  16. Another one here who has aminopyralid poisoning. I can’t work out how 2 rows of broad beans grew and produced beautifully and 90cm to their right was my next 2 rows and they all curled and had stunted growth and didn’t produce a bean. It’s incredibly difficult to identify the source as I bought many bags of J Arthur Bowers from Homebase but also used Country Natural stable compost bought from a large Hampshire nursery. I went and spoke to them and of course they hadn’t heard of aminopyralid poisoning. But thank you for publicising the problem as I thought it was my seeds or the spring weather and I would have been none the wiser. Very concerning that these costly bags of compost are also contaminating our gardens… I need to use them to mulch my beds as I don’t produce enough. Not sure what to do!

  17. I planted something our greengrocer described as ‘creeping peas’. They grew vigorously with nice red flowers and have numerous pods but I cant see any peas developing. Are they mange-tout? The pods look a bit like okra.

    1. Hmm sounds like asparagus pea Kate.
      They need eating young, mangetout before the pods are stringy. I don’t especially like them but they are pretty.

  18. I have had pyralid type distortion on som if my French beans this year and was puzzled until I read the post. They were started in modules and potted on once in Westland new horizon, so that must be it! I’ve used the stuff for most of my potted plants and so far this is the only obvious damage. A shame, because I really like it – it holds moisture very well.

    1. Hi Ruth and sorry to hear this.
      I know some distinguished growers who have suffered from New Horizon this year. I hope you can report it on, because the more of us who do that, the more chance there is of something being done about it.

  19. Hello Charles
    I am finding your regular updates and videos very helpful in my efforts at ‘no dig’. Thank you for keeping us so well informed.
    I have a couple of questions –
    Have you come across Neem oil for protection/treatment against pests such as flea beetle and if so what do you think, have you found it effective?
    My garlic was badly affected with rust this year and produced only small bulbs. It seems to be getting worse year in year. Do you have any advice on tackling this problem? Should I stop growing it for a couple of years?

    1. Hi Pam and both your questions are good ones.
      However I am wary of Neem oil because I gather it harms good insects too, like ladybirds. Am happy to be corrected on that.
      Everyone is scratching their heads about garlic rust, worse every year as you say.
      Grow under polythene/glass helps, so keep rain ooff but water as well.
      Some say magnesium/Epsom salts can help, I shall try that.

  20. Charles, Great info, as always. My Eggplant have gotten destroyed by flea beetles this year. I started them under mesh, but the beetles got in there anyway, When the plants got 18 – 24″ tall, I took off the mesh, as this has worked in past years since the plant is stronger by then. This year the flea beetles kept damaging the leaves so badly I have gotten no fruiting. What do you recommend to manage flea beetles? Thanks again!

    1. Sorry Richard to read this, and I don’t find that flea beetles feed on aubergine leaves, am puzzled.

  21. Just watched your (very helpful) video on pyralid poisons and think I have found an answer for this year’s lack of performance in my vegetable garden. I spread some old cow manure from a local farm thinking I was doing the right thing going completely natural! Now the problem is in my beds (no dig) is there anything I can do to speed up the “processing” to reduce the impact for future crops?
    Thanks for your continuing good work.

    1. A shame for you, and just keep them watered with something growing so the microbes are active and a side effect is dissipation of the poison. Worrying that it was cow manure.

      1. RHP and Charles…I had same problem with the huge year old cow manure pile I put on my beds this year. My radar bleeped that there were no worms in the well rotted manure but blanked off my grimace. It wasn’t that bad as the mulch was on the two beds a good 3 months prior to planting. And because of the lack of worms I did dowse with home made worm castings. However, to be on the safe side (I didn’t know about amropyrids, then), I bought 20 bags of various compost to mulch rest of beds and plant seedlings. I didn’t realise at least half had recycled waste in and I’ve had terrible results re curling of seedlings. I used worm castings again (my comfrey tea not ready at that time) and I really think it helps the roots re enabling roots to achieve better nutrient absorption (in hindsight)…

        To be honest, this scandal of recycling poison on the populace is almost on a par with the blood contamination scandals!!

        Just my 2bit to add to the debate, But worm castings input might help others…

        1. Thanks Scwiggs and well not quite as bad as poisoned blood, but very understated in the media. Jack Wallington in the Telegraph has been great, and he suffered himself from New Horizon.
          Well done on the worm castings, nice tip.

          1. Thanks all. I will try to get hold of worm castings. I am also thinking of planting a winter green mulch this year to try to speed up the “processing” of the poison before next year’s crops. Is there anything preferable?
            Also it’s probably worth mentioning my garden is in Italy, so the cow manure risk might be less of a worry for UK gardeners.

  22. Charles,a great update as usual. It certainly has been a difficult year so far and you don’t need my “approval” to grow what you do but I’ve got to say to any doubters…follow your advice and grow true spinach!I grew it for the first time last year in my allotment,outside with no protection except netting to keep the wildlife off and it provided leaves for months and months. A true garden prince!

  23. John,Re your comment about the moles, I wrote asking Charles the same question some years ago and he said that it is a result of the increase in the worm population.In my garden though the damage caused by moles has lessened since to a manageable level so hopefully yours will.

  24. Charles,
    Greetings from very wet Northamptonshire. On my allotment I have a very severe attack of Flea Beetles on my Swedes and turnips. Has anybody else reported this? I know that farmers in our area are suffering on their Oil Seed Rape crops, so much that yields appear to be down drastically, I have also noted an increased in mole activity on my beds. I have put this down to an increase in the worm population due to the use of manure/compost on the beds. It seems to have affected my sowing and planting of crops. Has anybody else commented on this?

    1. Yes the moles have gone nuts in my garden too, they seem to make a beeline for beet crops. So annoying!

    2. I have a mole that has runs all over my no dig beds. I leave it alone as it doesn’t seem to do much harm, and i like to think it’s happy down there. As you say, there are probably more worms under the beds. He has pushed up a few of my plant labels, so I just put them back.

    3. Yes John flea beetles are bad this year. I have found Thermacrop an effective barrier, as well as mesh.
      Moles can be a problem thanks to more worms, I suggest employing a mole catcher or using a trap, often it’s one only.

      1. Yes, I agree. I had plantings of both cauliflower and kale entirely destroyed by flea beetle about three weeks ago. I had used netting rather than mesh. Mesh next time! The beds were in a newly cleared area of neglected meadow and I wondered whether that was a factor but now think it’s simply been a very bad year for the beetle.

        1. Yes an annoyingly bad year. Partly to do with so much rape now being grown and increasing the population every year.

  25. Converting my garden to No Dig this fall.
    Guess who planted this idea…?

    Many thanks for your splendid Youtube Channel and the impression it made.

    Northern Germany

  26. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and advice! I have an allotment on an open site in Lancashire and we have had our trees, vegetables and flowers eaten by deer. Any advice you have would be most welcome. The site owner is unwilling to put fences up as he says it would be too expensive.

    1. Ah no how horrible.
      You can’t fence them out so maybe forget trees but low growing plants can have bird netting over, that worked for me on salads and beets, while they didn’t eat brassicas

      1. An old neighbour, an excellent gardener and countryman, used to get human hair from the barber and hang it in tights around his garden as a deer deterrent. The smell of humans deters them apparently.
        May be worth a try.

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