August 2019 summer winds down, open day, no dig transformation, insect problems, new no dig beds, onions

Writing this in a thunderstorm, our first substantial rain for two months of lovely warmth, over 40mm so far and 46mm in the end (1.9in) in four hours. All soaked in, watering finished for 2019 except for new plantings and undercover.

Open day September 1st 11.30am to 4pm

Do come if you can, free entry, dogs on leads and no digging, teas in nearby chapel. More details.

No dig in Essex, before and after

See the transformation of Jack Hodgson’s patch in Essex near East London, between January and July 2019. He had been gardening on an allotment for a few years, working as self employed electrician, still does some jobs but now mostly market gardening on about 700 square metres. He wrote:

I had experience in growing but doing your course back in December gave me the blueprint and idea on how to make that blank canvas of a field work the way it has. Also your multisowing seeding in cells has been very successful. My chefs are loving the produce. My weed pressure is so low. The soil was clay. Had plenty of stones in and I could only get a pitchfork in half way.
See the beet root going into undisturbed clay – dense, firm but not compact. Discover more @jacks_patch and check out Homeacres courses on this page.

Insect damage

What a terrible summer new plantings of brassicas, faced by record numbers of flea beetles, swede midge, stem flea beetles and caterpillars. I have found that June plantings (photos below, same day as we had cleared broad/fava beans) fared better than July plantings, whose leaves were more tender in July and that is what the insects love – new leaves.
Mesh has helped so much and if you managed to bring your new brassicas through July and to be still alive now, they should grow fast in the August rain and cooler weather (UK at least, sorry Texas!).

More sowings

August is second spring, so many sowings are good now. Including salad rocket, mizuna, land cress, chervil, coriander, endive and spinach (Medania if possible, lovely dark leaves). Then at month’s end spring onions and spring cabbage.
If you sowed recantly you could have plants to pop in of fennel, lettuce, savoy cabbage and brokali.
My new calendar (pub 31st August abw) and Diary (pub September) have these dates laid out, with timesaving information as well.
Photos below by Johannes Pelletier from Austria, here for 10 days as a volunteer. Arrived 22.50 and started picking 05.30.

One bed results of having plants ready

This bed is cropping a range of veg all the time: see the change from March to June to August. Interplanting too, such as fennel between spinach then beans between fennel. Don’t let anyone convince you that fennel is unfriendly to other plants.

New videos

I just uploaded no. 10 in the Small Garden series. Next weekend, the long harvests video showing how we do that and with flashbacks to olden times when I was young.

Plus my new online course will be full of videos on how to grow many veg, from seed to harvest, releasing in January 2020.

Onion harvests

I hope you have pulled yours mostly, Here we caught the last of the dry weather for drying them on the beds, then we could cut off most of the leaves and lay them under cover on trays to dry some more. I shall hang a few in the house, where they store the best.

A new bed on pasture, created March, second planting August

Wheelbarrows of soil and compost spread in March by Leon Schleep, with cardboard only under some edges and at the end where couch grass and bindweed are strong.

We had good summer harvests and the bed is now planted for autumn and winter. The envirotect cover is against leek moth and chicory rabbits.

11 thoughts on “August 2019 summer winds down, open day, no dig transformation, insect problems, new no dig beds, onions

  1. Charles

    I know that in many years you need winter squash to stay in the ground until mid to late October just to mature fully, but I must say my fruit already look very mature now and have done for 10 days or so after a really hot and sunny summer.

    Just wondering if there is ever any justification for harvesting earlier or whether leaving them right into autumn will always be the best advice?

    Wondering whether to show my Red Kuris in local competitions or whether their nutritional value will be better for leaving them in the ground for another month…..

  2. I grew Charlotte and Maris Bard. Neither got ‘slugged’ but both got scab. I guess the fact that they were new beds and sandy soil helped with the slug problem, but apart from the deluge in early June it’s been pretty dry. As with Rhys the heatwave shrivelled leaves but in my case it finished them off – brown stalks 2 days later even though they’d been watered before, during and after heatwave. Shrivelled runner/french bean leaves too. Got to 38.7 C 15 miles away. Fortunately my potato tubers had already formed. Surprisingly celeriac grew well

    1. Sounds like your 2019 was like my 2018. My beans were a bust last year, but this year with four heavy rain episodes I have had gluts of dwarf bean and French climbing bean with plenty of runners in August as temperatures became more normal. The wind has blown the sticks over in early August but plants still yielding. I also used relatively immature compost laid down in late May and the beans seem to have loved it (it was the bottom of waste material left over winter in open wire cages as daleks were all full).

      1. Sorry this comment is replying to the wrong question!
        Hi Rhys and I would harvest now, they are not improving in any wy and last year we harvested most Kuri by end August, can cut some now, such an early variety. They still store very well.

        1. Thanks, Charles, that is really good to know: it will free up space to put in more winter lettuces in a nice sunny position.

  3. Charles, I’ve just seen your 2nd aminopyralid video. I reported my damage from possible spray drift to Dow on manure matters a couple of months ago. So if both of us reported it that’s allegedly 25% of all the problems this year. Who’s kidding who? I’ve seen dozens of people with damage just on your website. Also remain to be convinced about 10 day half life. Hope your compost recovers.

    1. I think they rarely “confirm” that damage is by aminopyralid. He keeps telling me there are so many other “hormone herbicides” out there. It’s not a good system that the corporation causing the damage is also monitoring its extent.

      1. Exactly, and I guess he didn’t take away any samples for detailed lab analysis? They know the average Joe Public isn’t going to get those done. I was told there’s only a small amount in astroKerb and can I definitely confirm that the farmer applied it on a particular date.

  4. Re insect damage….

    Thank you for mentioning your pest situation – it is so important that we talk about our problems as well as our successes otherwise those new to gardening could think that it is easy whereas at times it can be difficult.

    Potatoes – I have grown them successfully for over 50 years. No dig for about the last seven. Ok some years some problems, blight, scab, small crops through the weather, but no major crop failures.

    This year! Well very large potatoes particularly of Marfona but virtually every spud has small holes in it and when I cut into them there is a network of tunnels. Sometimes the culprits are still present. Tiny slugs – Keel slugs.

    So now I have closed the stable door after the horse has bolted! I looked up on the internet … is marfona susceptible to slug damage. That query took me to this…

    And the answer… yes they are. The Gardening Which site makes helpful suggestions on alternative varieties. I shall not grow Marfona again!

    I think the hot weather and lack of rain was also a contributory factor, forcing the slugs under ground.

    I am interested in other people’s experience.

    1. Hi Lynn I live in central Perthshire at 100m above sea level – a long way from Hampshire. Contrary to you, we have had a cool wet summer here. – but identical problem, slug damage! This is my third year of growing potatoes with no dig. I grew a new maincrop variety called Scapa, a Mayan Gold cross, this year. Good yield but about half of the crop is damaged by slugs, followed by what I think are millipedes. I had this problem last year too so I thought I would intervene sooner this year and dug them up three weeks earlier but they were already badly damaged. I am thinking of trying spraying nematodes next year as advised by the RHS. Has anyone else tried this solution?

    2. Lynn

      I have not yet lifted my potatoes this year but this summer has been like last year in terms of heat, albeit wetter here in NW London.

      Last year I had a healthy but significantly reduced yield, growing Desiree and Sarpo Mira. This year the plants started to suffer visibly when temperatures exceeded 30C, despite watering. Luckily when tubers were forming we had a major rainstorm, so yields may still be OK. September 2nd will reveal all (20 weeks from planting).

      The biggest learning though is that winter squash thrive when potatoes struggle. Both 2018 and 2019 heatwaves have seen very large squash form, such that squash+potato is almost a hedge against the weather. Getting the right balance of how much of each to sow is probably an art form.

      I have also noticed that parsnip, carrot and beetroot do fine in hot dry conditions, once tap roots are established.

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