drone view Homeacres no dig 22nd July

August 2020 fast growth, succession plantings, onion harvest tips, compost quandaries, sowings now and soon

It’s a rainstorm as I write and I am grateful for it. Before today, July’s total rainfall was 29mm/1.2in and after this storm it’s 46mm/1.8in. Still below average. We have been watering, and now can do less of that for a while.

July has been the coolest since 2012, and less sunny than normal. But growth is good, after a warm spring and early summer which got everything to an advanced stage already. Summer vegetables are on.

Before month’s end is good to sow coriander, chervil, bulb fennel and Chinese cabbage. Then spinach and salad rocket before mid August, a busy time indeed. Learn more about how to do all this in timesaving ways, in my online courses.

No dig is key: we spend little time weeding or feeding. This link has some scientists finally catching up with what many of us have known for decades. Once there is “scientific validation”, things get taken seriously! They call it a ‘radical new way of thinking’ – common sense no  dig and no till.

July growth 12 days

I love how fast growth is in July, except for making us so busy.

On the other hand, the sun gives us energy, so all is well, and days are long. The garden is taking 75-85 hours of time at present, of skilled input.

Showing a smaller growth difference is a heap of soil near the cabin. Less goodness for the roots.

Potatoes followed by leeks

This is a fine succession, as long as you have leek plants ready, from an April sowing usually. I multisow in modules, then pot on to keep them growing.

The potato harvest was lovely, and we made a video about it. In the video (on You Tube this winter), the harvest is preceded by how we made the new beds on grass and weeds, in December. There is still some bindweed and I keep pulling it: the couch grass is not growing any more.

How is this allowed?

My work as garden teacher brings me in contact with problems which make me so unhappy. I hesitate to mention this because it’s so worrying but I conclude there are forces of evil to contend with.

The issue of pyralid weedkillers is one such. In a friendly world, such a poison would simply be not allowed. Or at least would be acknowledged and dealt with, when its damage is seen. The photos are to indicate damage you may see, and need to recognise. It’s not mineral deficiencies or root problems! See compost problems below.

Glyphosphate is shocking too, and is clearly, scientifically explained by Dr. Zach Bush MD in this video, or just listen as a podcast. It shocked me.

Here is a link to herbicide damage on potato leaves, to help you identify problems caused by weedkillers. It’s from the University of Minnesota Extension service, kindly sent by Lisa Munro.

If you think your plants have been poisoned, emails should be sent to [email protected] and [email protected], headed “Aminopyralid contamination”.

No dig and soil microbes for health

For a cheerful antidote to the above – Emily Murphy of California sent this piece in the Washington Post 29th September 2019 Here is an excerpt:

“Throughout most of his career, Robert Beelman has focused his research on quantifying the antioxidant content of plants and describing how these nutrients affect our own cells. But recently, Beelman, an emeritus professor of food science at Pennsylvania State University, took an unorthodox step for a nutrition researcher by expanding his investigation to include soil.

“We all say that healthy soil equals healthy people,” said Beelman, “but the truth is that we are still blowing smoke and we need to do more research to investigate this idea.”

“I got to wondering,” he added. “Have our modern agricultural practices been screwing up the fungal and bacterial populations in the soil to the point where the amount of [nutrients] in our diet has been compromised?”

This is an interesting nutrient because it is only made by soil fungi and certain soil-borne bacteria, while several lines of evidence suggest that Ergo is an important nutrient for humans: Ergo deficiency might predispose us to inflammation and premature ageing. Ergo is found in many plants, including oats.”

Their study conclusion on adjacent farms, one tilling and one no till: the no till oats had 25% more ergo than those grown in tilled soil.

I feel that Homeacres vegetables are bursting with health, thanks to the soil quality. In the trial beds, most plantings look stronger on the no dig bed, with more lustre in their leaves.

Brassicas in summer, mesh covers, second plantings

If you can keep insects off summer brassicas, they can grow exceptionally fast. Even as second plantings, after a first harvest. I do not add compost in summer for these new plantings. In the undisturbed soil, they are quick to do and easy to maintain, with almost no weeding – mainly blown-in seeds of dandelion and sow thistle at this tie of year.

Problems with purchased compost

What is going on in the compost trade! There are so many upset gardeners, myself included, with unforeseen problems.

One cause is weedkiller residues, These used to be mostly from farmers’ hay fed to horses, but now it’s from sprayed grassland generally and is in cow manure too. PLUS it’s from lawn clippings of grass treated with pyralids, which end up in in green waste compost. Unseen and unmeasurable, a horror show for compost makers.

The other cause is improper composting of woody matter in peat free compost, resulting in poor nutrition and weak plants. I have heard many comments about returning to peat, a contentious issue which therefore needs much work please from compost companies.

Normal problems

I have a persistent wild rabbit and keep filling in potential burrows. We net new plantings in case of nibbling. On the other hand I am lucky to suffer no pigeon damage.

My tomatoes are not brilliant, especially the cherry types. I shall say more about this in autumn, once it’s more clear what has happened.

Homemade compost going well

Homeacres homemade compost is turning out so well. See my recent video if you have not already. The video is my second-most popular in its first week (after Start Out No Dig) which reveals the interest in making compost.

The problem for many gardeners is sourcing enough material. A good alternative is to enquire after wood chips, especially of you have space to store a pile for a year.

Amazing onion harvest – now succession planting

The warm dry spring was ideal for onions, followed by June rain to increase bulb size. I am pulling them as soon as possible, to take advantage of summer warmth for drying the tops. Bending necks is worthwhile to help them dry and store better, with dry tops eventually.

Be ready with transplants for when your onion area is clear.

More onions, and lettuce

The Rose de Roscoff are so precocious. Now safely in the dry, gorgeous pink onions.

We just picked the lettuce to right of the onion bed, on 24th July. I transplanted them 25 days earlier. They were slow to start from being too dry, now are good and should crop for eight more weeks or so

114 thoughts on “August 2020 fast growth, succession plantings, onion harvest tips, compost quandaries, sowings now and soon

      1. Ok….very interesting…..because I feared it would be much too hot (for example for lambs lettuce) to germinate in modules in the greenhouse….and after pricking …for example the little chinese cabbage seedlings, won´t they dry out during the first day, even if they are watered?
        Mxystery, gräit mistery!!!

        1. We are less hot than you in mid Germany, however my greenhouse has been 44C a few times recently and I needed to water seedlings twice a day.
          They just grow faster in the warmth!

          1. Dear Charles, you are really one of the most important teachers we have in the world in these times, and it really touches me how you share, with incredible patience, your knowledge.

  1. Dear Charles,
    this morning my second Charles-Dowding-admiration-compost-heap has 74 degrees and the last two days weluckily had 40mm rain after six weeks of draught.
    Please tell me, were do you “store” all the multisowing modules with seedlings of spinach, lambs lettuce, chinese cabbage and all the other autumn-and wintergreen plants before planting them out?
    heartly greetings from Germany

    1. That is good news Marietheres!
      I raise all seedlings on 3 or 4m2 of space in my greenhouse. They are 2-3 weeks old when transplanted in summer.

  2. Hello Charles…
    Your no-dig system has opened up a whole new way of thinking about growing food and creating microbe rich healthy soil. Thankyou.

    I have 1 raised bed and an area for container gardening. I’ve grown veg in containers for years including courgettes. I’ve never seen courgettes like these. They are called zucchini by King’s Seeds. Massive lush leaves, lots of unusual side shoots, no female flowers but an unbelievable number of male flowers. The 5 or 6 ‘courgettes’ that have appeared have been finger sized and deformed.

    It has been very cool and overcast for long periods here in North Yorkshire with night temps as low as 6 deg C. I’d be interested to know your thoughts. I shall be contacting Kings about them.

    Has anyone else here had problems with their courgettes this year?

    Many thanks for your amazing work.

    1. MELODY DON’T EAT THEM. sorry to shout, want to attract your and others’ attention.
      They are a “false” variety and poison people with “cucurbitacins”.
      Look it up online, precisely the “zucchini” variety.
      You can put plants on the compost heap.

      1. Gosh! What a shocker! I looked up online and see they’ve been recalled by Mr Fothergills. They’ll be going on the compost heap immediately.

        Can’t thank you enough.

        1. Melody

          See my posts a little way back on here. Yes, do not eat! My seeds ‘zucchini ‘ were Thompson and Morgan and my courgettes wouldn’t grow large fruit for ages and then they grew large striped pear/melon shaped fruit – very bitter. Many emails to T & M who eventually advised to remove the plants. I have grown ‘zucchini ‘ courgettes for the past three years or so and always had dark green normal elongated shaped fruit – very tasty courgettes and therefore I knew something was wrong. I cut mine open and just put my tongue to the fruit, the bitterness was unbelievable. Giving courgettes a miss for a couple of years I think.

          1. Thankyou for your reply Eliza. It’s been a strange year in the veggie plot. Did you read the stories about packages of seeds arriving to addresses in the U.K. and the US from China? They were marked as earrings but contained seeds. The items were not ordered by the recipients. The advice from the authorities was not to plant them but to hand them in. The fear being that the seeds could be harmful if grown. Both to the environment and to anyone who ate the grown produce.

            The Telegraph online published the story, however other news outlets also picked up the story.

  3. Greetings from the USA, West Central Wisconsin to be exact. I stumbled on your Youtube gardening early this year. I so enjoy all your advice. I do have a question. I like to garden, but hate to weed!! I have access to a supply of both composted organic cow manure and shredded pine bark mulch. I am thinking about using both. I think I can get by with about a four inch depth as the area is a garden space. If I layer them which one should I layer first. My soil is sandy loam. I do have capability to water if need be. I so appreciate your response and all the work you are doing. I so look forward to anything new you post for us. Thanks a gain and please keep up the great work. You and your work is so appreciated.!!!!

    1. Nice to hear this Barbara and thanks.
      Definitely the manure-compost first, with bark compost on top.
      Sandy soil means watering is good!

  4. Hi Charles
    Really interesting to follow the discussion on compost, much to think about. I have been using mushroom compost for the last season, is this likely to be contaminated? I have noticed yellowing of plantings when they first go in and it then takes a time for them to start to grow, but having said that my crop of broad beans was fine.
    I’m just wondering about my onions, your crop looks great. I have pulled my onions and they are on the path drying but as the weather is so unpredictable at the moment, with showers then sunshine I’m just wondering whether to move them to indoors so they can dry out fully. From what I’ve read the necks have to be dry otherwise they will not store over winter, is this correct? I purchased heat treated sets from DT Brown (I think), the onions do seem to be bigger this year than last, do you have a view on this type of set?

    1. Sounds like the compost was still fresh when applied, otherwise ok.
      Yes bring undercover now. Bending necks helps them to dry,
      Heat treated worth it only for red onion sets planted before end March

  5. Hi again Charles, just wondered what your thoughts are on brassicas at this time of year. I’ve two nice long beds, meshed since planting, of various brassicas that will harvest from about mid August to early October. They look very healthy, being fully established – do you ever remove the mesh protection so that you can enjoy the sight of the plants before the taste? There are few butterflies about and, although pigeons are ever present, I wonder if it’s worth the risk?! Thank you and good luck with your new book (I still reread some of your others, Winter Veg being my favourite). Best regard, Tris

    1. Thanks Tris and see my latest Instagram video and YT Pest Prevention. Agree it’s nice to see them

      1. Thanks Charles, I’ve just had a look at the vid. I don’t have any BT so will uncover about a week before harvest I think. It is a pleasing sight, seeing your plants growing uncovered. Cheers, Tris

  6. Thank you Charles will go with that so, might even cover with weed membrane for a few months before planting aswell

  7. Charles

    Just to say Thompson and Morgan emailed to say they were forwarding my courgette? Pics to their horticultural team for identification.

    Sent them a couple more as tonight we decided to cut up the supposed courgettes? The middle was full of immature seeds set in a circular fashion. It was very, very dry and when I tasted it it was so bitter it took ages to remove the bitter taste from my tongue. Needless to say I did not ingest it. Interestingly the smell was far better than the taste – there was a very faint aroma of melon!

    1. Ah wow that would probably have poisoned you – I hope seed companies are taking this seriously! And do remove the plant, fine to compost.

      1. Yes, will remove both plants, T & M have advised to remove also. They have given me a £10 credit. They say there have been issues with courgettes this year. Think I’ll give them a miss for a while!

  8. Hi Charles, i started no dig and would like to know your opinion on drip irrigation. Any reason why you don’t use drip irrigation in your garden?

    1. Yes it’s more plastic, time to lay, and less necessary in our climate.
      Plus I grow often many different veg on each bed, need varied water amount.
      Plus it does not wet all the compost, so is less good for microbial activity.

  9. Charles, I’m so grateful that you’ve been regularly highlighting the issue of aminopyralid contamination which sadly seems to disproportionately affect those gardeners, small holders and allotmenters who are trying to do ‘the right things’ – no dig, organic, peat-free.
    My allotment got hit with it last year-potatoes, tomatoes and beans all badly affected, though sweetcorn was fine. This was due to using contaminated horse manure delivered to our allotment Site in 2018. It was well rotted and used as a 2 ” surface mulch over most of the plot.
    Thanks to your posts and videos last year, I realised what had happened and that lots of my fellow no dig plotholders and those who use very large amounts of horse manure also had the same tell tale signs of aminopyralid damage to their crops.
    I reported it to Corteva UK, did the bioassy test which proved positive and contacted the relevant stables to establish the possible ‘contamination chain’.
    The sight of my ruined crops and the thought of having to repeatedly dig over the soil to help this poison break down more quickly made me incandescent with rage. This feeling was compounded by the lack of concern and ignorance shown by those I contacted. Corteva accept no responsibility for producing this poison and try to shift the blame on to the users who need to have the correct paperwork and robust procedures in place to ensure traceability. The stables don’t seem to know or care about the quality of hay used for silage and straw used for bedding and how this may affect their animals or gets passed into the human food chain. I asked Corteva if any crops produced were safe to eat and how long it would take to break down in the soil, and predictably their response contained the usual ‘legalese’ conditionals! I have also been subjected to patronising, dismissive ‘gaslighting’ from those contacted and some of the old timers up at the lotty. But thanks to you and others I’ve found on the Internet, I know that this dreadful issue is REAL aninharmful with often devastating consequences!
    So this year understandably keen to avoid a repeat disaster, I decided to be ultra-cautious and not use any animal manures or bought composts/products containing them or green waste material. I dug over and rotovated the soil several times throughout the autumn and winter which actually hurt my soul! I have used my own compost, leafmould and partially composted woodchips as surface mulch- all with great success!
    However, as I won’t have enough ‘safe ‘homemade materials for this autumn, I was planning to buy in a half pallet of good quality compost to mulch my plot. Following your previous recommendations and reviews online, my shortlist comprised Moorland Gold, Sylvagrow or Lakeland Gold. I have obviously investigated this issue in some depth even emailing the companies for further information. But now I am dismayed to discover that there have been reported problems with these composts too. Arghh! Isn’t it possble to find a decent quality compost we can trust 100%?
    Using free horse manure which may or not be contaminated with AP is one thing but spending a vast amount of money (for me!) on compost which could also be problematic, is really beyond the pale!

    Please advise, Obi Wan. I honestly don’t know what to do next!

    1. I bow to your thoroughness Pauline and yes it’s making me angry too. Especially the lack of concern.
      Also it’s their bad advice to rotovate or dig!! Best leave the compost on top and not harm soil microbes, leave them to “dissipate” the poison.
      Melcourt is AP free, just short of nutrients sometimes. Morland Gold as far as I know is ok.
      Best option is woodchips composted. Get a pile or two and you have fertility for next autumn at least.
      Maybe use less compost, means more weeds perhaps. Mustard or phacelia or beans green manure sown September to early October, with usual caveats (slugs and weeds etc).

  10. Hi Charles
    I started no dig on my allotment in Scidcup Kent last winter with a lasagne of cardboard manure and compost after finding you on YouTube.. and Oh My the soil is beautiful healthy, full of worms and so easy to plant into. But the problem I have this growing season is a slugs plague. I am growing organically as there are frogs and hedgehogs. I can collect hundreds on any one day. I’ve tried beer traps which catch a few. They eat into the cabbages and made lacework of the sweet corn and my other veg. Any advice?

    1. Slugs Sharon can be first year issue with mulching, so keep collecting.
      No cardboard needed hereafter so they diminish in number. It will get easier.

  11. Hello Charles,
    I lifted my first early and second early potatoes , Rocket and Charlotte, some weeks ago and along with my allotment neighbours I was surprised at the size. First early were described as baking potatoes and a lot of the Charlotte were close to 1 lb. Why is that? I think I’d have preferred a more regular size. The crop was outstanding and I ended up by giving over half to the Salvation Army. This is my first year of no dig.
    Thank you for all the information and videos.
    Best wishes,

      1. Thank you Charles,
        Makes me wonder what I’m worried about.
        One more question along the same lines Charles. Do you have information/ideas, on an online course, to plan a plot that avoids too much waste?
        Best wishes.

  12. Hi Charles
    Worried about pyralid contamination in compost and manures I have started using commercial mushroom compost To top up supplies on the basis it’s been used once. Am I labouring under a false premise? DoeS the poison leach out of the carrier or is it permanent once present? I have used Westland farmyard with no ill effect but any of these products cannot be guaranteed bag after bag! Obviously home produced is best but with 250 sq m To mulch it’s hard to produce sufficient! And I haven’t yet turned the whole plot fully over to no dig yet-but will! I like to top my compost with commercial because it usually is weed free mine isn’t.
    Many thanks for all your teachings I ve learnt SO much👍🏼

  13. Hi Charles,
    Very interesting update as usual.
    I have had a bit of an issue this year with tall sugar snap peas being stringy. Masses of peas on and I’m not letting them get too big. I thought I was watering enough. It’s not all plants that have the problem only some. Any ideas would be useful.
    Thanks Mary

  14. I have never seen so much leaf curl on my tomatoes, and have no idea why. Though aubergines are doing well enough, I have had to discard some of them as they shrivelled. I use very old local horse compost, but am a bit disappointed with the year so far. Potato blight has come early with the damp July, yet many crops are fine, a great year for beans so far. Who ever said it would b easy – our relationship with the world around us is complex. I feel things are coming to a head.

  15. Charles. Your garden looks like great. I am in southern Tasmania but originally Scottish. I have taught organic gardening. Retired now and looking at getting more into no dig gardening. I have a source of quality compost and making my own.
    Opposite seasons. I have watched your many videos and Richard Perkins, Curtis Stone etc.
    Do you use row covers for early and late growing or just as insect netting, or both?Do you use low poly tunnels on your veg rows? Regards, Alistair

    1. Nice to hear.
      Yes row covers/fleece for early plantings, mesh for insects, fleece just a little in autumn, too dark then for much use.

  16. Hi Charles, we are avid followers and hoping to switch to a no dig method in the future. Currently we are growing cabbages in a raised bed, however have some cup-like fungus is growing underneath them. Would you recommend removing this from the bed? Thank you.

    1. Nice to hear and the fungus is fine, probably from the decaying wood of your bed sides.
      I would look to mulch paths and remove sides eventually.

  17. Charles my compost is getting up to 50c for a week and then gradually goes down in temperature to mid 30s, its composed of majority cow dung and straw, grass clippings, garden waste, straw..will the temperature be enough to kill weed seeds or will I have a problem if I mulch with it next year, looking to start no dig but bit nervous of the weed seeds with this compost..i know its fertile enough from experience of digging it in but just nervous of the weeds

    1. That is mostly hot enough. Sounds excellent.
      You need to hoe or rake lightly as soon as weed seedings are visible. Not hard work but it’s little and often.
      In the end you will have so many fewer weeds.

  18. Charles

    I sent a further email to Thompson & Morgan saying I thought their reply to be unsatisfactory. Have had another email back saying my courgettes are Eclipse F1, link attached. They are not, as mine are pale yellow-green with darker green stripes and Eclipse are the opposite, i.e. Darker green with a pale yellow stripe. They are however the same melon shape. There was still no apology re the seed issue.

  19. Hi Charles,
    I have just taken on a second plot. Our first one I followed your instructions for no dig and have had 2 years of fab crops. However plot 2 was like a paddock when we took over and have cleared it down to ground level and have taken out about 80% of the couch grass by hand. We have obtained a pile of horse manure but it is fresh and normally I would not use until next February but wondered if it would be alright to lay on the beds and cover until next February so the worms will do their work. Also compost for plot two I have bought Lidl Grandiose to add as a mulch. I was dubious when I bought the first bag but the compost looks pretty good. Any views on this.
    Looking forward to seeing you in September.
    Hazel Roberts

    1. Yes Hazel you could use that fresher manure, but weed seeds may be an issue. So may aminopyralid but I hope not.
      I don’t know that compost and they vary all the time, even with the same name.

  20. Charles

    I have had no problems with any of the bags of Westland farmyard manure that I purchased during lockdown except for a cucumber plant that went limp for no reason. I sowed broad beans in all of the bags after splitting them open, some of the broad beans are still growing in the as yet unused bags. Lucky I guess. The only other compost I’ve used this year is my own home made.

    On a different note, the courgette (zucchini) plants I told you about from Thompson and Morgan that only grew very small fruit suddenly decided to grow larger fruit. Only not the long green fruit that they should have grown. The plants are scaling a fence, covered in tentacles, large healthy leaves and lots of growing fruit that resemble melons when fully formed. They grow a bit pear shaped to start then grow rounder. The colour is pale green, then dark green stripes develop and then the pale green in between the dark green stripes turns more yellow.

    I emailed Thompson & Morgan to let them know that there was a seed issue and sent them pictures to ask what the courgettes might be (if indeed they are a courgette). I also wanted to know if they were safe to eat. Had a reply saying they didn’t know what the courgette was and took a laughing tone in saying that the test would appear to be to check if they are bitter. No apology offered. Don’t seem to care about seed issues or compost issues any more.

    Can I post pics on this site to show you?

    1. Gosh that is bad service.
      Very few seed companies produce their own seed, so they have no control over what is in the packet.
      They are being flippant about the bitterness issue as there have been food poisonings from bitter fruits, bad seed growing cucurbitacins.
      Sorry there is no way to post photos.

  21. Hi Charles, my runner beans are covered in black fly, all the way up the to the top of the sticks. Your book says if Broad beans are affected to remove the affected ones to the compost heap but that’s not so easy when they are entwined around the canes. Any suggestions?
    Thank you.

    1. I would spray them with a jet of water to dislodge many aphids, then water roots too. Damp weather would help, they may recover

  22. Ooh great update and may explain why my courgettes, squash , beetroot and lettuce all failed to grow properly this year. Not enough home compost and scarcity meant i couldnt get my usual organic peat free and bought a different brand. Those that i planted direct in the allotment were fine so guessing its the compost.

  23. Thanks so much for your valuable monthly newsletter. Am I right in thinking that Moorland Gold compost has proved satisfactory judging by the photo

  24. Such a useful update Charles, thank you. I was particularly interested to see the left hand picture of the pyralid affected French beans which I’m afraid looked exactly like mine, with florescent yellow green leaves- both Dwarf and Climbing.
    I had thought that perhaps the manure had used was not mature enough. It was a newly made bed. They are now starting to grow better and with leaves of a normal colour, but it’s taken over six weeks – they were v healthy looking, module gown seedlings. Would you let them continue growing now – and, would you eat them ?

    1. Hi Louise and how sad for you. If the beans now look good, the dose was perhaps mild.
      However you are running short of warmth ahead in Scotland. I would eat them if they look healthy at harvest.

  25. You mention rabbits trying to dig in around your garden…I have a problem with a small creature that pulls back the earth and nibbles at a potato, exposing other potatoes to the light so they go green. Very annoying! A vole, or a mouse?

    1. Ah shame Aideen – not a vole as they eat from below! So a mouse I guess, or several… difficult

      1. We have lots of Bank Voles here. They are more numerous some years than others. They nibble the tops of beetroot and strawberries, amd have also nibbled through newly-planted dwarf bean plants, which they then stored in their “larder”. They burrow into the beds, but eat on the surface. I have had to resort to a mouse trap with a piece of carrot for bait.

      1. Rats! We didn’t realise at first what was eating the beetroot. They (we have seen them) have decimated them, chewed around the top of the plants. No problems previously.

  26. It is great to hear your successes and possible failures gives us all hope, Charles I thought that I might have AP poisoning of my peppers last month, I did a test of the compost and the broad beans I sowed are doing fine so I dont think it is now the poison and am pleased to report the peppers seem to be better and now are flowering a bit so I might get some peppers after all. I am also worried about tomatoes so would be interested in what you conclude in August when we harvest. Thanks again for all your posts they are so helpful.

    1. Hi Ali, and please say which compost! I have had issues with Dalefoot tomato compost, unbelievable. Tomatoes are especially sensitive it seems, especially I think cherry tomatoes. Let’s keep the ball rolling of sharing info

      1. Charles they were grown in the poly tunnel where I had put the compost from the local cow digester only about 1 inch all over in the early spring, but everything is OK no sign now of AP

    2. Crumbs. I was relying on Dalefoot to be one you could count on. It’s supposed to be Lakeland sheep’s wool and bracken, and I can’t imagine THAT being sprayed with AP. Perhaps it’s ‘diluted’ with something else? I was speaking to a rep from Earthcycle composts at a show last year and he admitted that their cow compost, billed as being based on manure from their own organic dairy herd, was actually mixed with municipal waste! He’d never even heard of the pyralids!! Needless to say I didn’t buy more. I hate this total lack of transparency in the compost market. The regulations need tightening.

      1. I agree Jan, it’s really not good or transparent. Seems like Dalefoot had (now ‘used to have’) horse manure. Should have been mentioned. I don’t understand whey not 🙂
        And amazing about Earthcycle. I have heard from two allotmenteers suffering pyralid poisoning from their compost, then they were rude by email.

        1. Hi Charles, awful to hear this about Dalesfoot. I use that and Moorland (no ill-effect so far) but like Jan, I thought it was only bracken and daggings. Have you contacted them about the horse muck element and have they responded?

      2. Wow. Typical. And I met the farmer from Dalefoot at RHS Chatsworth last year and he certainly didn’t mention that!
        My favourites of obscure-speak are ‘soil improver’ (clearly not), ‘farmyard manure’ (pig?, cow?, chicken?, human?) and ‘…of organic origin’ (??!!) Just think of any major waste product that producers are desperate to get rid of for free/cheaply and they’ll probably be in there somewhere.

  27. Thank you, Charles, a lovely update, great photos. I have a tray of salads and herbs in my greenhouse which look just like your beetroot. They haven’t grown in a month! They are in those Containerwise modules you recommended , which I love. I used Sylvagrow compost, which I had not used before and found a bit dry and twiggy. I have also used Dalefoot wool compost for veg and salads, which is my favourite, and have had no problems so far. Let’s see what happens this week with the Autumn sowings; radicchio, chard, lettuce etc.
    I agree it’s upsetting, and there should be more accountability with weed killers, preferably a total ban.
    Please let us know if you do any experiments with different media for sowing – I love your trials and experiments! Best wishes to you and thanks again.

    1. Cheers Sally-Ann.
      See other comment that there is a problem with Sylvagrow since this spring. Seriously bad, they are supposed to be the professionals. Do email them.

    1. Fair point David but they are not legally bound to label the risk.
      It’s all legal! Amazing.
      I just heard from a reader who has had awful results with Sylvagrow purchased during lockdown!

    2. My silvagrow organic compost results were good both one bag last year and four this year.

  28. Wonderful update, Charles. I’m looking at your beetroot that didn’t grow, and thinking of my peppers and basil that suffered the same fate. This year, because I was mindful of the compost/pyralid issues, I tried 3 different composts, and separately, my own compost. 2 of 3 bought composts gave shocking results, obvious pyralid damage.
    I’m also wondering if there was an issue with last year’s dwarf beans, which are now being sown this year. 4 varieties sown by me in 3 different compost, about 70+ seeds in all, generated a mere 14 plants. I’ve had no issues with climbing beans, so it makes me think there’s something up with the dwarf beans seed stock from last year’s harvests( commercial grown seed).

    1. I had exactly the same problem with dwarf bean seed. I also tried pre sprouting on damp paper towel and also vermiculite
      – zero success.
      No problems with climbing beans. I raised the issue with this premier internet supplier of seeds but was told that they had 100% germination when tested under their DEFRA license. Really!! 100% !!

      1. Gah this is hopeless for us, they should give evidence and also say when the test was done.
        Plus their tests are in perfect lab conditions, plus “germination” is counted when a tiny radicle or root is seen, which does not equate to growth in a garden situation, even germination on damp paper it seems!

        1. Hi
          I bought bush bean seeds from a Canadian company (William Dam Seeds) last year and I notice that they provide data on the packet including the gemination rate and date tested, number of seeds in the pack, lot number, country of origin, and the year seed was packed for.

          They also provide detailed sowing and growing information. This includes optimum soil temperature – and it was this that I think made a difference to my success. I have made 3 sowings: the first during the cool spring weather (result – slow and low germination), the second during the consistently much warmer weather recently (rapid germination and nearly 100%) and one last week in cooler weather, which again is giving slower less reliable results.

          This is from seed packaged for last year, so I am impressed with the results from “old” seed. I think it would be helpful if more seed companies were this helpful with their information.

          As for compost problems, I usually buy compost recommended by Which? This year I find their recommendation for best compost for raising young plants – Melcourt SylvaGrow – was expensive, smelly, and I noticed extremely retarded growth on my seedlings, although it is composted bark, wood fibre and coir so one presumes this is pyralid free.

          1. Thanks Beverly, most helpful.
            Yes I think this year’s Sylvagrow is not as good as last year’s – much worse in fact!

          2. I’ve had problems with 2 raised beds which due to a shortage of my own compost, I ‘ improved ‘ and topped up with bought in (peat free, highly regarded) manure and soil conditioner products.
            Never again…Sweet peas, beans and peas all yellowing and dying.
            Please Charles advise me how to manage this for next year. If it is Pyralid, will any remaining in the soil degrade over winter? Shall I plant a green manure? Do I need to dig it all out?

          3. It should degrade Sue, and I would leave it there.
            A mustard green manure would be good!

      2. Interesting DeeDee!
        On German twitter, there was a discussion about really poor results with beans all across the country.
        Most of us blamed it on the the low night temperatures (with the days not getting really warm either here up north…).
        I should do the paper towel germination test, too.

    2. Hi Clare and well researched.
      It takes something to shock me now but this is shocking! Hope you reported the pyralid, and you still can. They need to know.
      (not sure much happens though, but at least they can’t then say “There is no issue”)
      I think it more likely that the seed was old, either way it’s bad and there is too much old, tired seed around

      1. All the more realtors save your own seed or find a really good organic seed supplier. I’m so lucky to live a stone’s throw from new seed producer Vital Seeds in Dartington, South Devon. Everything I’ve had from them this year has had fantastic germination rates and grown vigorously including the climbing beans, Scarlet Emperor and Golden Gate. They’re now running a seed saving course online 👍

      2. I’d have blamed old seed too, but I’d actually bought 3 new varieties to try along with my regular “Safari”, and they all said “packed 2019, sow by 2021”, so I know that unfortunately was not the issue.

        1. Hi Clare.
          They said “packed 2019”.
          However that does not mean the contents were fresh, just that they were packed in 2019.
          I have sown seed with similar dates and emergence was feeble, alongside homesaved or other seed growing strongly.

      3. Sadly, Clare, the suppliers say packeted in 2019 when they mean just that. Most seed comes from international seed houses and there’s no way of knowing how long they’ve hung onto it before it was packed. It could have been old then.
        My Cupidon from Real Seeds was fine, but they’re one of the few companies who grow their own.

        1. “Fresh” purchased broad bean seeds can take anything up to 14 days to germinate, so this is what I come to accept.
          Last year I was given a few seeds of Crimson Flowered which I grew just to get more seed. Having forgotten about them (!) I ‘discovered’ their packet in late April. They looked dried up and wizzened, but I decided to sow them anyway.
          96 seeds produced 92 healthy plants, all of which germinated within three days!
          I will be saving my own seed again this year.

    3. I’ve had terrible results with dwarf French beans this year, with <30% germination & of those plants, many have failed to progress past the cotyledons.
      One lot direct sown & two further in different commercial composts, with only the last (sown in supermarket bought peat free) looking promising, though still low germination.

      1. Oh dear this is bad.
        Either old seed or poor compost or both. WHen I say ‘old’, it may be the seed company’s issue not yours.

  29. Charles, I’ve been succession sowing lettuce and beetroot since March for planting out in my beds. When should I plant out in my polytunnel for an over winter crop?- presumably in the near future? (I too live in Somerset).

  30. Hello Charles
    With regard to compost I have access to unlimited quantities of coffee grouns (Starbucks).
    I can find no reference in any of your books that I possess.
    What are your feelings with regard to ph, my meter says 6.
    More worrying are the comments on anti bacterial properties.
    Your advice would as always be highly respected.
    Kind regards
    Dennis Jordan

    1. Hi Dennis and good news!
      It gets hot in heaps up to 50% grounds so can’t be very antibacterial.
      Unless your soil is very acid, the pH is not too low and I would go for it. Paper is a good complement

      1. Thank you Charles,
        That lays a multitude of on the face of it uninformed ghosts to rest.
        Kind regards

  31. Talking about compost. For years I used New Horizon, then they changed the ‘recipe’ and I have struggles since. When I started pricking out this year it was lockdown and I didn’t have enough bought compost, so I used my garden compost and slightly diluted it about 25% with some topsoil I had from a landscape job we were doing in another part of the garden, the difference in growth was phenomenal, everything grew so much faster and so much more ‘solid’ no whispy growth at all. I have learnt and will use my own compost in future. But I am not sure what to do with sowing seeds, as my compost always has loads of weed seeds in it (even if I do try to leave out any weeds with seed heads.

    Thanks so much for all your information Charles, you are a godsend.

    I have raised the matter with New Horizon so don’t mind quoting it here.

    1. Well done Sue. looks a good decision in view of problems out there. Weed seeds just have to be pulled unless your heaps can be hotter

    2. Me too! I had used New Horizon for years but had major problems last year. Luckily I came across Melcourt Organic peatfree compost at a local garden centre. I used one bag last year and am on my fourth this year. Everything has grown fine.

      1. I’ve been using New Horizon this year and growth has really struggled. I’ve just bought some Melbourn peat free and my tomatoes are starting to come through so I think this will be a permanent change for me. Such a shame as I spent quite a lot.of money on New Horizon

  32. Lovely photography as always. So sad about the AP poisoning, I think working in the garden really teaches us to appreciate the beauty and balance in the environment and hopefully not take it for granted. I get so frustrated about plastic turning up in compost as well but it makes me more aware and I’m trying to use less of it as a result.
    Keep up all the good work and know that you are a force for good and a very positive influence on many lives and gardens, certainly on mine!

  33. So sorry to hear you’re having problems too. Must be very upsetting. 🙁 But does the fact you’re growing sweetcorn again mean great news and your marauding badgers have finally gone?
    Finding myself hooked on your weather pages, particularly the charts… I must be English.
    PS Your onions look amazing.

    1. Thanks Jan, hope you had rain yesterday!
      It’s pure gamble with the corn and tbh I fear the worst, we shall see

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