August 2022 vegetable gardening, a second spring for sowings, watering tips, pest strategies, new publications

August starts dry here, after just 3½mm/0.15in rain here in the last four weeks. Lots of lovely sunshine and a pleasant average day temperature of 24C/75F, night minima of 11½C/53F.

We are watering, especially salad plants, fruiting plants such as beans, cucumber and tomato, celery, and new plantings such as leeks, broccoli and chicory. I’m giving very little water to winter vegetables such as celeriac and Brussels sprouts, as long as the plants are surviving. I have just one tap for the one third acre/1300m², it’s a good test for no dig.

Watering choices, reducing plant needs for water

Vegetables for autumn and winter harvests, which are in the ground already, do not need big watering at this stage. It’s more about survival as the base level but preferably some growth as well. For example we give a little water to Brussels sprouts at this stage, then shall increase in early autumn if rain is still absent. We made a video about these choices, when water is limited. In my Skills book, there is a whole chapter just about watering.

Removing lower leaves of brassicas reduces their evapotranspiration, and if done a lot that can also delay the harvest. Most growth is powered by the younger leaves in the centre or growing tip of any plant, so taking off larger and older leaves is less damaging to growth than it might seem. The cabbages below will I hope make nice heads by the middle of September, and we shall give water before that.

Sowings now and soon

If you can find space, and can water ….

  • Sow asap winter radishes, of the large types.
  • Sow Chinese cabbage from today 30th July until about 8th August, giving time for them to head up by late autumn. Grow under mesh, everything eats them!
  • Sow salad rocket, mustards, pak choi, qtatsoi from 3rd August – see photos below!
  • Sow turnips before mid month. Multisowing works well, transplant before three weeks old, grow under mesh.
  • Sow spinach Medania from early August in cooler regions like Scotland, to mid-August in milder areas, for harvests October until May. Spinach is very hardy to cold.
  • Sow land cress, chervil, parsley, coriander. All are hardy and can survive through winter, especially the first three.
  • Have seed ready from mid-August of spring cabbage and cauliflower, then in August’s last week of onion and spring onion, all to overwinter as small plants outside. For all of these, check the seed packet for its description which should say that the variety is suitable to overwinter and give harvest in the spring.

My weekly newsletter has reminders about all this. It has guest appearances too from people who share their no dig successes.

Seed Saving

There is so much to learn about saving seed, and if you are getting serious about it I do recommend my course module, which also has advice for sowing and propagating. Currently we are harvesting seeds of spinach, peas, lettuce and endive. Soon it will be carrots, chard and onions. Last year I saved beetroot and have enough seed for next year: it has been brilliant.

The two easiest vegetables in the UK at least are peas and tomatoes: just check that the tomato variety is open-pollinated. If it’s a hybrid, save a siuneshoot to grow in October, see this short video.

Pests

My most common questions asked are to do with pests, and most of them start from the premise, unspoken, that soil is not in good condition. Often I discover that people are or have been digging, and/or have not applied much organic matter over preceding years. Many have been unlucky to take on allotment plots with soil which is massively damaged from incessant cultivation. This results in weak plants and they attract pests!

Do read this comment from Agnes Skoda on 28th July, to my post of June:

I do no dig third year already and the damage this year is not too bad. Is it because slugs are eaten by some other animals or because plants are strong and healthy? I don’t know but I hope it stays like this 🙂
I had some aphids this spring too, but I didn’t apply anything and after few days they just disappeared 😀

No dig in my garden means no stones or hard soil, no pesticides and no fertilizers so far. I even grow healthy beautiful tomatoes without any fertilizers!

Soil health is the key. Plus the timings of your sowings, as with the salad rocket above. Plus using covers at certain key moments. That is the essence of my strategy, and I still have a few pests, but very rarely are they causing significant damage. You need a few ‘pests’ to have predators like toads, birds, wasps and beetles – see my pest prevention video.

Transplant options

It’s been a brilliant year for potatoes, see the amazing harvest below which is from ground where I’m trialling no rotation, with considerable success. The second early varieties I grow are already in store and all of that ground is replanted. You can keep doing more plantings as and when space is available, once any earlier plantings finish their harvests. Or pop in new plants between vegetables whose growth will finish soon.

Growth of new transplants in summertime is rapid. You have options for transplant size and we pop in plants at anything from 2 to 4 weeks old, see this short video.

 

No Dig Cookbook

We are working on a book with vegetable recipes. Lots of ideas for using seasonal produce. The main writer is Catherine Balaam who has been cooking for courses here through spring and summer. Now she is close to giving birth and is having a break!

I am adding to her recipes my growing advice for the vegetables mentioned, and there is core information about the principles of no dig. This extends to my no knead bread recipe which is also a big time saver!

The book will be printed October for publication by us, in November.

Potting composts

I continue to be surprised and to keep learning! I am working to develop my own mix, because of potential problems with so many potting composts that one can buy. Mine based on home-made compost sieved pretty fine, with a little soil and vermicast or worm compost. I shall share the recipe once all results are in.

Sometimes the terminology is confusing, for example ‘John Innes’. It seems to mean soil. In the Sylvagrow compost it’s either not helping, or there is too much wood from the base of green waste materials, which is proving a difficulty for many peat-free composts, even Moorland Gold.

No dig publications

Lots is about to happen. There is even another book for next year, no dig for children, we shall announce it soon.

The Dorling Kindersley No Dig book (English version) will be available from this website after 20th August, as signed copies. Publication date is 1st September.

24 thoughts on “August 2022 vegetable gardening, a second spring for sowings, watering tips, pest strategies, new publications

  1. Hi Charles,
    I took over a very neglected plot a few weeks ago. Hubby and I have been clearing rubbish and I plan to mulch and cover with black polythene 3 beds which I can plant up next year. Just waiting for some rain before I do this. Next year seems a long way off and I’m itching to get started and try growing something now. I’ve decided to prep a small bed, 15ft square with cardboard and compost and sow lettuce, spinach maybe beetroot and shard. I may even try a few cucumbers and courgettes just to see what happens. Any other suggestions?

    1. Sounds good Sandra. If you are UK I would not plant cucumbers now, even courgettes is hardly worth it. Follow my suggestions here, I wish you well.

  2. I think people resist no dig because they enjoy digging. It can be a very meditative activity and makes people feel productive and part of nature. It is telling that it was ill health that brought about a change in behaviour. Perhaps more should be made of the hard work that goes into spreading compost as a ‘mindful’ activity!

    1. Hi Susan
      This is interesting, however I see it in the opposite way. You touched a nerve in my brain!
      I don’t understand how anything can feel meditative, when it’s causing a lot of destruction to organisms and life. For me that feels a selfish way to define meditation because the person is feeling only their own state, in disconnection from nature. And then they wonder why so much time is needed for weeding, as nature corrects the damage. Or perhaps they just think it’s normal, or are not thinking about it!
      And I would say that spreading compost is not hard work because it is a true meditative action, enhancing life.
      Furthermore, if people who dig do not use compost, then they are resorting to synthetic fertilisers which kill even more soil organisms – see the recent reports from Rothamsted. And my trial results here show that no dig needs less compost per kilogram of food produced, than when soil is dug.

  3. Great to hear the cookbook will be available in November. I attended one of your no dig courses last year and the lunchtime food was fantastic. Looking forward to buying the book.

  4. Tremendously informative stuff, thank you Charles. Melon advice could not have come at a better time: we really don’t need our 12×6 greenhouse totally full of tomatoes, so I shall definitely have a go next year with melons.
    Comparing composts: I’ve been very happy with my present go-to compost which is Dobbies peat-free. Used in first in 2021: very good results; again this year: the compost is quite different, but still very good. I am assuming that this is largely Scottish green waste. By the way, I have NO axe to grind for that supplier: it just happens to be a nearby place to go. For my autumn mulching I shall use my own compost (covered since February) and one or two delivered big bags for the new areas.
    Question: multi-sown onions (Bedfordshire Champion), leaves still green but bent over (by themselves). Any point in giving them another week of growth and water in Norfolk, or lift them now? (I lifted my big onions from sets a couple of weeks ago and put in beetroot and beans.) I want to get the last beetroot planted out, also kale at present in modules. Shall be sowing everything with a Chinese name plus spinach this next week.
    Fed up with flimsy modules. Transparent green ones a bit tougher, but shall definitely get some of yours in the late winter!
    I like the idea of 3rd Nov no-dig day. I hope it will have rained by then…

    1. Hi Alan
      You sound well organised. For the onions, I reckon if they have fallen over, they will not grow much more so I would pull them. Another time, do you have an option to interplant beetroot or kale between them.
      Thanks for your feedback on the compost and I’m pleasantly surprised! I’ve had a comment elsewhere yesterday about weedkiller contamination in Jack’s magic, it’s shocking.

  5. Hi Charles, I’m wondering about making more use of undercover – unheated greenhouse – over the winter in Norway, latitude similar to Wick, but climate better (remarkably enough!). Any thoughts on what would be good to sow now for overwintering? I’m going for spinach, lettuce, rocket, chard, spring onions, land cress – Yen from Apple Acres in Denmark has been instructive on her Instagram feed, and your Winter Vegetables book, but I’m thinking specifically about under cover. Many thanks!

    1. Hi Helen
      All those are good options, maybe mustards too. I wish you healthy winter greens.
      Lettuce depends on variety, I like batavian types for winter.

  6. I have an ongoing three year no-dig trial on my allotment going, which started out as an absolute jungle. I’ve noted each year what will and won’t grow and a few lessons are instructive:

    1 . First year reliables are: potatoes, squash (particularly if you have composted with horse manure); leeks, winter radish, broad beans. It was possible to grow some beetroot, some dwarf bean but onions and shallots were relatively poor. Attempts to plant out brassicas failed universally – they were always eaten pretty instantly by some pest or other.
    2. In the second year, successful additions included garlic, celery, celeriac, June-sown maincrop carrot, a dwarf bean for storage termed Yin-Yang by Real Seeds, beetroot; onions and shallots improved significantly, but were still rather average by no-dig standards. An outdoor cucumber strain was prolific, being left to wander like a squash plant. I got a brussels sprout plant to reach term, I grew some fennel successfully as well as a few swede. Autumn turnips did brilliantly but trying to sow winter radish in late August (moon cycles and all that) proved unsuccessful – pay heed to Charles’ suggestions above for sowing times.
    3. This third year, all over-wintered crops did beautifully, most notably the garlic and broad beans (Aquadulce Claudia); a second sowing of Broad Bean transplanted out in February was equally successful; the onions have improved markedly and are now a reasonable harvest, although a high failure rate of clumps transplanted in mid-March occurred (they were replaced in mid-April to give a good, but smaller harvest); the Boltardy beetroots were perfect and some Kohlrabi and impressive spring turnip were also harvested. The second early potatoes have suffered due to the extreme lack of water, meaning we could not water at all in July as they would have benefitted from it, but still a reasonable Shetland Black and Charlotte harvest has been secured. April-sown carrots have succeeded, although March sowings still failed. The berry and currant bushes, discovered in the jungle and transplanted to dedicated sites, provided their first good harvests 30 months after transplantation and a couple of pruning cycles. Tomatoes have already been harvested from the soil (Maskotka cherries), with the deepest red colour I have ever seen from soil-sown tomatoes. Sweetcorn is doing very well and will harvest soon. Courgettes have harvested but are now struggling in the drought. Filderkraut and Winter King cabbages are healthily established but will need plenty of rain to thrive.

    Interestingly, I tried planting out a chilli plant close to a small patch of Yarrow and the plant has grown during the heatwave under the cover of over-hanging yarrow shoots. It is now covered in small green chillis, so we shall see what we get from that.

    Things which still failed in year three were: early parsnip sowings; later spring turnip sowings (too much drought and heat).

    Trying to sow/transplant in mid-March, even with fleece, seems to be very hit and miss here in NW London, unless you are growing radish and early spring turnip. I wait until the end of March before transplanting Boltardy beetroot and they are still all harvested before the end of June.

    It seems to me that some vegetables are more fussy about soil conditions than others and thus, if you inherit a jungle or a dead plot, you may do best being cautious and conservative in Year 1, allowing the soil time to stabilise and incorporate added organic matter, before trying to grow winter greats like Celeriac, parsnip, carrot and onions.

    The least fussy in my experience are potatoes, leek and winter squash, as long as they have had 5cm of manure/compost put on top of the soil prior to starting the planting season.

    I am still regularly digging out horsetail, bindweed and a third unknown perennial weed, but overall, the nasty stuff is now under control.

  7. Dear Charles et al,
    On persuading people to change:- I have a friend with a glorious garden, and vegetables, and TWO gardeners. I have been banging on about the virtues of No Dig – to no avail. The gardeners knew best. My friend bought your books and gave them as Christmas presents. Nothing.

    But there has been a revolution! The main gardener’s wife read the book and was greatly impressed and converted to No Dig. Her husband confronted by her very successful vegetables at home is now a complete convert. Miracles are not ceased!

  8. Interesting to hear that you too have had issues with John Innes Sylvagrow from Melcourt. After decent success with their general purpose peat free Sylvagrow last year, I thought I might do even better if I bought the special John Innes formula seed compost for my seed sowing this year. Sadly not – I don’t have the experience to say why exactly but I had a lot of propagation failures and sad looking seedlings. I ended up mixing the last of the John Innes stuff into Sylvagrow multipurpose to use it up and was glad to see the back of it. On the plus side the multipurpose is cheaper and easier to get hold of (from our allotment shop who I like to support) so I’ll be saving money and effort next year by just sticking with that!

  9. Hi Charles and all,
    Just wanted to relate this story about how long it can take for no-dig to become accepted. I have been practising no dig principles on my allotment for at least a decade now. My fellow allotmenteers all remark on the beauty and abundance of my plot, and have also remained totally resistant to no-dig principles.

    This season, my allotment buddy has been in despair about her plot, as poor health has restricted her digging. I offered to convert a patch to no dig. In less than 90 minutes, I had prepared a plot and planted squashes, sweetcorn and sunflowers. That 90 minutes included a break for coffee and a gossip, and was mostly spent sourcing paving stones to secure the edges of the groundcover.

    She was amazed! So was another allotmenteer, who felt inspired by this amazing demonstration of no-dig principles. Will they take it on? Only time will tell. If only my adjacent neighbour would be similarly wowed…

    Best wishes, Beverley

    1. Fantastic. Hope it takes off. There’s 3 people doing no dig on my allotment now. One’s from S Africa.
      All the best for you.

    2. Hi Beverley
      What an amazing story! How can people resist something so obvious?!
      You did a wonderful thing there, ad thanks for sharing.

      1. HI,
        There is an amusing sequel to this. Yesterday I was chatting to the person who was inspired, who was reflecting on how this plot could develop. She said “that is so good! In the spring, she can just remove the groundcover and then it will be easy to dig….”

        Needless to say, I reminded her that this was a “no-dig” plan…

        1. This is revealing Beverley. Like there is a mass hypnosis thing going on, a strong archetype in the background, about digging being ‘the way’. From which people ‘escape’ only through some kind of strong desire, fuelled by knowledge. Just seeing is not enough, unfortunately, but you are sowing thought-seeds!

  10. Always inspiring ! Is the New Horizon compost the common one that is easy to buy ? There is such a compost at my local store, so I thought I would check !

  11. Nice post CD – you’ve been very busy! Do you have any particular varietal recommendations for the end of August sowings (cauli, onions, spring cabbage)?

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