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.
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.
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.
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.
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.