December 2018 advantages of no dig, harvests for winter, trial results, compost heaps
Autumn ends, and it’s been a great season here for rich harvests with more to come. No dig helps so much, for two special reasons this autumn and one as we come into winter:
- moisture retention in dry conditions: only recently has the soil become moist to any depth. Organic matter on the surface soaks up every rainfall and holds it where plants most like to root, near to air.
- few weeds germinate thanks to soil not being disturbed, a huge timesaver. I noticed on a molehill the profusion of new weeds germinating on exposed soil, compared to my paths and beds all spotless.
- now that we suddenly have a lot of rain, one appreciates the excellent drainage of no dig, the ability to access a garden in any weather, and to harvest root vegetables without lots of sticky mud to clean off.
These repay the time you spend making a nice garden, and the investment mainly in compost: keep sowing and planting all summer. Summer sowings need careful timing so my 2019 Calendar and perennial Diary will help you there, plus we are running an offer for both together. You can ask for a dedication when buying any book. I am also selling Steph’s Creative Kitchen, so useful to make more of harvests all year long: or buy dedicated copies from her site.
Homeacres garden shows the results of keeping beds full throughout the growing season, all without any new application of compost or other fertility. Only now are beds emptying, then we apply the annual 4-5cm compost, and some composted (not fresh) woodchips or shavings on the paths, just a narrow band.
Comparison of forking/no dig and different composts
This trial is in it’s fifth year (2018 photos above) and I attach results of 2018 harvests so far. Plus this link takes you to a description of how the trial works, with tables of the harvests of 2014-17.
The two main things I notice from working with the different strips, are
- vegetables on the forked strip often look similar, but weigh less
- vegetables on the strip with cow manure compost sometimes look larger, but have more pest damage.
All harvests are graded for sale, so the weights do not include damaged leaves or roots. All beds produce two crops each year, so strip 1 is now planted with salads for winter, which go in as soon as possible after we remove the climbing bean plants, spread compost and fork the bed of strip 1.
Compost is spread once a year in autumn, 5cm/2in deep. See the photos above and in my October updates.
Beetroot and celeriac harvests
No rush on these as they tolerate some frost, especially celeriac. I reckon to harvest most of them by mid December, to crates in the shed, mainly because we can then mulch the beds.
We eat small roots first, and the larger ones store until March or April. Photos show the dig/no dig harvests, see below:
More trial results
Trial, comparison, experiment? It’s not “scientific” but this trial is always full of interest. It’s to assess growth and harvests of the same veg in the same soil, except that one bed is dug and it’s compost incorporated. Find more details here and a video here.
The photo shows this year’s results, almost complete except for a little Kaibroc. I have not had time to add the totals and am happy to hear anyone’s addition!
A great winter job, as long as you can find the materials. There is less green matter now so there may not be enough heat to kill weed seeds, however if you have access to fresh manure and coffee grounds, they bring heat.
Every garden is different and for the quantities I make and the uses I need it for – vegetables of the highest quality – just one turn of the heap works well. This heap was only 8-14 weeks old at the time of turning, and warmed to 60C after the turn. We can use it by Christmas, or it would not hurt to be spread in spring, say in the polytunnel after clearing winter salads in May.
This heap maintained a steady 60-70C during its build and since then has been 60 then 50C.
Radicchios have grown so well this year and we harvested their lovely hearts last week, for use in salad bags until Christmas. On some plants we pulled rather than cut, to harvest their rootball as well, then put this in a shallow crate lined with polythene. If it turned really frosty in December, they could stay in a shed like that. Meanwhile we have spread compost on the beds.
Salad harvests and a toad
Homeacres leaves are now half from outside, half from new plantings undercover. Growth in November of the new polytunnel and greenhouse plantings has been exuberant, but on today’s pick we noticed the first infestation of mildew on older leaves, since the weather turned dull and damper.
For bread lovers, this episode of Farmerama should please you