New planting of beans after frost

December 2020 Bumper Blog prep for winter, new no dig beds and old sides, harvests, broad beans, energies

Autumn has continued very nicely here, as in my new video. November has been almost as mild as October, and less wet with a close-to-average 76mm/3in rain.

However winter is now arriving in the northern hemisphere. There are roots to harvest, ground to clear and tidy, soil to feed, and perhaps new beds to make. Stay busy in winter.

If you have not already, do get in touch with a local tree surgeon or arborist who can deliver you a load of wood chips. These can be used fresh, or better left to decompose for use later. They are an excellent source of fertility, without the worries of contamination caused by the frighteningly poisonous pyralid weedkillers. Scroll to the bottom of this post for more about them.

Spread compost autumn or spring?

You can do either, even sometimes in summer. My preference is for spreading compost at this time of year, as soon as beds come clear, and here are some reasons:

  • To feed soil organisms
  • Keep soil covered through winter months
  • By early spring, winter frost has softened lumps in compost
  • To save time in spring, with one job less to do then.

A downside may happen if the compost has many weed seeds, which can germinate if winter is mild, and then be hard to hoe in damp winter weather. Either pull them all, or use some thin cardboard in say late February.

Bed sides old bed

Wooden sided beds look fantastic for perhaps the first couple of years. After that as the wood decomposes, where touching damp compost, problems can begin. For example there are now perfect hiding places for slugs during the daytime. They eat at night when you are not there!

We made a video about removing wooden sides, and showing what I found. I was surprised how rotten the wood was, five-year-old treated timber from a builders yard. The photos show before and after and how I laid cardboard on the nearby grass. 

One advantage of sides to a bed is how they prevent or delay incursion of grass and weeds. Therefore if you don’t have sides, you need weed free paths.

See module 3 of online course 1, for details of this and how to lay out paths and beds, when starting out in particular.

Bed sides, new bed

World soil day is almost here, on 5th December. It’s organised by the FAO who want to highlight the value but also fragility of our soils, and how we can improve them. We are marking this day by collaborating with Kevin Espiritu of Epic Gardening in San Diego, California. 

Both of us are filming the making of a new bed, no dig and with compost, then we are editing the shared footage. Our idea is to compare and contrast our approaches and results, in two contrasting climates, using probably-different materials, and on different soils.

We filmed a zoom meeting before starting, and shall film another one just before the day. Both of us will edit the footage in our own way, and each will be released as distinct entities on our respective channels. Neither of us has tried something like this before, and I hope it creates good learning opportunities.

No dig success

I receive a lot of lovely testimonials, you can see many of them on this post. Just today a lovely one came from Australia, and thanks to all of you for encouraging feedback, which also encourages others.

“I have over the last 10 years attempted to garden with average results and over those six year I have read many gardening books and tried many methods. I even volunteer at a large market garden one day a week to gain as much knowledge as I can.  I am a builder by trade but my true passion is gardening. So to stumble across your books and channel 4 years ago blew me away to the point it gave me confidence to actually start a no dig garden. 4 years later starting with a few simple beds and bought compost we began.  So at present we have mapped our growing season while also always pushing the boundaries of the old must do’s and don’ts. We make all our own compost and currently have 20 x 10m beds all no dig organically gardened and grown.
So thank you again for inspiring change and self belief that it can be done.”

Winter weeds

Unless your winter is bitterly cold, which do not stop growing! Winter is actually a great opportunity to reduce with numbers and maintain the garden or plot in a tidy state, which means that it’s always ready in from early spring for new showings and plantings. In dark climates, this also means fewer slugs because weed leaves often hide those little grey fellows.

At least with No-Dig, weeds grow much less in the winter nonetheless it’s worth pulling any you see before they go to Seed. It’s also great therapy to be outside in full light full, I feel a lot better after any small sessions in the winter garden.

 

Broad beans

The word bean causes confusion because broad beans share it with say French beans. The former are hardy to frost, while the latter are definitely not! 

We sowed broad beans four weeks ago and transplanted them just before a very frosty night. I brought them straight out of the greenhouse with no hardening off, and they are sitting in the ground unprotected, and they are fine! You can cover them say with mesh or thermacrop, if worried about pests or winter winds. I describe more time-saving tips about propagation and other aspects of gardening in Online Course 2.

In the module trays, I did a compost comparison:

 

Homeacres harvest day

We currently do most of all picking on a Thursday, ahead of the weekend. At this time of year, I always hope that it’s not too frosty when we start! Last week there was just a light frost and we began by cutting radicchio (chicory) and Chinese cabbage in the shed, before moving out  to pick leaves in the polytunnel, and finally some outside. These included dill and chervil, super winter flavours especially chervil.

By 1 o’clock we are ready for a good lunch, and fortunately Kate who helps on Thursdays is an excellent cook. The eating part is what got me into growing four decades ago! For flavour, nutrition and that wonderful feeling of connection to the soil.

It’s only now that we are realising the value of soil microbes. Yet another reason to be no dig, for healthier microbes in both soil and gut.

Harvests & to store

If frosts are slight say -3 C 27F, many vegetables survive well including carrots, beetroot, celeriac and leeks. Bulb fennel however does not stand freezing well and I managed to harvest mine just before it would have been damaged. Then it keeps well in a cool shed for example, for up to three even four weeks.

Before our nights grow even colder I plan to harvest all the beetroot, leaving a little soil and compost on the roots. Next step is toplace them in crates in the shed. Edward and I made a video about such methods to harvest and store winter vegetables. It will be in online course three. There is already a storing vegetables video on YouTube.

 

Making compost see new video compost Q & A

Compost heaps in the winter do not get as hot, because of lower ambient temperatures and because there are less green materials to add. I should love to gain heat by adding some fresh horse manure from my neighbour Jenny, however I cannot risk that because of possible residues of aminopyralid / paranoid / paralysed!! (autocorrect).

The video has tips on adding weeds, on coping with rats, and how to set up a composting area.

Therefore heaps take longer to mature through the winter, and weed seeds may survive. Nonetheless it’s possible to make lovely compost in the cooler months, and we have recently been spreading some made a year ago. Also we turned a heap which was made in late summer.

Woody ingredients are good, and have resulted here in some delicious muchrooms amongst the celeriac. No dig allows mycelia of all sorts to spread and fruit.

Problems

Problems stand out! Therefore I find a tendency to ignore the good bits, in favour of worrying about the odd issue. 

Just at the moment, carrot root fly is more prevalent than I would like. And also we have a lot of great carrots! While there is canker on many parsnip shoulders, resulting from wet weather and heavy soil. Perhaps we should harvest them all now and store in boxes, but they would perhaps be less sweet, for freezing less!

Ground energies

I don’t believe everything taught in biodynamic gardening. I also definitely believe there are some really good bits as explained in Monty Waldin’s book. In particular I use the horn manure preparation to enliven soil, just before winter and just before spring.

This involves an hour of stirring the water to make vortices, which bring energy down into it. Next we distribute it all around the garden using a paintbrush to flick droplets of the energised water. 

This may all sound vague, however it also feels right to me. There is a lot in nature which we do not know or understand, and which we cannot measure. I have an issue with interpretations of ‘science’, which dismiss anything which ‘scientists’ cannot measure and quantify. 

Among other dangerous results, this takes feeling and love out of things we do. Science really should be about understanding nature, a much grander task than quantifying it/her, using the limited means currently available.

Translations

The international interest in my work is resulting in new translations, on both my own website, and for You Tube videos.  We have invested a lot into having all videos in Spanish, and many languages on other key videos.

Thanks for translations on this site, to

  • Spanish by Leslie Sirvent @un_huertito_en_patagonia on IG,
  • Anamarija Petkovik for translations to Serbian
  • Willemijn Lindeboom for a translation to Italian.

If you want to help by translating video subtitles to your language, we need to add them from an SRT file which you would email to [email protected]

We are also translating the Calendar to Spanish, for digital sale, but formatting has taken longer than I expected! Below is the English version available as double offer here and with my new book here, and as single here – also with my Diary on offer. An excellent Christmas present, to others and to yourself ❄️

Old wheat type, Emmer

One of our lovely course participants gave me some weight from South Devon. It’s an old type called black Emmer. I ground it up in my SAMAP electric stone mill, and made my no knead, sourdough bread it is delicious, and rose very nicely as well.

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80 thoughts on “December 2020 Bumper Blog prep for winter, new no dig beds and old sides, harvests, broad beans, energies

  1. Happy New Year Charles
    I’m just wondering if you can help with a problem of growing lettuce in the greenhouse in winter. I’d assumed they would be ‘bug’ free but they’re not. I have assorted lettuce, the tatsoi especially seem to have something laying eggs on the back of the leaves, the eggs seems to be brown. I think there is also whitefly in the greenhouse too that seems to be serving the cold conditions. I’m just wondering how you go on in the poly tunnels with your lettuce?

  2. Greetings from frozen lands. It’s time for garden planning in our climate – too cold and too much snow to do any work on the garden outside!
    I would like to plant broad beans this spring, but in the past few years the plants have had difficulties with fungus on the leaves, pods, and beans even though I live in a fairly dry climate and the garden location allows for cross breezes. Research suggests it’s something called “chocolate spot” fungus. I have figured out that spots on home saved seed will carry over to the next year’s planting, so I’ll need to buy new seed. Before I do, I’m wondering if you’ve had any such trouble on your broad beans as your climate is much more humid than mine. If so, how have you dealt with it?
    Many thanks. Heather

  3. Hi Charles, thanks as always for passing on all your knowledge . I nearly have all your books now! One question, I have access to a huge amount of 2 year old mulched bracken. I was going to use it for my veg garden bed paths as I don’t have wood chippings. But would it be ok to spread on the veg beds themselves or is it best to mix into the compost bins? I’m unclear as to whether bracken is actually good for the beds! Many thanks, Jane

    1. Thanks Jane, and yes I have not used bracken so far but if it is well decomposed, I see no reason not to use it as a mulch on beds. It is quite nutritious, so you are well placed to have access to a lot of it!

  4. Hello Charles,
    About 15 years ago I planted sprouted chickpeas and soya beans in a plot near Canterbury. I had heard of chickpeas being grown commercially in Devon or Cornwall at about that time. The chickpeas came to nothing but the fine, delicate leaves of the bush were attractive. The soya beans grew to the size of mung beans which I put fresh into salads until I grew tired of collecting them. This year I want to try again, on a plot I have in Ramsgate. I want to grow bushes because of the high winds here. Finally my questions, do you think the climate has changed enough to have more success and have you tried with favourable results? I know Kent isn’t Mexico but nothing wrong in trying a few plants. As Humphrey Bogart could have said to Ingrid Bergman at the end of ‘Casablanca’, “…we’ll always have the compost bin.”
    Happy Solstice,

    Michael.

    1. Nice to hear and yes the variety of soy bean Green Shell gives worthwhile results here.
      Edamame.
      Chickpeas and lentils are not productive in my experience. As you observe, they grow!

  5. Couch Grass..has over taken my allotment, deep rooted, the more i dig the more I see… I have tried with cardboards and woodchips on top..still they are very aggressive and no signs of disappearing . Any advice please. Kind Regards

    Sam

    1. Dug soil will continue to grow weeds like couch grass for a few months. All I can say though is if you are mulching thoroughly including pathways and under wooden sides, not just the beds, in other words the whole area covered, then the roots of couch must be weakening.
      Hang in there! And keep pulling, or lay more card on top

  6. Hi Charles,
    I have only started following your blog this year but have already improved my vegetable growing. Thank you for publishing such an informative blog and website.

    Unfortunately my tomatoes fell victim to weedkiller in grow bags this summer, at least that’s what I think it is as they looked exactly the same as the photos that you published with curling and yellowing new leaves and stunted growth.
    I contacted Corteva and manure matters as you suggested but the reply I had from Corteva was very disappointing to say the least. Initially they said that the grow bags I used (bord na mona Happy Tomato), “the compost does not contain animal manure only green waste, coir and forestry products, so it is not a route for potential herbicide contamination”.

    I replied to say that green waste is a known common route for contamination and received the following reply: “… green waste is not a source of aminopyralid contamination. It is not approved for use on lawns or turf so grass clippings are not going to be a consideration.

    “Our product labels for farmers also have very explicit instructions to only use on grassland that is grazed by cattle and sheep and not to use on pasture intended for hay or silage production. The labels state that under no circumstances should manure generated from animals fed on aminopyralid treated grass or forage be supplied to gardeners or allotment holder, or commercial compost producers, i.e. there must be no off-farm farm sale or supply.”

    Perhaps this is a mistake of mine in referring to aminopyralid (perhaps I used this term incorrectly, is aminopyralid a brand?). Not being a chemical scientist, I feel slightly annoyed that they have used the fact that I am a layperson and not an expert, to deflect my complaint.

    Anyway I thought you might be interested to know and perhaps we should refer to ‘pyralid’ contamination in future? I will be using Dalefoot from now on so hopefully will not experience this again.

    Thanks again, Jane

    1. Ah Jane I so agree, they hide behind misuse of or misunderstanding’s to do with words.
      Yes there is no aminopyralid in green waste compost, just clopyralid! Which got your tomatoes.
      Please email James Campbell [email protected] who negotiates with gov’t about this, and notices a lot of false claims!
      May I quote your experience in my writing or posts? Refer to Jane? Or Jane Cole? Or anon?

      1. Yes definitely quote my experience, happy to do anything to help put an end to this nightmare. I will email James Campbell, Thanks Charles

    2. Hi Jane,
      The reply you got is wrong! I asked Vitax whether their Lawn Clear Weed and Feed contained clopyralid. This was their reply:

      ‘Thank you for your enquiry. Our Lawn Clear Feed and Weed product does contain clopyralid, and the instructions for use give directions to thoroughly compost the initial grass cuttings (the first cuttings should ideally be left to fall onto the lawn and the next three mowings should be composted for at least 9 months) before considering utilising them as a compost mulch.’

      Clearly if green waste compost contains grass clippings send for recycling then it is perfectly possible for compost made from such material could be contaminated.

      Regards,

  7. Good Morning Charles
    It has been very wet in the North East lately and in the course of making some new raised beds I have been forced to work/trample on the area I wish to plant into. This was bare no dig soil/compost (weed free) that had previously held potatoes and is now very shiny and compact. Before applying fresh home made compost, do I need to fork the ground at all

    1. Roland, I would have grown something after the potatoes to keep soil in better condition. Such as autumn salads like rocket and Mizuna, or salad kale, whatever.
      I very very much doubt that your soil is ‘compacted’ and I very very much doubt that it will benefit from any kind of forking to ‘loosen, especially when it is so wet. You would actually damage the existing structure and it is shiny only on the surface.
      So add your compost and if you can find some woodchip for paths in just a thin 1 inch layer that will be good. Then the worms plus other soil life will sort things out for you underneath.

      1. Thanks for the reply Charles and I will follow your advice as usual. As for the wood chips, they are so hard to come by these days partly to do with the lock down but mostly I think, down to the ever increasing popularity of no dig!!
        Happy Growing

        1. Roland – one opportunistic way of getting woodchips is to notice if any neighbours are having big trees pollarded. Our neighbour was doing this back in October and I bartered with the tree surgeon team for them to dump the shredded wood onto our driveway for a small fee. I got about 6 cubic metres for £50 and still have plenty to put somewhere 3 months later.

  8. Science is all about measuring ‘endpoints’ at the end of the day, Charles. So the quality of science and scientists is ultimately about their ability to determine what the right endpoints to measure are.

    In my opinion, if I were setting about doing ‘science’ on ‘biodynamics’, the endpoints I would start looking at would be soil ecology i.e. can you see any differences in soil bacteria, fungi and other tiny species after a variety of timepoints after starting biodynamic treatments such as BD 500. I would suspect you would want to do a 7 year cycle of measurements before coming to any conclusions.

    The other critical element is actually whether you have already optimised soil ecology through other means i.e. if for example you added beneficial bacteria and fungi to the soil through adding small amounts of powders to seed compost when you sow seeds in modules. I do this every time I sow seeds in modules/tubs/small pots and so I am transplanting out healthy bacteria and fungi into my no dig soil each and every year, sometimes twice a year into the same spot. It may be that this can adequately replace some of what the traditional ‘biodynamic spraying’ does (which may well have resulted from the days when all sowing was done straight into the soil). I do use BD 500 twice a year at home and I actually did three treatments at my new allotment site in the past 12 months (October and November 2019 and March 2020).

    Things science should be able to do tests on with biodynamics:
    1. Comparing using horns of male and female cows when preparing BD500.
    2. Comparing burying BD500 and BD501 in March vs September.
    3. Comparing the effects of stirring in BD500 into water at 37C vs ambient temperature.
    4. Comparing spraying at sunrise, mid-day vs sunset.
    5. Comparing different dates of spraying BD500 (although this will doubtless depend on location, as spring arrives at different calendar dates in different places).

    Much of this may actually already have been done, it is just that the literature of biodynamics ‘research’ may not be as easily accessible as, say, traditional biology research (which can be accessed at any number of University libraries by those able to obtain permission to become a reader in such places).

    1. You are such a scientist Rhys!
      I don’t know if that work has been done. It looks interesting but would cost money to set up and problem is there is no likely return on that money.
      Keep well

      1. Charles

        Many is the historical tale of ‘basic research with no obvious commercial return’ being funded which turned out to create massive industries a decade or two later.

        One famous one is the basic research on creating antibodies in laboratories (so called ‘monoclonal antibodies’): the famed MRC Laboratory in Cambridge was the setting for that research initially carried out by Caesar Milstein et al, who fused leukaemia cells with antibody-producing cells to produce cell lines which lived forever and secreted one particular monoclonal antibody against one particular molecule. A generation later, Sir Greg Winter et al developed ways to make antibody proteins in bacteria, which along with protein manufacturing technology led to an industry for monoclonal antibody sales, both for research labs, for diagnostic purposes as well as for therapeutics.

        I suspect there is probably already a basic biodynamics research institute somewhere on earth (quite possibly in Switzerland or Germany or both), which is the sort of place which needs to carry out research on 10 year timelines. The way such places tend to work is that 67% of research will probably never have commercial applications, but 33% may well do and those that do may have sufficient revenue generating possibilities to endow such institutes in perpetuity if the commercial returns are used for endowment purposes.

        The MRC made £100m from just one licensing application of a particular monoclonal antibody technology after all. I would be surprised if the total return on monoclonal antibody technology over three technological generations for the MRC was less than £250m and if it turned out to be £1bn+, it would not surprise me.

        If one computes the value of fertilisers that farmers currently spend on their farms and says: ‘divide that by three to reach a win-win situation for a new biodynamic spraying industry which makes the suppliers money but saves the farmers shedloads’, you might get a first pass estimate of what the value of BD500, stirring technology at field-scale plus field sprayers might be, were they to completely replace chemical fertilisers.

  9. Hi Charles,
    Thanks for sharing so much information on your blog. I’m very keen to try no dig, having previously used double dig as a one-off to start no dig beds. I don’t fancy clearing an allotment on clay soil that way again, and I firmly believe that the right approach is to feed soil microbes to feed ourselves. This should be the future of agriculture generally! However, I’m a bit worried about the aminopyralid issues you have flagged up in bought compost / manure. There’s no way I can make the required amounts of organic matter from a standing start for some veg beds, so have to buy some in. Do you have any recommendations for avoiding the dreaded weedkillers please? If I can’t be reasonably sure of it the temptation is still there to double dig to get started.

    1. Yes Nick the pyralids are such a pain, almost as bad as digging. And you don’t have to use a huge amount of compost. I recommend it because it’s such a timesaver in the end.
      For a full size allotment you do need a fair amount but then you would also be harvesting huge amount, because using a lot of compost produces a lot of food, way more than double digging does.
      Therefore I would use your compost on a small area where you grow more food and cover the rest of the ground in black polythene to kill weeds and then say plant potatoes or squash through the polythene next spring, then after harvest you have clean soil and they just say 3 cm compost, once a year.

      1. Thanks Charles. Perhaps I’m being too precious, but I’m instinctively averse to covering the plot in polythene and then planting through that. Basically because I don’t want to up with storing lots of waste plastic or throwing that away. From a standing start now, I doubt we’d even have enough compost self-made for one small bed by spring. Is soil association certified compost reliable or are there any brands that have apparently been reliable so far?
        Nick

        1. Shame you can’t borrow my old polythene sheet! I agree with your thought on that.
          Moorland Gold is best organic approved compost, also New Leaf from Ireland

          1. Hi Charles, I have the same concerns about bought compost since you made me aware of the potential of weedkiller within it. I had looked at purchasing some of the Moorland Gold but none of the stockists near me have any and at £16.99 for a 40 Litre bag is rather expensive. I have a bay of home made compost that I hope will be ready in the early spring so that I will be able to use it. I am guessing that my bin of leaves will not be sufficiently broken down to use by then so I will probably have to supplement my home made compost with purchased compost. Given that I garden on clay I am considering Lakeland Gold or Wool Compost from Dalefoot Composts ( may be useful if we get another dry summer!) Have you used either of these in your trials? I have also used Puckamuck (shredded stable manure) made in Sussex and have had no problems but I am concerned that a stable manure could possibly be contaminated without the company knowing. What do you think?

          2. Yes Robert there is the chance of contamination, which makes life so difficult for us. The dalefoot is not actually much cheaper than moorland because the sacks are 30 L of fluffy material, compared to moorland’s 40 L of dense compost. I have had some issues with Dalefoot, because they did include manure this time last year, and now they do not anymore so it’s safe at least!

          3. Hi Charles, thanks for the info comparing Dalefoot and Moorland composts. Could you please advise as to the use of spent mushroom compost as an alternative? I have local suppliers of spent mushroom compost, one is made using chicken manure with shredded wheat straw, the other uses ‘farmyard manure’ and straw. Is one likely to be more beneficial that another? Could these also contain herbicides or are they likely to be clear?

  10. Hi Charles
    We have been ardent no dig followers of yours after moving back to the UK (from India where we had very little success growing vegetables) ten months ago and are enjoying great harvests even now in deepest darkest December. So first of all thank you.
    I have a specific question: we’ve just put up a large polytunnel and hope to start planting in it from February following your diary. It looks like we need to house our 12 chickens in it from 14th dec as there’s a government rule about keeping chickens under cover from then. I imagine they will enrich the soil there, but do you think it’s best to do the cardboard plus compost bed set up before we put the chickens in there or should we put them in there on the bare grass and then when they can go back outside create our cardboard plus compost beds? My concern about that is that the nutritious droppings will be under the cardboard so not really available to the plants at least for a while. On the other hand if we create the raised beds first (planning to do beds with no sides as you do) they might mess it all up and damage the cardboard. What would you recommend?
    Thanks so much
    Venetia

    1. Nice to hear this Venetia, well done.
      Fine to have the chickens in there, with no cardboard so they can scratch in the soil and disturb some grass and weed roots. You may then need a thin layer of cardboard only, depending how much compost you plan to put above it. Water well when making the beds so that the cardboard is moist, and your plantings will have access to the soil below within two months which is plenty of time.
      I think generally there is too much worry about plants not being able to root through the card because it does not last usually more than about three months.So it looks good from here.

  11. Hi Charles

    A great blog as ever thank you. I have just read your article in the latest Kitchen Garden on paths and was surprised and delighted to see a photo of our garden with its raised beds and gravel. I think it is one I sent you a few years back. The garden continues to thrive, thanks to your wisdom. During lockdown Neil finally managed to extend the narrow gauge railway through the middle. It now chugs around delivering grass cuttings etc to compost bins, compost to the beds and me to the summerhouse for a glass of wine! Happy days. Sue

    1. Hoe lovely to hear and yes it was your photo, I did write a credit, sounds like they maybe did not say?
      My word you are both organised there, deliveries to the compost heap by railway!!

      1. No worries at all about the credit. It was just a lovely surprise. Bizarrely for a few seconds I didn’t even realise it was our garden. My first thought was “oh look raised beds like ours”! The railway is fun and we are looking forward to the grandchildren being allowed to visit again for a ride. Merry Christmas from Tier 3!

  12. Hi Charles,
    Thanks for all your advice during 2020 though your Blog posts, videos and your calendar, which I purchased and has been invaluable. Thanks to you my gardening year has been most enjoyable, and during the pandemic has given me a real sense of satisfaction and purpose. Given that the year began with only one vegetable bed, prepared the previous winter, my wife and I have enjoyed food throughout the year. Even now, as the year draws to an end, with new beds created for next year already planted with garlic mustards, spinach, spring cabbage ad cauliflower, the original bed is still providing food. Parsnips, spinach, leeks, the last of the fennel, and cabbage, kale (Red Russian and Cavolo Nero) pak choi and Swiss chard, with the promise of purple stemmed broccoli and sprouts almost ready to harvest. My seed has been purchased and once again your advice on varieties has been followed. A heated propagator on my Christmas list I am sure will be invaluable (and will mean the upstairs rooms of the house will not be so full os seed trays etc (and if the current restrictions end may even have family visitors able to get into them when they can stay again!) No dig is most certainly the best way to give plants what they need as well as providing a less labour intensive way to grow wonderful fresh, healthy food. I really can’t thank you enough.

    1. Hi Rob, how nice of you to write and my heart is warmed to read it. What wonderful harvests, and you are up to speed with new plantings.
      Let’s hope that more people discover the great no dig news and productive, easier gardening in 2021, we shall need the positives!

  13. Hi Charles,
    Thankyou for your videos, blogs, website and advice, I am completely hooked on your methods and have been for some years with fabulous success.
    In your 2021 Calendar your advice for December/January is to not sew seedlings.
    I have a made an electric heated seed table in my polytunnel, is there anything I can plant to give an even earlier start in these months?
    Kindest regards
    Lee

    1. Thanks Lee, nice to hear.
      Anything you sow before February (with successful propagation) then meets cool and dark times outside after planting.
      Later sowings often catch up and overtake.
      Hence my advice, you can sow… but is it worth the time and effort. Your call!
      Maybe just the giant onions for show, on boxing day, such as Robinsons Mammoth Improved.

  14. Hi Charles,
    Doesnt look as though my comment has appeared!
    Thanks for the usual informative post – very interesting and helpful.
    I have a bit of a problem with my parsnips this year. They have tenticles everywhere! Look more like octopus than parsnips! The odd one ok but most not. I am using them but there is a lot of prep involved.
    Would it be to do with the dry spring that we had?
    I have gardened using the no dig method for about 4 years. Last year they were fine.
    Any information would be gratefully received.
    Mary

    1. I did reply to this comment Mary, sorry it’s not visible.
      I wonder if it may be seed quality. The dry spring should not result in that!

  15. Hi Charles and thanks for the latest news. I have been gorging on your videos during the latest lockdown and have a question. I notice you use a lot of polystyrene module trays for sowing and wondered where you got them from. I have scoured the internet but don’t seem to be able to find a supplier. Your advice would be most welcome. Best wishes for the coming festive season, hope we can back to something like normal in the New Year.

    1. Thanks Alan and they are old, and not made any more.
      They work well.
      I have just designed a seedling tray with Containerwise, available by Christmas. Of recycled polypropylene, shall let you all know.

  16. Thank you Charles, helps us be more self sufficient, growing our own food and this is a great deal of happiness!☺️

  17. Hi Charles, Many thanks for your informative December blog. Its always really helpful.
    I have a question about my parsnips. They germinated and appeared to grow well but may of them have tenticles all over them! It makes them very difficult to prepare in the kitchen!
    Would it have anything to do with the dry spring that we had?
    I know old gardeners would say the soil was too rich but they were perfect last year. I have been following no dig for about 4 years now with great results thank you!

    1. Thanks Mary and I am unsure.
      If it was the same variety, same soil type and sowing date, then it must be to do with weather.
      Or perhaps if not an F1 variety, it could be seed maintenance, varietal degradation.
      So many factors 🙂

  18. Hola Charles, recién estoy entrando a tu blog, estoy interesada en comprar el curso de la oferta especial, pero como puedes darte cuenta, mi idioma es español y me gustaría saber si en tu página puedo tener la opción de la traducción a mi idioma. Estoy encantada con tu blog, he pasado horas leyendo y estoy ganchada. Todo tu contenido es tan interesante y de una calidad increíble. Muchas gracias. Espero la respuesta. Lourdes

    1. Hola Lourdes y no hay opción para que el contenido del curso se traduzca al español. Sería un proceso largo y costoso. ¡La traducción al francés le llevó a Alex mucho tiempo!
      Lo siento, no puedo ayudar, y estoy feliz de que lean las páginas web. Todos mis videos ahora tienen subtítulos en español.

  19. Hello Charles,

    Thank you so much for all the information you create! I love watching your Youtube channel and learning about no dig. Your video’s are very informative and also very calming. I love seeing how green and beautiful Homeacres is. I am from Australia where it is very dry.

    I am currently collecting enough cardboard to start my vegetable garden. I have been battling Kikuyu grass getting into all my garden beds. Planning on experimenting using cardboard then wood chips to create paths and edges. You mentioned edging takes up some time for you in one of your videos.

    Thank you again for your hard work sharing your knowledge.

    Damien

    1. Nice to hear Damien. Yes your dryness is different to here, and kikuyu sounds more aggressive than couch grass, yet I am sure you can eliminate it in the middle.
      Edges are indeed the thing to watch!

  20. Hi Charles, after a year of following your excellent advice I have managed to produce a decent enough compost for covering my raised beds this winter. However, I have hit upon the idea of sprinkling any kitchen veg scraps in the chicken pen and collecting up any that the hens don’t eat to put in the compost bin. The idea being that there will be an amount of chicken poo to help the composting process. Is there a limit to how much hen manure you should used in compost making?

  21. Excellent blog very helpful and informative for a novice gardener. I’ve started covering my overgrown borders with cardboard and woochips this year and for the first time I ve made some impact on the dense ivy that’s taken hold everywhere..

  22. Hello Charles, I always enjoy reading your posts when they come out.

    I’ve spread ‘well rotted manure’ (not as well rotted as I would’ve liked) and homemade compost on my beds. I’ve covered them all with cardboard to stop any weed growth (none there at present) and cats digging holes. Is it better if possible to leave it uncovered and let the frost break some harder bits? or will it do just as well with the card allowing the microbes and worms to get to work in peace?

    Any help would be much appreciated.

    1. Thanks Anthony and either is fine.
      I would prefer open to air, for fewer slugs and frost breaking lumps, but covered is good too.

  23. Hi My bedtime reading is Merlin Sheldrakes book Entangled lives-(it has also been featured as book of the week last week Radio 4 @ 9.45). It is like a sci-fi read-unbelievable what is happening in our soil and all around us! I ve been enthralled reading it and don’t ever want to disturb the soil more than absolutely necessary ever again! Fungi are not only the gardeners friend and ally they also give us hope to clear up our mess in the environment. It really helps make even more sense of “no dig” philosophy! Always enjoy your monthly advice. Many thanks Charles.
    Regards
    Jean

  24. I’m interested to know how wide your paths are between your beds.

    I have had to adopt no dig because of problems with my back as I didn’t want to give up my allotment. I had 2 tonnes of spent mushroom compost delivered and I have been gradually mulching all my beds. Unfortunately, I just cannot make enough home made compost, although my dear husband does compost everything he can. We have 3 compost bins but the ‘dalek’ type. We also have 2 at home as well. I won’t need all of the 2 tonnes and as it is in bags, the rest will be kept with some going on the flower beds at home.

    1. Sounds good Sharon.
      You will need much less compost going forwards.
      A good path width is around15-16in, just under 40cm, no wooden sides.

  25. We’re really just starting out with no dig – I grew tomatoes from slices last year in our first no dig bed in a poly tunnel (and today I’m making green tomato chutney with those I harvested when clearing the bed for winter). I have just added another bed to the poly tunnel but want some outside for spring and I’m trying to make compost for those. So far I just have one of those black plastic compost bins and after watching your videos, that’s now nice & layered with green & brown materials so hopefully it’ll be useable by spring? I intend to build some compost bays out if pallets to turn it into. We also had a delivery of fresh cow manure from the local farmer in the summer in return for our hay- We covered it with black polythene & have left it be (it was very fresh!). Is there anything I should be doing to make it compost ready? I don’t have any cow horns – and I would need hundreds to fill & bury! Anyway, I’m loving reading, watching & learning from all your no dig materials & your diary is on my Christmas list along with a compost thermometer & a shredder! We are starting from a position of complete ignorance having never gardened or even had a garden before – but having moved to central France, with the potential to create a good size potager, We are determined to make the most of it!

    1. All sounds good Nadine and nice you have space + manure.
      The horn is just for a biodynamic preparation – best google that to see it explained. Your heap will be fine to use from now i expect.

  26. On the subject of composting I am trying out the bokashi method and was wondering if you have tried it Charles? I have incorporated all my garden and kitchen waste with our home produced horse manure and added friendly bacteria, seashell grit and Edasil clay granules. It is now covered up and apparently should be ready to go in 10 weeks! Ridiculously excited.
    Thanks for so much brilliant information and inspiration.

    1. Not my thing Heidi,, I don’t like how they want you to keep buying EM, and that it’s often dug into soil, and is anaerobic.
      However I wish you success, do keep us posted.

    2. I have made bokashi with home made Lactic Acid Bacteria (found in whey, sauerkraut, curdled milk) in buckets. It’ s great if you have to compost bones, fat or other plate scrapings that might attract rodents in the bin(our Christmas turkey carcass was composted this way). After fermentation you add it to your compost bin.
      But I think you are referring to EM compost. Once you have the bacteria going you should not need to buy more! Obviously, as long as you feed them. I have tried it and have also been very impressed with this kind of compost. I treat it as a “starter” similar to sourdough, keeping a little of the previous heap to inoculate the new one.

  27. My buckwheat has been zapped too. What will you be putting in the now vacated space of your buckwheat bed? Compost?

    I tried some shallots interplanted with the buckwheat. Not sure how well they will do as they were planted so late.
    Suella

    1. I think your shallotts will be fine because the old saying is to plant them on the shortest day.
      Yes buckwheat does not like Frost! Those beds will now stay simply most with compost until early spring.

  28. Bread looks lovely. Couldn’t find an electric mill for sale, but the manual ones look to be identical in working to archaeological ones.
    Luckily I can get a range of BD produced flours from my local BD farm 7 minutes from my door. Hungary Lane Farm at Sutton Bonington Notts.

  29. Hi Charles
    Thanks for the wonderful info on all food growing.
    I didn’t sow any broad ben’s is it too late?
    Is there any where I can buy some already sown?
    Should I sacrifice my underdeveloped cauliflowers as they are amongst the weeds?
    How can we deal with weeds around perennial plants ie sage, rosemary, lavender?

    1. Thanks, and yes you can sow broad beans now, preferably under cover, say germinate them in your house.
      I don’t know who might be selling broad bean plants.
      For your cauliflowers that is hard to say without seeing how developed they are.
      As with your perennial plants, you could try putting cardboard down around them, so that the weeds die underneath it. You just need to pull the weeds close to each plant, where the cardboard cannot cover every weed. To hold the cardboard down, place just a little compost on top.

  30. Hi Charles ,
    Many thanks for your excellent information on aminopyralids , l was victim of these through using composted horse manure from a garden centre .
    Now l am totally home composting.
    I have been offered a huge pile of Xmas tree shreddings that has been standing outside for a year.
    I was going to use it for my bed paths but wonder if you would advise using as a mulch or mixing with green waste to compost ?.

    1. If it’s a year old, it probably has started decomposing already, which is good! Some people claim that adding a lot of shredded conifers makes your compost acidic, but I never had problems with that (because I mix materials?) I tend to dust my compost with some lime whenever I add a lots of shredded fir or spruce, just to make sure it does not become too acidic.

  31. Charles,

    Can you say something about the ‘home made’ compost you planted your broad beans in?

    Given that its one of the last areas where its difficult to easily get peat free composts it would be very helpful

    1. I describe it a lot in other posts and show photos too.
      Is dense, and a year old.
      Not ideal for potting and the broad beans show that. Yes it’s hard to find reliable compost.

  32. As a the owner of a new allotment, your YouTube channel and this blog has helped wonders with progressing.
    Looking forward to seeing the video in regards to the new bed you are building 🙂

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