December ’18 update: winter salads, trials results, make compost, Charles’ award
14th December, my last blog/update of the year, and until late January. Plenty to read and digest here, and I shall send another newsletter in early January.
I hope you enjoy the new website. We have reorganised it a lot, so for existing users it may take a while to find a few things. Just now the forum needs more work and is out of action until Weds 19th December
Thanks for your interest this year, I hope that harvests are good. I have enjoyed wonderful results in 2018, both in the no dig garden and in my teaching work. Keep an eye out for my new online course, which I am creating now for release by February.
A mostly mild autumn and just enough rain (soil is still dry at lower levels) means that winter veg are looking superb. All of these photos show second crops, for example we interplant Brussels sprouts between carrots in June.
No dig makes successional cropping much easier – no soil prep and no extra feeding, just clear and plant. Keep my calendar of sowing dates on the wall to remind you next spring, summer and autumn, and invest in some propagation equipment to extend your season.
Feedback on the calendar from Derek in Lancs:
I have just received my calendar for 2019, it is absolutely brilliant: so many helpful dates and the photography is very professional
See also my interview in the Guardian about winter vegetables and how to keep supplies coming.
Heaps get hot when new material is added in sufficient quantity. Small Dalek bins with occasional additions may never go above 30-40C, and in winter less.
If your compost does heap does not become hot, it will decompose more slowly and in a more fungal way, which is fine, just won’t kill weed seeds! More advice is here.
See the profile of 9 month old horse manure, and the temperature of Homeacres current heap, almost 60C since we are loading a lot of green wastes and trimmings.
My award, and our earthworm allies
I was thrilled to receive this award at the Garden Media Guilds ceremony, feel it’s an acknowledgement of my mission to educate gardens and growers in easier and more ecological ways to grow plants. Thus to encourage more homegrown food. And to appreciate earthworms, among other wonderful organisms under our feet.
Recently I took an assembly and classes at Chilcompton primary school, about growing veg and making compost. The children loved it and I found it heartwarming to see their enthusiasm, plus all the great work in that direction by teachers and volunteers.
Germany and selling veg
I found it fascinating to see Germany and to meet firstly many students at Kassel University, then gardeners from all around Europe in Weinheim. The latter talk was arranged by Felix Hofmann who worked a semester here in 2016, and now runs his own no dig market garden, selling 50 CSA shares.
I heard that it’s easier to sell CSA shares in Germany, than in the UK. Here I find that vegetables are not exactly over-valued or much used, compared to many countries in mainland Europe. Felix and the guys from Krautgaart are making a living off less than an acre of land, no dig.
Dark afternoons now lighter!
It’s so dark, however after 14th December the afternoons start to draw out! Mornings draw in faster until the solstice, hence the day length decreases for another week.
Steph and I have some epic picking days at this time of year: leaves are smaller so it takes longer, and orders are consistently strong. Mild weather has meant strong new growth, relative to the dark season.
Courses at Homeacres
Our last course of 2018 on a windy weekend went really well, another group of fascinating people, and they sure appreciated Steph’s super food, including a spicy salad of raw parsnips and peanuts.
One thing we discussed was biodegradable packaging and I brought out two sealed salad bags which had been 11 days in the fridge. Leaves in polythene looked almost 100% fresh but the ones in a biodegradable bag were wilting.
I love coriander at this time of year: it thrives in mild winters, as does chervil.
The small garden continues to impress too.
My least favourite job of the year is finished, digging one bed.
Such a great vegetable for autumn and early winter: see my video for more details.
We just trimmed the last hearts which I stored with roots on for three weeks.
Celeriac and potatoes in the soil, or not
Some gardeners ask, why not just keep root veg in the ground until needed? In theory you can… but here are some pitfalls and reasons not to, depending on your soil and climate:
- pests eating them
- rots such as canker on parsnips and from septoria on celeriac
- frosts of say -4C or colder damaging roots above ground such as beetroot
- ease of access, the food is store
Clearing and mulching
Question: I am regenerating a vegetable patch in my garden. I have covered the area with a thick layer of horse manure and covered with black plastic. My question was whether i should leave the plastic over winter or remove to allow the weather?
Charles’ answer: Why cover with plastic? Few weeds grow in winter + best allow water to seep through and wet the soil which is still partly dry. Maybe cover in spring if you have much bindweed… but planting is easier without it.
As the year comes to an end, here is Homeacres in December. Climate zone 8b, December mean temperature so far is 8C/46F (average 5C) and year looks to be 11.2C (average 10.5C)