Brussels sprouts Christmas, sown May no dig

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.

Outdoor veg

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.

Compost making

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.

Check this paper for insights on the amazing work of earthworms, and this earthworm podcast gives similar information in a humorous way.

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.

Trial beds

My least favourite job of the year is finished, digging one bed.

Trial results this year are more different than usual, and this recent video shows the remarkable differences between infiltration of water between the two beds.


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)


25 thoughts on “December ’18 update: winter salads, trials results, make compost, Charles’ award

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  4. love your expertise and passion! I have eased into no-till a little bit at a time. my problem here in upstate New York,USA, is invasive tree roots on the perimeter of my garden. I usually dig areas of root involvement (deeply) as the roots will suck the water from the soil and become somewhat dominant. unfortunately, the maple trees are not on my land. how have you handled tree root invasion?

    1. Doug I am sorry to hear this because it’s a problem I have no answer to.
      Even when you dig along the perimeter, they can go deeper then come up.
      All the best, Charles

  5. Hello Charles,
    I’m a newcomer to the fold and to producing my own vegetables. I’ve prepared my veg plot and have mulched most of it, also re-arranged my small greenhouse. I think it will be more productive now. And constructed a compost heap. Just want to thank you for sharing what it took you years to find out. Also for your YT videos, so informative. I’m looking forward to next season and a little birdie told me I may be getting a copy of your Diary for Christmas, I can’t wait! Hope you have a blessed Christmas and a blessed New Year. Linda

  6. Hi Charles!
    Have had to re-register as email address not recognised by new site (have used same email though).
    All the best for the season and especially for the next growing season to you and all who follow no-dig!
    Jane (Gardenersdelight)

  7. As always, an inspiration to see your photos & read the details of what’s planted when. You’ll be glad to know that your November course alumni have a whatsapp group where we’re discussing everything from growing black garlic to putting up polytunnels 😊🌱🌈

  8. New website is lovely! Having been used to the old one I didn’t find it too difficult navigating. Lots to enjoy in this latest and last of the year update! Many thanks Charles and team! 🌱💚🙏

  9. Thank you so much for your YT videos and your news letters on No dig gardening! It is enlightening to see another approach to gardening. I have applied your techniques to my own gardening adventures with great results!
    I have also found your F/B page to be enlightening and hear from gardeners all over the world! AMAZING!
    I love your new website as well, easy to navigate.

  10. Thank you as ever, Charles for all your hard work and sharing so much knowledge. Your recognition is so well deserved and timely. Do you think the pioneers in Agriculture will have the same successes eventually ?

    1. Yes Julia although it’s different and more difficult because of commercial pressures, everything gets confused when economics is involved

      1. Julia,
        Can you please name some of the pioneers in Ag you referred to? I’d like to learn more. My husband is a conventional farmer here in Texas and we are interested in using Charles’ methods on a broader scale. We have always practiced no or minimum tillage, we use chicken manure and compost teas, we even ionize the water (which only seems to make a difference during drought conditions, but then it is a big difference). However, we are still very dependent on conventional methods. Partly because our conditions are very poor, partly because we have to farm many acres to make a crop in here. (We’re in northwest Texas. Very dry, extreme temperatures. Poor soil and water.) We grow cotton and wheat, along with some oats, sorghum hay, and alfalfa. Occasionally canola. We’ve experimented with other crops, like milo and soybeans, without success. We battle an extreme feral hog population that would make Charles’ slug problem seem like small potatoes indeed! The deer are prolific. We live very rurally and living off of vegetable production isn’t likely. At least not with a small scale garden market.

        1. Anna hello, just to say how in awe I am of what you are achieving in such difficult circumstances.
          There was an Australian biodynamic farmer with a name like podovski who succeeded in dry conditions. And Joel Salatin’s mob grazing would help but it sounds you have no animals. Allan Savory is another to check out, for system management partly.
          Interesting about the ionised water.

  11. Your garden and produce look fantastic as always, very interested in the online course you mentioned as work commitments mean that I never seem to be able to attend a day course that you provide.

  12. Charles well done. A fantastic website that I look forward to seeing.

    Your sprouts look fantastic.
    How do you keep whitefly away………my Tuscan Kale are plastered with them.
    Have a great 2019

    1. Cheers John, and whitefly diminish when plants have sufficient moisture. Compost mulch + I watered them even in October & mostly in autumn

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