July 2018 watering, trial harvests, clear and replant, compost comparisons, no dig carrots
It’s a drought: June was the driest month I ever recorded, just 4mm/0.2in rain, with a lot of sun and dry breezes. At least with no dig you have roots able to access extra moisture through teaming with the mycorrhizal network of fungi. Fungal threads can extract water from crevices which roots are too big to enter. Hence the success of my unwatered onions, below. They would be bigger bulbs if I had watered but I am happy with the result, and can use the (purchased mains) water on more needy veg like salads and new plantings.
It feels like everything would benefit, and there is insufficient water (and time)! At Homeacres we water with a hose or cans: lettuce, peas that are cropping (almost finished now), French beans flowering & close to harvest, new plantings, beetroot that I want to swell, potatoes within 10-4 days of harvest, courgettes and celery. Not celeriac yet but it looks sad, as do squash plants every afternoon. If I had more water and the time to apply it, we would water more.
We do it all by hand for economy with the water, and at any time of day based on when we have time. You can water in bright sunlight, as need arises, for example when busy with other jobs in the morning time or evening.
Module trays need watering twice daily, it’s mad compared to the usual routine. And there is NO potato blight, repeat none, in weather like this. Yet I hear of allotment committees recommending to spray – that is awful advice and poisonous to the environment.
Veg that need water most, above all lettuce
Lettuce struggle to grow at all in high temperatures (say 29C/85F and over. If they are short of moisture, you risk losing them, since they are mostly water. In the UK we are heading for salad shortages so make every effort to grow your own.
Veg we are currently not watering, or very little
Other factors in watering
Soil type makes a huge difference: clay and silt hold moisture, but stony, chalky and above all sandy soils do not hold so much. They need extra organic matter and extra watering.
Hedges and trees suck a lot of moisture. Prune nearby hedges if they belong to you, so they transpire less and draw less moisture from the surrounding area.
Mulches of undecomposed organic matter reduce soil evaporation. Normally I shun these for fear of increasing slug habitat, however this year is different!
Dig/no dig comparison beds
The fascination continues, every year is different.
In 2018 onions and potatoes are stronger on dig, while lettuce, spinach, beetroot, peas, carrots, cabbage and kohlrabi all gave and are giving heavier harvests on mo dig. Last year onions were bigger on no dig.
Potatoes so far are as below, with two plants of Gourmande still to pull. The six Casablanca (from Delfland Nurseries) on each bed have been high yielding with close to 2kg per plant. We pulled (not dug!) a potato plant from each bed over a ten day period and these are the kg harvests, with dig bed first:
16.6 1.52 1.48
19.6 1.93 1.63
21.6 1.88 1.52
24.6 2.07 2.08
25.6 2.40 1.82
27.6 2. 66 2.13
TOTAL Dig 12.46kg/27.5lb No dig 10.66kg/23.5lb
OTHER VEG Dig 9.58kg/21.1lb No dig 18.17kg/ 40lb
Sowing, planting – two different things
Moisture permitting, you can sow kale, savoy cabbage including Tundra, dwarf French beans in warmer areas (crop September), spring onions, beetroot and carrots asap, chicories for radicchio hearts, endives, lettuce, parsley and coriander.Just time to sow purple sprouting broccoli too.
Plant leeks, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, salads, beetroot, spring onion etc.
So much going in now, watering is the issue.
We gain space by, among many options, interplanting brassicas in the carrot bed. Selective carrot harvests make space for the growing Brussels, cabbage and kale. All the veg benefit from a mesh cover.
I am seeing whether chicories planted between lettuce will work. The lettuce will crop for another 2-3 weeks, while the chicory establish and they are for radicchio hearts in September to October. Protection is netting against rabbits.
After the hot sunshine, my broad beans have mostly finished and peas nearly. Cabbages too such as Greyhound, and calabrese are giving the last heads.
Overwintered spring onions are now almost onions, chard and basil are bountiful. Cucumbers are cropping madly but tomatoes have barely begun to ripen. French beans are 10 days from harvest.
Clearing after harvesting #nodig
Mostly we twist plants to remove them. This disturbs soil less than pulling. Usually there are no or very few weeds so the ground is immediately ready for new plants or seeds, see this video.
For the tangled growth of a bed of peas for shoots, we ran the lawnmower over it. A nice result for the compost heap too. And see the video for advice on clearing bindweed.
For broad beans we chip the stems at or just below ground level , using a sharp spade. Then chop all stems into short lengths (max 15cm/6in) for better composting.
We are doing several, checking growth of cabbage and pepper plants among others. Decent not spectacular results have come from my own compost and a digestate of grass and maize, by-product of methane production. Dales foot double strength gives decent growth but is expensive, Melcourt organic compost grows decent plants but they run to of nutrients before some other mixes. Full results this winter.
I have checked a delivery of green waste compost by potting one tomato plant in it, which is growing normally so I am reassured that there is no aminopyralid weedkiller in there. If so it would be from lawn weedkillers. Lethal stuff, labelled in the small print as “clopyralid”, should not be allowed.
Farmerama’s latest podcast visits Homeacres, the USA and Greece.
No dig in Austria
These are from the garden of Dolores and Wolfgang Sischka, who attended a course here two years ago. They now have a hugely productive, no dig garden.
Rotation, for second plantings
I had this question on the forum from Hellabore Babe:
My brassicas have done very well and I have harvested all my early cauliflower and most of my spring/summer cabbage: can I now plant my winter cabbage in the same bed or do I need to plant these elsewhere?
My reply: it’s up to you. Sometimes I follow say calabrese with calabrese, sometimes I don’t… depending how space & timings work out.
It’s not like there are rotation rules, just it’s a sound practice to follow within the scope of what you want to grow. One year of say brassicas is good, so is 6 months. I am growing chicory after lettuce and they are the same family, Asteraceae.