July 2019 harvest-clear-replant, no dig success against pests, clean paths, identify aminopyralid damage

Be prepared for everything: picking planting sowing weeding watering pests heat. Give as much time as you can now, for best results later.

June here was much less hot than across the Channel. Our average temperature was 15C/59F, with 75mm rain and only 145hrs sunshine. 

However most of the rain fell before mid month and since mid June there has been a measly 6mm, so soil is dry again and watering will be a theme again this July. Be thorough and less frequent, see my watering video for tips.

I was just in Sweden at Ridgedale Farm, an excellent place for learning to farm. See this video for my chat with Richard Perkins about no dig, compost, farm size and watering.

Potato harvests

First early varieties are now cropping and soon it’s time to harvest second earlies. On the day of harvest, level the surface and you can then transplant kale, leeks, cauliflower and beetroot. Check my Sowing timeline for other ideas.

The first row of Casablanca in my dig/no dig beds gave 7.72kg/17lb from the dig bed and 8.47kg/19lb from the no dig bed, four plants across the 1.5m/5ft width of each bed. Lovely potatoes on both beds and super tasty.

I have had happy feedback about no dig potatoes from all over the world including N Carolina and California.

New plantings July

Sow beetroot, broccoli and carrots asap, kale, many salads including chicory and endive. Coriander and chervil at month’s end.

Transplant leeks, broccoli, cabbage, kale, beetroot, salads, swedes, lettuce, chicory, endive.

Reluctant cabbage, peas flowing

I like to clear beds as soon as a final harvest is taken, so that the old plants are not pumping moisture from the soil. In the case of these Greyhound cabbage, I have been waiting and waiting for them to heart, but they hardly did, and a whole month later than normal. I think it’s faulty seed maintenance, they are from Mr Fothergills and I shall ask them about it.

By comparison the Marathon calabrese beyond were sown and planted at the same time as these cabbage, and gave lovely heads in early June.

The Oregon Sugar Pod peas are home saved seed and growing nicely, do leave some peas unpicked so they ripen to dry on the plant, then pick for seed.

Sow/plant after clearing

Clearing and preparing is super easy with no dig, just cut off existing plants at soil level with roots left in the soil. Then pop in new seeds and plants. Pest protection needs considering.

Bacillus thuringiensis for brassicas 

There is no need to spray until perhaps this week, the first week of July, when you see the first significant numbers of white butterflies. We are now finding a few caterpillars in heads of broccoli.

For new transplants I advise you cover with mesh at planting time, because as well as excluding butterflies, this keeps out other insects which cause damage in early summer, such as gall midge. Use enviromesh or equivalent

Best keep the mesh on for 6-8 weeks and there is no need to spray Bt when mesh is over the plants.

After removing mesh in say mid to late August, spray Bt on all leaves, every 18-20 days until about early October. It degrades with sunlight I believe.

PATHS and edges

Do keep paths weed free. If they are already clean and mulched, just keep pulling any small weeds. Otherwise some cardboard with a thin layer of old wood or rough compost is worthwhile.

Weed free paths in summer catch any rain and then plants in the beds’ outer rows can root into the mulched paths to use the water before it evaporates. Last summer we noticed how the veg closest to paths was the biggest.

No dig forum

Many people use this as a source of knowledge, because there is a Search bar.

However my web host suggested we close it down because of the difficulty of protection from spam.

To help keep it going, please post or reply to posts. Only problem is the difficulty of logging in and a complicated Captcha!  Plus you need a different password to the main website.

No dig compost costings

I had this detailed comment on You Tube 15th June from Michael Brotherton, a retired engineer who is enjoying no dig:

 I have been promoting the use of compost which I am told is too expensive.  Even my good wife this year commented when I laid £14.99 worth of compost on my Broad Bean/Celeriac bed that she would not be purchasing £15,00 pounds worth of beans if I were not growing them.  Ah I says, but the compost will last for two years maybe longer and I have just also planted 108 leeks which you pointed out were selling at Tesco at 50p each (54.00 saved).  

To date, I have spent £75.00 on the compost. £45.00 professional compost (300 ltrs) and 12 bags (480l) of end of season garden centre compost at £30.00   I have four over one-meter cube bins which reduces down to about one bin, makes1000 ltrs = 25 bags = £108.00 market price in bags.

I have also purchased £40.00 of mushroom compost not sure of quantity.  Total £100.00 on the compost.  Is that excessive? It is cheaper than employing someone to dig it.   Not many of my fellow plot holders have compost bins most have a single Dalek. I can’t make enough compost though should be OK with four bins but the compost does not come all at once when I need it.  Started to fill one bin up to the top solve this. I don’t dig because I am becoming too old for the physical effort.  Not digging puts me ahead of the growing season.  My output is increasing each season.

Aphids: blackfly on beans reduced by no dig

A comment from Kevin Lane in Dorset 21.6.19:

A fourth year no dig for me and plants are absolutely flying. Most interesting point is that of the 20 or so plots growing broad beans (Aquadulce) on the allotments, mine are the only ones without blackfly and are also the tallest at nearly 5ft. Incredible tasting beans too.

Clubroot reduced by no dig

This comment 30th June from nodig_ben on Instagram, he is a teacher in Yorkshire:

I inherited club root on my plot and used to use lime to keep it in check. It still had an impact on brassicas though, especially my calabrese.

This year with no dig and no lime, there was a little club root but it was much less pronounced and my plants were super healthy.

For aphids generally, my response is extra water and to spray water on aphid covered leaves.

Polytunnel growth

My video shows how it looked about  month ago, since then growth was steady but slow, until the 25-30C heat in late June.

For cordon (not ridge) cucumbers I remove every second fruit, so that plants are not drained by producing gluts, followed by the main stem empty for a while. Cucumbers grow so fast and partly it depends on the fruit quality you desire: I grow the long ones and each of those contains much water and food, plus they are sweet. 


Many developments on this, not least with one company on particular. I keep receiving comments about damage, such as this on You Tube, by email after I asked him who supplied the manure causing problems:

Regarding the contaminated horse manure that I commented on under the youtube video – it was produced by Harrington and Jessup. I’ve used it for a few years, and this is the first time I’ve had a problem with it, but as I say, two beds are next to each other, both with broad beans, and the bed with their bag of compost is wilted as you describe, the other is fine and productive.

It’s interesting that Harrington and Jessup have been aware of the dangers of aminopyralid since 2008. It is their compost on the rhubarb below right.

I had one batch of compost with some pyralid contaminated horse manure, and we spread it on grass and weeds to heal. Photos below are plants growing in that compost on 30th June, to give you an idea of the symptoms. Most damage is to new growth with inward curling leaves.


29 thoughts on “July 2019 harvest-clear-replant, no dig success against pests, clean paths, identify aminopyralid damage

  1. I know this is an older thread, but maybe somebody might still see it. Does aminopyralid also affect plants like rocket and coriander? I have planted seedlings into compost that has composted horse manure in it, and they are dismal. Hardly growing at all and both have curled up leaves. I do have kale from last year still in the same bed and they are doing fine. And it is not a lack of water either.

    1. Helle if the kale is fine, then the rocket should be too, also brassica.
      Unless it’s because the kale roots are in soil under the compost.
      Even then, aminopyralid does not affect brassicas, so it’s hard to say.

  2. Thank you, Charles, for all of your video information. I’m from California in zone 9. Your info is still valuable to me. Hope you have a great August harvest!

  3. Charles, I’ve just taken over an allotment plot and the previous owner covered the whole plot with potatoes. I think he must own a chip shop by the amount he grew. My question is, do I need to level the soil before laying cardboard as it’s uneven where the potatoes were earthed up or will this eventually even out as the new beds settle down? Also, how thick should the cardboard layer be and should I soak it before laying it down?

    1. Yes simply level with a rake.
      Cardboard thicker if couch grass and many perennial weeds.
      Normally no need to soak but you could water it if soil is dry underneath.
      If few weeds, no need for card.

  4. Hello Charles, I’m from Vancouver, Canada, and I’ve been learning about no dig from your youtube channel for some time now. I don’t know if this thread is the most appropriate place to ask my question but just over a month or so ago, we built a raised bed using Hugelkulture method to grow vegetables. On the bottom are 1+ year old branches neatly stacked together inside a wooden enclosure that we created around the raised bed. On top of the branches are compost that I’ve had for the last couple of years and on the very top layer are store bought organic soil specifically for growing vegetables. Seeds I’ve used are mostly all organic as well. I’ve noticed recently that ants have made a nest inside my raised bed and are coming up to the surface like mad. My vegetables are suffering now as many leaves have holes. Is there any way to get rid of these ants in the most natural way possible? I’ve tried putting carbonated water in holes that were made by ants inside the raised bed. I’ve tapped on the sides of the wooden box that surrounds the raised bed and when tons of ants came out I squashed them as much as I could, including what appeared to be queen ants (so far I’ve killed about 4 or 5 queen ants, but the ordinary ants are still around in huge numbers). It would be greatly appreciated if you could provide me with some concrete guidance in this matter as I’ve only had this vegetable garden for just over a month and bought lots of seeds, and I don’t want to abandon the garden all together. Thank you very much for your time and any assistance you can provide me with.

    1. Hi Kaori, sorry to hear this.
      Have to say your method is overcomplicated, often happens, too many unnecessary things are advised esp wooden sides to beds which generally I avoid. They keep sides dry, and warm in summer, perfect for ants in your case.
      Water a lot with some crushed garlic and chilli added to the water.
      Keep going!!

      1. Hello Charles! Thank you very much for your quick response! I really appreciate it. I will try the method that you’ve mentioned. Hopefully the ants move out and find a different home. Many thanks again 🙂

  5. Dear Charles,
    I have been following and applying your no dig method since the beginning of this year with great results for which I thank you.
    I have sown and planted out Greyhound cabbage at the same time as yourself, mine have still not hearted up , I did cut two lose hearts for the table but the taste and texture was disappointing.
    The cabbage seed I used was bought from Marshalls so maybe not entirely the fault of Mr Fothergill.
    Great success with Alderman peas, first time of growing these, absolutely the best, will be putting these on my next seed shopping list.
    Once again, Thank you so much for your guidance.

    1. Thanks for sharing this Joan and I am happy to hear of your success.
      This year Greyhound cabbage have been disappointing everywhere, from what I hear. I raised the matter with Mr F and they said it’s getting herder to source good seed. I guess Marchalls have the same problem and may use the same suppliers.

  6. Hi Charles.
    Thanks for some grate vids on YouTube.
    Have a question for you or anyone with some ideas.
    The ground in my area is very low in copper. So low infact you need to inject sheep with copper, witch would be fatal in most areas!
    I have a small orchard witch I started 6 year ago and it suffers from canker badly. Could this be the low copper in the soil? Some people say copper sulphate helps.
    Would I be better to start a new orchard using no dig? Any ideas welcome.
    Thanks Billy

    1. Billy that sounds a clear case of needing to apply copper, I would keep those trees, see if you can remedy it with some copper sulphate and prune out cankerous branches, as long as it’s not too prevalent

      1. Ok thanks! Hoped you would say that. Thank you I’ll get it sorted see what happens! Would like to get some more trees love apples off the tree,like the first peas.! Thank you 👍😃

  7. Dear Charles, I am a lady of over 70years and having bought your book decided to give no dig a go. This has been so far my best harvests ever. The weeds are non-existent and broad bean are over 6ft high. Lettuce was great and the second sowing growing well. Cabbages fantastic, onions looking good multi sown ( thought that would not work). Beets also same. Peas above my head. All the other veg also very healthy. THANK YOU so very much for sharing what to me is a very New idea. I hope you get this e.mail as this is also New to me.Hazel

  8. Hi Charles, really look forward to your emails & videos. I find them inspiring .
    I am getting myself a bit confused with Bacillus thuringiensis, are you able to suggest some suppliers please

  9. On the subject of compost, I left our fruit cage unattended over winter and spring with the result that trees and raspberry canes were intermingled with a rich mixture of green manure/weeds (depending on how you see such things). I pulled all the extraneous green material at the end of May 2019, creating around a third of a cubic metre of compostable material (it created a wonderfully hot heap in short order) and the cherry tree has fruited beautifully and the raspberry canes look as healthy as ever.

    Is there any evidence that this is a respectable composting strategy or would commercial growers recoil in horror at the unprofessionalism of such laziness?

    I was just thinking that this was unwittingly imitating the research strategy of Alexander Fleming, whose disgraceful laxity in not disposing of spent bacterial petri dishes ultimately led to the discovery of antibiotics….

    1. Ah yes that is a nice precedent.
      My only concern with leaving weeds like that would be how many might seed. Nice compost result.

  10. Thank you Charles.
    As ever your update is full of interesting issues.

    I am glad you published Michael’s comment on the cost of compost.

    I think it is a thought many people have Is the cost justified? It certainly crosses my mind. But reading his comments again it’s great that no dig enables him to continue gardening. I guess he grows his vegetables organically so an organic leek in Tescos would cost more than 50p should such a thing be available. I don’t think a true cost/ benefit analysis is possible because the joy of growing our own healthy veg, maintaining a healthy soil and respecting soil life is beyond price.

    And if in some small measure we can inspire other gardeners in the way you do then that is another benefit.

    1. My husband often reminds me that gardening is my hobby and hobbies cost money. His tools, lathes, model aeroplanes etc. cost far more and do not keep us in organic vegetables.

      1. Nice comparison Rosie, and yes so many health benefits like all the microbes we ingest as well.

  11. Hi,
    Very interested in your method for cleaning aminopyralid compost. Could you clarify if it was spread on ‘living’ grass or grass cuttings?
    Best wishes

    1. Stephen the living grass is now mostly dead because of no light, so soil organisms are eating its roots and also the compost I put on top.
      I have no idea of the chemical equations but the pyralids gradually get broken down into harmless constituents (or perhaps less harmless, who knows).
      I hope that I can spread this compost on the garden within a year, shall do a bio assay first.
      PS grass cuttings would not be enough, it needs microbes from soil.

    2. Thanks again for extra information on aminopyralid, not a lot of information out there so your blog and your youtube are invaluable!

      you encourage people to report contaminations to Dow and mention the manurematters website. just wanted to let you know that they seem to have taken that website down and any mention of it in the Dow/ corteva website has been removed. I’ve emailed cortevauk myself about my 2020 contamination and I’m going to plant brassicas the affected beds. fingers crossed that those microbes can work their magic .

      1. Thanks Derval and wow that is so sneaky of them.
        I am hearing a lot of problems this year.
        I feel spurred to publicise it again.

        1. Thank you for continuing to publicize this issue as contamination becomes more and more widespread. I am across the pond and via bioassay found contamination in bagged topsoils that contain compost, even with compost being way down on the list of ingredients. Over here there’s a product called Regenisys that has been used with cover cropping to reduce amino pyralid contamination. Will be trying it on the half of my garden that is affected. The study I read noted a 78% reduction in 3 months.

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