Athena di Polka F1 courgette zucchini

July 2020 summer unfolds with more sowings, interplanting, weeds to hoe or pull, seeds to save, potato harvests and beware pyralids

June has been warm and with mixed weather, including decent rainfall! of 107mm so far. Rain in June is the best of any month, after the surge of growth in spring. At Homeacres it has rescued my peas, and is bulking up potatoes and other root vegetable harvests. See my new potato video for tips on storing and harvesting, plus cooking too!

Sunshine has been 20% above average, and temperatures at 16C/61F average night and day, are 1C above normal.

Making compost

Always such a popular topic! My video on Instagram provoked a lot of interest, had 73,000 views, and I hope the link works!

Most of us have mostly green materials to add in summer. To create good compost, the secret is to find – or have stored since winter – the 40% or so of browns, to balance the greens. Browns you can add:

  • matt paper, not glossy
  • wood in small pieces
  • anything fibrous including woody prunings, stems of plants
  • soil

Weeds

They grow fast in summer. After any wet weather, seeds germinate and you need to either hand weed or hoe, when seedlings are tiny, barely visible, See the photo captions.

Main recent problem here has been dandelion seeds blowing in and being caught in the path wood chips. The chip layer is thin and we can hoe them.

New plantings late June to July

My greenhouse is full! It feels like spring, and 28th June onwards is a big session of planting. Ten days ago we transplanted French beans, Brussels sprouts, beetroot and leeks. There are more to plant of these.

Sow now

Any salads are good to sow now EXCEPT brassicas such as salad rocket and mustards. They go to flower quickly from sowing in early to mid summer, and suffer lots of damage from flea beetle. Sow in August!

My top sowing in early July is chicories for hearting, see my radicchio video for details.

Sow undercover in early to mid July – Kohlrabi, lettuce, leaf beet, chard, endive, chicory, Florence fennel, chervil, coriander. Plus beetroot and savoy cabbage in July’s first week.

Outdoors sow carrots asap.

We shall be transplanting chard very soon, then broccoli by 10th July, following broad beans. Lettuce transplanted this week are 25 days old and will crop by mid July, to take over from the first plantings.

Potatoes

My first earlies have varied in cropping. Dunluce are light in yield, and top flavour. Casablanca are the opposite, in our opinion. Flavour is so subjective though. I have enjoyed Epicure, they look nice too, smooth and yellow.

Charlotte comes ready in ten days or so. Many agree that it’s flavour is good!

Events

Cancellations follow one another. Early July would have been the time of RHS Hampton Court Flower Show. We were invited to create a no dig RHS garden, and Steph would have been there now to build it, together with Chris Smith of Pennard Plants.

After having to cancel the July event, the RHS went for September. That also is now cancelled and it’s scheduled for next July.  Also the RHS had to cancel Cardiff and Chatsworth in 2021, because they are less profitable, and the RHS have lost a lot of money this year, like so many people and organisations.

Meanwhile Dalefoot composts are running a competition, with some prizes from us. It’s happening now because they were to be at the Show, and with their compost in our garden.

Homeacres Open Day on September 6th may yet happen, as a timed and ticketed event, details to confirm.

Courgette Varieties

Photos to show differences I see in courgette/zucchini growth and yield. I am growing mostly Cocozelle, which has more leaf than the two F1 varieties, for a similar amount of fruit.

Intersow and interplant

The garden is crowded through summer. Popping seeds and transplants between other vegetables whose finish time approaches, is a way to maximise space and increase season length. See my online course 2 for lots about succession plantings.

Keeping seed

It’s the season to prepare for this, for example by leaving some French beans and peas unpicked, and a lettuce to rise to flower. These vegetables do not cross pollinate, so seed is viable from just one plant, and won’t cross pollinate with neighbouring plants of different varieties. The same applies for tomatoes.

Broad beans do cross pollinate so you will have varietal mix in your seeds, if say you are growing Green Windsor and a longed variety, even a fair way apart. Perhaps a neighbouring allotment is even close enough. While at Homeacres, I grow only Aquadulce Claudia.

Aubergines

Foe any first time growers of aubergines, don’t underestimate their need for warmth. I normally have a first harvest by early July, in the greenhouse.

This year has been exceptional for warmth, so far. There is a small first harvest outside, on the bed which has still-warm horse manure underneath, see this video for information.

Pyralid weedkillers

This horrible problem does not go away – in fact it’s getting far worse and thousands are suffering, many without knowing. See my videos to check symptoms, the inward curling and stunted new leaves.

It looks like there is a little (all you need for problems) in composts as diverse as J Arthur Bower, Earthcycle peat free,  and Pro Grow. I receive many photos from worried gardeners and none of them in my experience are “nutrient imbalances” or “caused by no dig”, which is what the sellers like to claim. Or that the compost is “too rich”. Sigh!

Don’t be fobbed off by such excuses and report your problems to the CRD at email address below.

Sources of this powerful poison include Grazon weedkiller, and many products for LAWNS! Hence the problem with green waste composts, which somebody needs to address soon, before we are unable to trust them.

Press Release Text June 2020

Worrying damage to plants from herbicide contamination in compost: organic organisations take action.

In 2019 gardeners noticed significant damage to some of their plants – particularly annual vegetables which showed weak and stunted growth.  It is thought the problem came from weedkiller residues remaining in compost and manure.  There were multiple reports circulating on social media, and professional gardener and well-known proponent of ‘No Dig’, Charles Dowding, raised awareness in the Daily Telegraph in July 2019, which resulted in a six-fold increase in gardeners reporting similar damage.

One probable culprit was identified as the chemical ‘aminopyralid’, which is used by farmers and local councils as a weed killer for grasslands.  When grass cuttings and weeds which have been treated with this particular chemical are incorporated into manure or compost, or fed to animals whose manure is then used, the residue remains, and can contaminate the mix with devastating effect.

James Campbell, Chief Executive of Garden Organic says:

“This poisoning has been of huge concern to growers and gardeners. Particularly as many may not have connected the distressing plant damage to the organic compost or manure in which they grow.” 

Garden Organic, the Soil Association, and the Organic Growers Alliance, have worked collaboratively to investigate the aminopyralid contamination. They met with Corteva, the agricultural chemical manufacturer and distributor, who make the deadly herbicide.

Corteva themselves are investigating the issue.  But their knowledge of actual incidents is likely to be incomplete as not many growers know of Corteva’s existence, nor how to contact them. So now organic growers want an independent assessor involved. 

“We encourage growers who think they may have been affected to contact the government’s Chemical Regulations Division,” says Peter Richardson, Chair of the Organic Growers Alliance.  “As part of the Health and Safety Executive, CRD monitor contamination incidents – which still occur despite their clear warnings to users on how to use aminopyralids,” (see below in Notes for Editors.)  We think it is simpler and more effective if growers send an email to both CRD and Corteva.”

“We are asking CRD to work with Corteva to find a lasting solution to this issue and address any future impact on growers using manure, or green waste/municipal compost,” says Gareth Morgan, Head of Farming and Land Use Policy at the Soil Association. “We encourage all growers who think they may have been affected to make use of the impartial process to sort out this issue once and for all.”

If you think your plants have been poisoned, emails should be sent to [email protected] and [email protected], headed “Aminopyralid contamination”.

  • Notes for Editors

In order to prevent contamination from aminopyralids, the CRD has the following guidelines for all users (farmers and amenity grassland managers) of weedkillers which contain them:

  • Do not use any plant material treated with (name product) for composting or mulching.
  • Do not use manure for composting from animals fed on crops treated with (name product).

56 thoughts on “July 2020 summer unfolds with more sowings, interplanting, weeds to hoe or pull, seeds to save, potato harvests and beware pyralids

  1. I have garden envy. It all looks so lush and vibrant as ever – and green grass. 107mm of rain. Wow. We had 10 mins of slight drizzle yesterday. With over 30 C heat almost all week, even the Defender courgette has mildew already. Earliest I’ve ever known. Mad year in many ways.
    Hampton garden looks stunning, as we knew it would. And is that a ‘dalek’ representing you iconic compost bays? Such a shame you’ve had to miss out for a year.
    Great video. We’re all drooling. Edward’s such a talent. Must be very proud of him!

  2. Hi Charles
    I read with interest your note regarding the strange wilt you are experiencing on your Alderman peas. I have the same with my sweet peas which I have grown for many years with no problems. This year some of them, having grown perfectly well, are now appearing stunted, wilting with yellowing leaves and stems. I have searched for explanations and a virus seems most likely. I was wondering if other no-diggers are experiencing anything similar. Your thoughts would be much appreciated. Thank you.

    1. Hi Caroline and yikes – virus!!
      Perhaps – the roots were rotted, and I just heard from another gardener suffering it. However my other peas and sweet peas are fine.
      It’s nothing to do with no dig, since for example here it’s only Alderman.

  3. I am worried that interplanting/sowing between large crops that are ready to harvest will mean disturbing the seeds/young plants when harvesting. Do you cut rather than pull to harvest?

    1. Yes exactly Tracy, go carefully, twist plants gently when removing them, or cut around the large roots. I have done this successfully for years.

  4. Hi Charles

    In your video you suggest following garlic with multi-sown leeks – I had avoided following an onion with another onion. Need I not have done so?

    My outdoor hardneck garlic was a good size and much earlier this year too.

    Keep safe all, Eliza

    1. I’ve also said many times, it’s up to you.
      I don’t prescribe following crops, just give ideas, it’s your call according to space and food requirements.

  5. Very interested to hear that you are growing Charlotte potatoes in the same bed that has grown potatoes for six years!
    How are you avoiding p&d build up and nutrient deficiencies?

    1. I don’t know Tony, no measures in place except no dig and compost mulch, very simple.
      One plant even had blackleg last June and that area is healthy so far.

      1. Thankyou Charles !
        I am going to try this myself as space is an issue for a conventional rotation.
        Keep up the good work !

  6. Hi Charles,
    I have been seed saving for many years, and have several heritage climbing French beans (including one we gave to the heritage seed library). One this year has appeared with beautiful dark red flowers instead of the white and purple we usually get. Any idea as to what it might be, or have we got a beautiful new sport? (I have posted a picture of it on Instagram but no one seems to know what it is)

    1. Hi Liza and that is intriguing.
      Since French beans don’t cross pollinate, perhaps it is a sport, and worth growing on, keep seeds separate if the fruits are good.

  7. Fabulous inspiring Homeacres.
    My tomato plants particularly are suffering from aminiopyralid poisoning, I have used several compost and sol conditioners but mostly Westlands and J Arther Bower, I have reported it to Coteva.
    Do I need to pull the tomato plants up or is it okay to keep them going for as long as possible to get some tomatoes to ripen – will they be safe to eat if I do.
    Do you know if there is more information anywhere about what to do going forward so the compost can be used in the future? I have put down a lot in a new polytunnel and hoping not to have to dig it all out. Can it be flushed or are there things I can I grow which won’t be affected by it?

    1. Ah poor you. I have no words to describe that company.
      Their “advice” is to rotovate it in, so you can ignore that, since it would kill microbes. I found that soil microbes colonise it within a year and ‘dissipate’ the poison.
      Meanwhile you can grow sweetcorn and brassicas mainly.
      No idea how edible the tomatoes might be – nobody knows.

  8. After coming across the problem of aminopyralid in your videos – and our garden… – I did a bit of research.
    The German association of compost producers published a PDF file ( https://www.kompost.de/fileadmin/user_upload/Dateien/HUK-Dateien/12_2016/Pflanzen_empfindlicher_als_Analyse_12_2016.pdf ) summarising the results of growing trials published by a German state-owned agricultural institute in 2016.

    They mixed growing media with defined amounts of the weed killer and did controls with the same media without aminopyralid.

    Results:
    – Aminopyralid affects plant growth below the lower detection limit. This means a laboratory will not find traces of the weed killer, but it still can damage plants.
    – The scientists suggested to do a three week trial of compost with bush beans to figure out whether aminopyralid is present or not.
    This is pretty much exactly your advice on how to deal with the problem.

    Thank you, Charles, for the information and continued attempts to make people aware of this.

    1. Thankyou Arne and well done that association!
      Funny how people here are not doing that. The problem has been ignored for too long, but my PR says I am at risk of litigation if I am not more vague.
      What worries me is how it affects plant growth below the laboratory detection limit. That means a lab can claim “there is no aminopyralid”.

  9. 107mm of rain! It would take months to accumulate that amount here in East Suffolk!
    March: 29mm
    April: 29.5mm
    May: 0.8mm
    June so far: 39.7mm

    Add to the mix stifling heat, drying Easterly winds,frosts in late May, and you can see that growing fruit and veg here is something of a challenge, but still enjoyable and well worth the effort..

    1. Wow, and I do not envy you Michael. The May figure is exceptional and with nothing to mitigate it, so I hope your water supply is steady.

    2. How hot is stifling? In Nova Scotia we have had no rain other than the odd drizzle since June 5. Very unusual. Our hot days have been 25-29celcius. More like mid August weather With a humidex feels like of at least 5 degrees higher. The good news is we always cool off at night

      1. Hi Nancy, on May 21st this year we had 30.1c and not being a lover of excessive heat, to me, that’s certainly classifiable as ‘stifling’. Total rainfall thus far this year: 238.6mm

  10. I have had a very good experience with Alderman peas initially grown for shoots. As my row of peas grown for pods seemed to suffer under the drought and the recent heat, I left my shoots bed to make pods and we have been harvesting huge numbers the past four days. Of course, this is no way to maintain the strain (I am growing a wigwam down at the allotment to make new seeds), but for eating this seems to work very well, at least at the non-commercial level. It is also very gratifying that you can grow a really good crop without needing special support structures.

    We have two plums turning purple in June. Unheard of!

  11. Hi Charles, greetings from the North Lancs/Cumbria border.
    Lots of great advice as usual thanks.
    About half of my 20m x 6m allotment is now put over to no dig with less work/less weeding .But after a couple of years of trying more module sowing and producing weak/leggy seedlings I’ve been moving back to more direct “multi -sowing” of radish, chard, beetroot, lettuce, turnips etc. In our now usual cool ,breezy,arid spring I’ve found that pre watering the drills has helped ,together with pre-germinating any older seed and covering everything with thermacrop mesh sometimes up to the beginning of June.
    I grow various sorts of chard and rather than pick off individual leaf stems I cut the whole plant off close to the soil and can then take up to four more re-cuts over the 12 months or so that it’s in the ground.
    This year I’ve had real problems getting Cocozelle courgette seeds to germinate in pots even after trying pre-sprouting whereas all the Golden Zucchini seeds emerged happily.

  12. hello Charles
    I want to plant out various brassicas. I noted your comments about flea beetle and butterflies and will plant under mesh. Is there a time when beetles and butterflies stop being a problem and the mesh can be removed. Some brassicas are very attractive and it seems a shame not to enjoy their good looks – even if later in the year.

  13. …and ditto West Cambs.
    April 23.7
    May 5.4mm
    June 16.2 mm
    With the weekend winds alone ripping 50% leaves off runner beans and cucumber, and no water on site, it’s quite a demand.
    Oh, and did I mention when you do water, Mr Mole pops up to say ‘hello’? And the flea beetle have arrived from the nearby rape fields? Sometimes the heartache of seeing your carefully nurtured seedlings laid waste is almost too much…..
    But Charles and his garden are so, so inspirational. And the primal urge to connect with nature and grow and eat your own veg so strong, that it’s always worth it.
    And, as gardeners, tomorrow will always be a better day.

      1. Thank you. Guessing the wind may be even stronger for you in Somerset.🙁

        Not sure what happened there. Original comment should have been an addition to comment 7.

  14. Hi Charles, thank you for a great series of videos, you really are my guru in the garden.
    With the increase in Pyralid weed killers in bought compost is there a brand you feel able to say that you have been able to use with confidence.? It is worrying when well known brands like A J Bowers and Westland have been found to have a problem. I had just bought a load of Westlands Jacks Magic with seaweed luckily I have not spread it on my veg patch yet. Will it be ok on my flower garden?
    I note that you introduced the Dalefoot Composts in this blog. The saving of water in the mulch as much as 50% sounds good. The only problem for me is the cost of nearly £11.00 for 30 ltr.
    You mentioned sometime ago that you have bought in from a well known DIY store, do they still hold good?
    I know with the problem of litigation these days that it is very difficult but perhaps your PR person will agree that you could hopefully mention which brand you use.

    If the other brand sellers see a drop off in the sales of their products it might spur them on to getting their act together.
    Thank you best wishes and stay safe, Peter

    1. Thanks Peter.
      The difficulty for any compost maker is the invisibility of pyralids. Damage from amounts so small that a laboratory cannot measure it. And it’s getting more common.
      I make my own as much as possible, use wood chip, and am interested in digestates.
      Yes Dalefoot is pricey but they give good discount for large orders, as do West Riding/Morland Gold.

  15. Hi Charles,
    Thanks for all that you do! I used 6yr old horse manure (from local stables) in the tunnel and all my tomatoes and peppers are poisoned by aminopyralid. I was aware of the contamination risks but foolishly thought that the old manure would be fine. It’s awful to see the distortion of the plants. Along with the leaf curl some had a pale knobbly growing tip. The courgettes and cucumbers don’t seem outwardly affected but they aren’t thriving. I’m in the process of clearing out the beds, ( leaving one for corn and brassicas.) I am unsure whether the soil underneath will be contaminated but will experiment anyway. I’m very grateful to you highlighting this issue

  16. Really interesting update, as ever, thank you Charles.
    You say ‘Cocozelle’ courgette produces more leaf than F1 varieties – is there any advantage to this?

  17. Hi Charles-Just want to say, love your information on Pyralid chemicals. Very informative, Here in the U.S. , I have had the same issues. I started a no dig garden, 2 years ago. I thought it was my fault, that I did something wrong. However, it perhaps is, by choosing the compost and dirt, I put in my raised beds. I put in dirt, from fields, nearby that grow sugar beets. Which I know they use chemicals, because one can smell the chemicals, at the beginning of Spring. Then I purchased compost, sold at our local Agriculture store and large chain store. Well, I have an assortment of issues, curling of tomatoes, brassica’s with huge leaves, but no broccoli or cauliflower. How ever , the root veggies, seem to be fine. So I’m not sure, what I might do for, compost. I have thought of doing my own compost pile, but my husband is not wild about that. Haha! Perhaps an enclosed one will be an option. In a past article, you mentioned our compost is different, than yours,here in United States. I’m afraid I was lost on that one. Could you explain a little on the difference again? Our compost, is composed of leftover veggie scraps, coffee grounds, leaves, grass, wood chips,etc., anything that is organic and will break down and provide our gardens with great decomposed food. As far as dirt, that’s what is under foot. Some is really good, some not so good. Like here where I live. Very alkaline! Horrid! A lot of clay in areas and a lot of sand! I may have misunderstood, what you meant, as well. I apologize, if I have! Ha! Ha! Do you have any suggestions, of soil amendments, I might try? It would be so appreciated! Please send some of your rain, our way! We are very dry this year! I will say, I love NO DIG!! Less work, all the way around! Thanks again, for your wonderful books and website. Look forward to your new posts!

    1. Hi Wanda, I was referring to potting soil as you call it, and we say potting compost.
      Soil in the UK is dirt, from what I can tell.
      Sounds like the compost has something in. It’s bugging me how pervasive these poisons are 🙁
      Sorry you are dry and good luck making compost.
      Charles

  18. Hi Charles
    Our local farmers have let us have lots of lovely cow manure from a digestor and we have not had any problems, however, this February we had a scoop of it put on the area where it had previously been dumped and I put it in the poly tunnel. The area where the previous delivery of this compost was put is now growing Brassica’s and Leeks they are both doing really well
    I have not had problems with tomatoes as far as I can see but my peppers, that were really strong plants when I planted them in, are now showing evidence of being poisoned.!!! Should I leave them to struggle on or take them out? I will test with broad bean seed as well. What is the best way to clean it in the tunnel or should I remove as much as I can?

  19. Dear Charles,

    I have been really amazed at the use of your diary and calendar this year!! I really hope you will continue with the calendar next year. Its value is amazing.

    I too, like you, have planted my onions too close together to interplant. I want to plant swede to follow, would it be wise to pot these on as they are getting too big for the modules?

    Thank you again

    Charlie

    1. Hi Charlie and thanks for this feedback. Do post a review on the Diary or Calendar product pages please!
      Yes exactly, pot on those swedes to keep them growing. Brassica plants are tolerant of repeated moves. As are most plants in fact, when the intention is to help them 🙂

  20. Hello Charles,
    Yes, composting is an important, recurring topic and I have read a lot of growers’ problems on your website. However, I’m still struggling to increase the heat in a bin of pallets which is 40x40x40 inches. After 2 months and a mixture of dried ground ivy, fresh horse manure, wood chip and grass cuttings and weeds, the temperature was 20 c. The sides are mostly covered with cardboard and a loose plastic sheet cover. Now after 4 months, with a lot of kitchen peelings, potato tops, more horse manure and cardboard and newspaper the temperature is 30 c. I never leave the the plastic off and water the heap occasionally. Should I turn the heap over to aerate and get a more even distribution of materials or water more?
    In the allotment blackfly have covered my broad beans, sown this year, and moved on to my runner beans. At home they cover the tips of the clerodenrum, dahlias and philadelphus.

    1. Hi Michael, sorry to hear this, may be just a lack of initial volume to initiate warming. Not easy in early spring. I would not turn, if anything that can lose heat.

  21. Hello Charles, first let me thank you for your wonderful sharing of knowledge. I have been a “rototiller” gardener all my life. This second year of my “no dig” life. I am truly impressed. So much less work, less watering/weeding and bed prep. But the best is how happy my garden is. I built raised beds out of old food grade 1.33meter square fish tubs. Used to transport fish and lobster here in the Maritimes I live near the Bay of Fundy in Hillsburn NS. A challenging environment- wind, cool(generally). But no dig raised beds is my new obsession. I have a question. Many times my bush beans germinate but have no initial leaves. Is this something in my soil? Thank you in advance for your help. Sincerely, Nancy

    1. Nice to hear Nancy. I like that your garden is happy!
      For those beans, old seed can do that but not sure otherwise.

  22. Hello Charles, I planted winter veg – brocolli, swede, sprouts – a month or so ago and they are growing but being attacked by pests with much of leaves being eaten – is it too late to cover them now? or is it best to start again and cover from the beginning?
    Thanks
    Catherine

  23. I have tried a few times to get winter crops in my pollytunnel over winter – lettuce, endive etc it has been very hit or miss and we are on clay in Sheffield where it can be cold. Can you point me at the right place in your fantastic resources for a guide to when to saw, some good reliable varieties and any other tips. We are doing well with No dig in the spring/ summer/ autumn in the garden and winter brassacas do well, we would just like to really cover the full year!
    Many thanks

    1. Sowing Timeline has the details.
      Sow a week or two earlier for your cold slope and more northerly location

  24. Thank you for all the updates and for sharing your wealth of knowledge. This is my first year with an allotment and doing no dig. It’s going very well. My fellow neighbours have commented on the abundance. I have followed your diary to the letter with the exception that I sowed some cavolo nero earlier by mistake. It’s surviving against the butterfly under mesh so far.
    I have a question about courgette if that’s ok. I am growing some along with squash through polythene compost mulch as that part of the allotment still has vigorous perrenial weeds. The plants are thriving though I have noticed the bottom leaves sitting on the membrane are quite poor looking. Should I be removing them and doing a tidy? Thank you

    1. Great to hear this Tara.
      Yes the bottom leaves always do this and I usually leave them. The stems are throny and can hurt your skin.
      Or tidy if you want to, just it’s not vital. Slugs are rarely an issue.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *