July 2021 no dig potatoes, succession plantings, make compost, save seeds, RHS no dig gardens, bees arrive
A growing month, was June. Even though quite dry, with mm in the first four weeks. Average day temperature 21C 70F, average night temperature 10.5C 10F, see my live weather feed. We are fortunate with the weather here and I hope that, wherever you are, the extremes are not too difficult. The Pacific Northwest looks pretty uncomfortable just now!
In this climate we struggle for enough heat to ripen tomatoes outside, even undercover sometimes! Yet the temperatures are fantastic for brassicas, and usually there is enough warmth to dry onions well, ahead of winter. We have rain quite often,, so it’s feasible to water by hand, especially thanks to the moisture conservation of no dig. So far in June, 48mm/1.9in.
This week we have made and posted two new videos, one about the Small Garden, and one about the new land. Both show the incredible growth of recent weeks, and how no dig can transform weeds to a fine garden. See my no dig course book, at a discounted price.
When to harvest potatoes
It’s your call! If all the leaves are still green, even if you have not seen flowers, you can pull themfor a harvest of small potatoes with sweeter taste. Leave them two weeks and the harvest will be much bigger, with more average flavour, still good.
On my two trials beds I am growing Vivaldi, which was listed as a first early. Then someone said it’s the second early! And I am now inclined to agree with the latter, which reveals how there is a lack of precision in the timing of harvest.
Potatoes Vivaldi, each number is kg potatoes from the harvest of one plant, in the same bed:
14th June 0.31
17th June 0.43
27th June 1.68
In my trial beds the potatoes from the dig bed are larger, so far. We shall harvest more this week, always interesting. For no dig potatoes, simply grasp all the stems and pull gently upwards.
Second lettuce plantings, summer successions
After the cold spring and with weather worries in my head, I sowed lettuce for summer earlier than last year, by five days. Then in the warm June conditions they grew beautifully fast!
Fortunately we found time to transplant most of them on 18th June, at three weeks old. My CD 60 module trays work very well for such small transplants. The process is rapid, they transplant easily and quickly, and they establish really well, and fast. Already they look strong and 99% of plants have survived the transplanting.
There is never any need to wash or clean the trays, before reuse. Some of mine are already on the third round this year of growing transplants. I explain all about propagation in module 4 of online course 2.
Onions, shallots, spring onions
These all look similar when starting to grow, then as they mature you spot the differences. The shallots are starting to divide a little. And I am interested how their vigour has been fantastic, with larger leaves so far than the onions.
The salad onions have longer stems, and less tendency to bulb than onions. Mine are White Lisbon, which do make bulbs in the end, but I hope to sell them first as spring onions.
It’s easier to save seed of some vegetables than others, see my video. Ones which give least difficulties are tomatoes, French beans, peas and lettuce/endive. All of these can be saved from just one plant, like that endive which is overshadowing the aubergine. That is one important point about seed saving, how plants often grow much larger than the original.
Root vegetables are biennial, so you select some desirable roots to transplant in March, and the photos show growth so far. In our damp climate, the August harvests could be tricky, we shall see. There is a mesh cover for the carrots, so that insects do not cross pollinate them with wild carrot/cow parsley which is common in the hedgerows here.
Growing under cover
We are at the time of maximum growth and these plants all need a lot of attention! Here we have had little heat, yet the melons are loving life under cover. They need twisting around the strings every three days or so, and I pinch out all sideshoots until they are about 3 ft/1 m high. Melons grow in the first node of a sideshoot, see lesson 29 for all those details.
I grow the tomatoes (lesson 30) without any feeding. We spread compost in May, for a year of cropping.
Making compost, pallet heaps
I am trying a few different ways of making compost heaps, and of bringing fertility onto this land. For the latter, we are building up a stock of woodchips, some for use much later, as compost equivalent I hope.
The two pallet bins have an equal sized gap in the middle, to which we shall add sides and can then turn compost from either side into it. The cardboard does not run under the heaps, it’s just to keep the edges reasonably free of bind weed, thistles and nettles.
We fill the heaps until full, takes 5-10 weeks depending how much material comes available. Turn them 4-8 weeks after finishing. Learn more details from Module 5 of my first online course.
Bees arrive at Homeacres
Big excitement! I ordered three hives from the Black Bee company, a few months ago. They were bred and the colonies built up on Exmoor, Buckfast bees. Paul is on the left, with Briony who is also looking after them.
They are active, and I feel a buzz when checking them every day!
RHS no dig, Wisley and Hampton Court
Over many years, I have much enjoyed working with Sheila Das, who manages the edible garden at RHS Wisley. They have invested massively in a new space to demonstrate lots of ways you can grow food.
Sheila appreciates no dig and has worked it into the design. This garden opened on 24th June, and I can’t wait to visit!
Before that can happen, I shall be at Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival, from 5th to 11th of June. Together with Steph Hafferty, I designed the RHS No-Dig allotment. It’s one of the three ‘key’ gardens there. Every day, there are no dig talks, see this schedule.
Because of Covid, tickets are limited. Also we have to be tested before entry, so I hope to test negative!
Flowers so nice now
Such a lovely time for this flowery abundance! They are mostly perennials, plus the self sown calendula marigolds and foxgloves/digitalis.