Leek plants laid in four rows

July update 12th, prune squash, sow more & transplant leeks, make compost, onion and potato readiness, path mulch

It’s speeding up now, but growth has been slowed by the weather here. A cool two weeks until 10th July saw daytime maxima always under 20C 68F and averaging 18.5C 65F, with just 4.5 hours sunshine per day and 35mm rain in the two weeks. Not much heavy rain, but grey and damp.

Good weather for succession planting! Almost every day I make new sowings in the greenhouse and we transplant a second crop outside. See the Sowing Timeline, my Calendar if you have one (new edition September), and online Course 2 for details and descriptions. Be wary of sowing dates advised on seed packets, see below!

Pruning cucurbits

They are greedy plants, and fast growers in midsummer. You can cut and move the stems of squash and pumpkin plants as much as you like: they just want to grow and are opportunists.

Letting them ramble on bare soil will increase yield, as they can then root into new ground. Vertical growing is possible if not too windy. However they can’t then make new roots.

Sowing dates

No wonder there is confusion. I bought some seed packets from Plants of Distinction (UK), and was amazed to see the recommended dates for sowing, on their seed packets.

Look what they suggest, compared to my best dates in brackets.

Lambs lettuce February to July – (February and August to September)

Mustard March to July – (February to March and August)

Lettuce February to May – (February to August, September for undercover in winter)

Parsley February to May – (February to July)

Salad rocket February to May – (February and August)

Wallflower April to June – (July to August)

More details in Sowing Timeline and Course 2.

Making compost

I had this question: I’m about to start 2 x compost bins. You suggest 50:50 green to brown manure. A number of other articles I’ve read are saying 25-30 parts carbon (brown) to 1 part green (nitrogen). How come the difference? – from Craig near Sydney

I notice how proportions are indeed quoted as carbon to nitrogen. Which is difficult for most of us as we don’t know how much of either is in different materials.

I find it simpler to work by green and brown. Half and half green and brown is a rule of thumb, but no more than an estimate. This measure is more by weight than volume, and I guesstimate it. In summer the mix has more green, in winter more brown. That means decomposition takes  longer in winter, when there is less heat-producing green. See my website page for details including what is green and what is brown, and I give more details in lesson 13 of online Course 1.

Onions, ready or not?

Growth and health is good here this year. I tried a closer spacing of the multisown clumps. One risk is mildew in wet weather, and it has been damp, but not relentlessly wet. Another risk is small onions, but spring warmth and soil fertility sorted that one.

I have reports of leaf miner, endemic in some regions, and white rot from sets. Sorry no time here to look further into that. An indication of ripeness is when about half of the stems have folded flat on the ground. Either pull and fold the rest (makes thinner necks) or fold the rest and pull 10 days later.

My wonderful Rose de Roscoff harvest grew from seed fiven by Max Epstein of Krautgaart no dig market garden in Luxembourg. It’s a wonderful place if ever you have the chance to visit, @krautgaart on IG.

Potatoes, ready or not?

A key indicator for me is leaves losing lustre, turning paler, with stems falling down more too. Flowering will have been 2-4 weeks earlier. Second earlies come ready from now, see my recent video. It was the Three Strip Trial and lowest yield was from the forked bed.

This was the sixth consecutive year of Charlotte in the same beds. Even there was blackleg last year on one plant.

If you notice the brown, translucent leaves of late blight, cut stems off, and compost the blighted material. Then harvest as soon as there is a dry afternoon.

After potatoes

Use my timings to transplant whatever you want to eat, there are still many choices. For direct sowing, the options are fewer.

No dig flowers

Some of my favourites are blooming now – zinnia, salvia patens, echinacea, snapdragon and French marigolds. I like to dot them around the garden, which attracts insects and looks gorgeous.

No dig and compost mulch grows lovely blooms.

July fast growth

July is crucial – keep at it this month. Pop in new plants as quickly as possible after ground comes clear from a final harvest. July’s warmth and light means it’s the most growing month, unless your climate is super hot.

Second cropping options are also to intersow and inter plant, and also to plant very close to vegetables whose final harvest is coming soon. See the result with leeks and celeriac. Same beds, photos are from the other end.

Pyralid weedkiller

I am so upset to hear of increasing problems from this. It’s getting even more serious.

The main identification is a deformation of plants’ growing tips. And crinkling/yellowing/distortion of older leaves. Labs often cannot measure the tiny amounts of this lethal poison, which are enough to damage our vegetable and fruit plants. Roses and apple trees suffer too.

Curling lower leaves is not a symptom of itself – on tomatoes that can be leaf roll and even old age.

If you suffer the misery, email [email protected].

PATHS are important

Path space is growing space. Paths need to be weed free when your beds have no wooden sides. Vegetables can root into paths and weeds cannot root in.

I had a question from Hannah, who laid first cardboard over vigorous weeds two months earlier:

The pathways are still currently just cardboard. Which due to rain the cardboard had raised and changed shape slightly, but we are putting bricks and other items to try and keep it down. We have topped up the cardboard in the pathways. How long do we need to leave it to add the woodchip? Or can this be done straight away?

The answer is conditioned by weather. Moist conditions make cardboard soft and curling, and I would add the wood now. If dry, you may not need to and then it’s easier to lay more on top after 8-10 weeks, if perennial weeds are still alive and growing through. With a little wood mulch applied then.

French translations

My online Course one will appear in French on 1st September. Same price as in English, more details to follow. Alex the translator has been highlighting the differences in language, for example with this question about garlic:

Here (France) they categorise in three main types

– white: to plant in autumn, for colder climates

– violet: to plant in autumn, early and for warm areas

– pink: to plant in the spring, late cropping

The equivalence categories in English are:

Softneck is white and violet.

Pink (‘rose’) garlic is hardneck.

Vive la difference 😀 but not too much!

73 thoughts on “July update 12th, prune squash, sow more & transplant leeks, make compost, onion and potato readiness, path mulch

  1. Hi Charles

    Thank you for the info on the recent problem with bought compost. I buy loose mushroom compost from Woodland Horticulture at Sharpham which is delivered in the autumn , I cover it and put on the beds in spring. I have had minor problems – peas not germinating or not growing much if they do and courgettes not as prolific as usual which I put down to the weather but other vegetables doing well. I’m therefore wondering if it’s safe and whether you would advise buying more this autumn.

    1. Hello Thema, that is interesting.
      All I can say is that I hope it’s safe. One can now never be 100% sure. And each batch will be slightly different, depending where they sourced the manure part of mushroom compost.

  2. My vegetable plot is going from strength to strength Charles, thanks to an initial visit to you on your Open Day and a subsequent one day course (60th Birthday present). The best advice from you that I have acted on this year is to protect my early sowings with fleece and subsequently to protect the growth with netting. Great results with all my cabbages, cauliflowers and broccoli as the cabbage white butterfly cannot get at them. We may even have our own Brussel Sprouts for Christmas at this rate! Your videos have also been really informative regarding successional sowing and pruning in my polytunnel; the tomatoes and cucumbers are looking more orderly at last.

  3. Charles , I am a new one at composting. My husband made me a nice set up out of 4 wooden pallets ,which i have filled with the layers of green and Brown. I was startled the other day to find a little grey mouse has taken up residence there ! What to do ? Also ,will the droppings that are now in my compost ruin it ? I also was given a compost bin that is enclosed by plastic and can tumble . It is swarming with fruit flies!! Please help !! Warmest Regards, Bobbi Lynn in Oregon

    1. All is fine Bobbi Lynn, the new life in your heaps.
      Mice droppings are not poisonous. And when compost is spread on top, rather than tilled in, sunlight degrades various toxins plus air makes it even more healthy.
      Fruit flies are a part of the decomposition process 🙂

  4. Dear Charles: thanks so much for all the very valuable information. I have been gardening for 40 years and still learn from your words of wisdom! Just seen the photos of Pyralid damage, which explains what is wrong with my greenhouse tomatoes. Plants affected mostly Gardeners Delight and Yellow Delight. I think it must be the compost, which is organic and comes from Somerset bought every year from a nursery. Very worrying. The plants are fruiting, and we have eaten some, which is now causing us concern. I hate to throw them away, but perhaps I should? So frustrating when you think you are buying organic compost.

    1. Yes maddening. I don’t know how safe it is to eat the fruit, and it’s hard not to!
      Many composts are called “organic” without any certification, so it means nothing. I guess yours has no verifying symbol?

  5. Hi Charles
    I wondered please what spacing you give for your Purple Sprouting brocolli plants – I’m following your calendar timelines – I was assuming it was the same as Calabrese, but some websites say larger distance eg 60cm,
    many thanks
    Michael

  6. Hello Charles,

    My latest compost pile heated to 63C, in about a week. At some point it will begin to cool down.
    At what temperature would it be best turned, in order to make the speediest compost. Contents
    are garden trimmings, and dried leaves. Very much enjoy your youtube channel and teachings.
    I have been gardening for 60+ years, mostly in Point Reyes California, Coastal Mediterranean zone nine. Not so much success with multisowing however, could it be spacing (onions, beets)?
    Thanks so much.

    1. Thanks Tom and I would leave the heap for 6-8 weeks. Allows a good decomposition, then one turn for the secondary breakdown.
      I space beets and onions with 3-4 plants ate 12-14in. I would try again 😀

  7. Hi Charles, thanks once again for the online info, I note that you are using mesh over the leeks to keep out leek moth. What grade mesh do you use and is it strong to last a good while. I know you recommend 35gm fleece for winter covers. Would the mesh double as netting for brassicas etc? What might seem a silly question is there a difference in using white or green mesh? With compost in mind you mention trialing “Digestates” as a way of getting away from pyralid contamination. What are digestates and is it available to the general public?
    Look forward to hearing from you and keep safe, best wishes Peter

    1. Mesh is indeed stronger than fleece, mine is standard gauge enviromesh which can serve instead of net.
      Green can work.
      Am still unsure about digestate. Yes it’s available.

  8. Fantastic! All of your work that goes into teaching is ever so appreciated.
    As I learn more about intercropping, I wondered about the peas and celeriac. Do you still twist and pull out part of the pea roots even with interplanted crops nearby or do you just cut the base of the pea stem so the celeriac roots are less disturbed?
    Thanks so much for all you do!

  9. Hello Charles , why do you bend the onion leaves over and when should I do that ? Some of mine have fallen over anyway , but you reckon we should bend them all over ? Debbie 🙂

    1. Hi Debbie. It ensures they all have tight and thinner necks, with a more defined/swollen bulb. If some are fallen over, it’s worth doing.

  10. hi Charles, I have some Kelvedon wonder pea seeds and was just wondering if there was still time to sow asap for a late autumn crop

      1. Dear Charles and Claire,
        I did it last year (Kelvedon Wonder too) in my garden in Belgium ( direct sown after clearing lettuces) and it worked really well, they actually did get some powdery mildew but there wasn’t a single worm in the many pods that we harvested. This year, I multisowed them in the greehouse and should transplant them this week.

  11. Hi Charles, What would you recommend as spacing for mooli radish (daikon type)? Would sowing direct cause less forking as well; similar to carrots? Hoping to get some straight & long ones this year!

    1. Say 25cm/10in and they do transplant ok if set in when small. Sowing direct needs less hot weather, may work this year in Europe! I wish you success.

  12. Always appreciate your good advice Charles! This year I’ve noticed an abundance of wasps on the Sweetcorn, not complaining as I assume they are they for pest control. Not just wasps but a lot of insect interest, have you encountered this and any idea what they are doing?

    1. Thanks David and I am delighted to hear that you are seeing many insects, sice they are on the decline because of agrochemicals.
      Wasps eat aphids among other things. Even caterpillars!

      1. wasps eat aphids?! and also it was the sparrows all along. I couldn’t find the fleece, anywhere, as it was sold out, but cheapo cheesecloth works great, and, also, the blue plastic drop clothes, for paint, that you find at hardware sections, sometimes at dollar store, also white, I peeled the parts apart, to get the fleece from the plastic. (:

  13. I’ve been using your calendar as a guide to sowing in Lake Geneva Region, and have found I am “behind” by about two weeks… too bad as I love the photos and find it so handy to know when to do what!

    1. Well thanks for the feedback Susan. I guess you mean you could have sown earlier?
      Or should have sown later? (in spring)

  14. When you bend the tops of onions and then harvest while the tops are still green, do you dry the tops before plaiting them (I use a loop of string and weave them into it), and if you do dry them, how and for how long please?

    1. Yes they dry quickly in the sun and wind for 10-14 days then under shelter and with airflow say 10- 14 days, then plait!

  15. I discovered your page and youtube channel a month ago. Find the info quite inspiring. Your ideas and expert advice have really changed the way I see the gardening now. However, there is still a lot of homework to do. Thank you for the information you share. Regards from Poland .

  16. Hi again Charles.Just seen your previous post on this Pyralid weedkiller being compost based.That explains it all !!
    It is obviously in the recycled compost from our local recycling centre,and in the growbag compost,I presume this is the info that needs reporting?
    What a dreadful situation this is.I now rememberit happenened on my daughter’s plants last year to an even worse extent,virtually destroying them as viable plants.This year not so bad. As soon as I saw the change in the growing point I pinched it out and the plants have recovered. Does make you wonder about eating the fruit,or whether you should just pull em up and destroy them!!! A damn shame after all the prep early spring.

    1. Hi Martin and yes, a damn shame is being polite! These people have no sympathy for our plight.
      I am not sure about eating fruit, and best not to compost the poisoned plants.
      Report it for all you are worth, from your daughter too. They need to know.

  17. Hi Charles,I’m local to you.and interested in this pyralid weedkiller damage. I only grow my tomatoes under glass and have no problems,but grew plants for other sites.My daughter’s plants are in growbags in Somerton,and they have it,and I planted some outside at Spargrove,and they have it. I notice sometimes you can smell that distinctive smell of spraying round here,even if you can’t see the dreaded sprayer!!! It must travel quite a distance on the breeze/wind.I will check out the link you have provided.
    Is it a constituant part of some or all weedkillers? Seems like a complex problem.

    1. Yes I hate the weedkiller smell. The problem is pyralid constituents in some weedkillers, made by Dow?Corteva.
      Kills broad leaved weeds but not brassicas. And sweetcorn is a grass so ok.

  18. I noticed up here in NW London that our dwarf beans suddenly did not progress as fast as expected with the cooler weather. Little pods have formed, but the expected rapid growth to harvest has not yet happened. Hopefully this week with warmer days that will occur?

    It also slowed down tomato growth in pods and in the Quadgrow – normally late June/early July sees plants race away and form loads of trusses and set fruit quickly, but being outdoors they have been more sedate. It just means one or two fewer trusses this year, I guess. The ones for eating were roaring ahead in May, so they are now back closer to normal. The competition ones sown on May 1st will be less productive.

    1. Yes we have become used to warmth, while this is more normal of olden times when I was a lad!
      My outdoor beans are two weeks behind last year: they crave warmth!

      1. Yes, when I was a boy you reckoned blackberries became ripe in early September. We may well have ripe ones in July this year! 1976 was like that, but latterly we have usually had blackberries in August.

        Swings and roundabouts, though. My lettuce, onions, beetroot, fennel are all loving the current weather.

  19. Thank you for being such an endless source of knowledge Charles. Your posts are always a delight and full of the answers that are so pertinent to our problems. Your ‘Know your climate & your micro-climate’ video is brilliant and again answers so many queries. I am enjoying your Course 1 too.

    I have two minor questions that I would love to ask you:
    1) your fleece covers and mesh always look so clean – do you wash them to keep them in tip-top condition?
    2) have you concreted post holders into your beds to hold the massive wooden posts for your peas? If not, how do you keep them upright?

    Thank you once again

    Alice

    1. Thanks Alice, and I am delighted you are enjoying the course.
      1 Never washed except by rain. No dig helps because compost does not splash or stick when wet, unlike soil.
      2 No concrete!!! We use a two handled post rammer to bang the stakes in well. Plus the no dig soil is firm 🙂

    1. Hi Danny,
      I could be wrong, but I think horse tail especially likes to grow on soil where there’s some mineral deficiency. They root deep and can thus pump up the minerals, in time getting rid of themselves. Replenishing the minerals with volcanic dust for example might also work. Or what I do is to mulch with either the horse tails themselves, or compost them and hope the minerals are kept in the compost.

      Cheers,
      Wouter

      PS: First time poster here, thank you very much for all the valuable information Charles! After experimenting somewhat already last year, this year I’ve gone completely no-dig. Greetings from The Netherlands

  20. Thanks Charles, I’m having a difficult year with my pea plants not getting going. Currently 3 inches high and yellow/straggly. I tried them for the first time in modules rather than direct sowing and wondering if I should try some direct now? It’s the first year growing after using a mineralised straw mulch and wondering if this is the problem?

    1. Sue – I am suspicious of that mulch!
      What does “mineralised” mean I wonder. I think it’s expensive, and does not add the goodness of compost. Is even taking nutrients to decompose.

  21. We always follow your excellent seasonal growing advice. Sadly mice or voles have chewed through the stems of our climbing French beans again. Any advice for next year’s protection? I think we’ve increased numbers as we’ve left areas of the lawn uncut to help bees!

    1. Hello Linda.
      I would recommend a cat. A hungry one can catch at least seven mice or voles per day.
      Good luck, Deb

    2. owls are a natural predator, owl boxes are a thing, to make, put up high in the trees. cheers from Saskatchewan Canada. love your vids

  22. Potatoes in the same bed year after year – a query.

    I have ALWAYS grown potatoes on a three year rotation but I am going to have to grow them in the same beds from now on. I have always been careful to destroy plants growing from tubers which missed being harvested the previous year as I understand they can carry blight. So called “volunteers” are easy to spot in broad beans or peas but not at all easy in other potatoes…
    So Charles, do you have any advice on this please?

    Also any advice on feeding the soil as I am concerned the same crop of potatoes might deplete nutrients if not mixed in with broad beans. etc

    Ps so glad your potatoes did well. Some of my rows are very poor – the result of being badly frosted in May and then very little rain since then. But that’s gardening!

    1. Charles would say just the yearly addition of compost.
      Research shows that the plant is in control and exudes substances from its roots to attract the right kind of soil life to make the food it requires. (Dr Elaine Ingham – Soil Foodweb). So if you have a healthy, happy soil, the microbes will already be there waiting for the new potato plant to wake them up again. Fascinating subject. Of course, over time you could also get a build up of ‘nasties’ – something to watch out for – but in an undisturbed soil there is at least one species of fungus able to ‘lasso’ nematodes intent on harm!
      By the way, artificial fertilisers can disrupt this system, or even kill the beneficial bugs.
      Blight mostly arrives in damp, warm weather from wind blown spores. If you have blighted ‘volunteers’, I imagine it could show up earlier??? Just have to ferret out as much of the previous crop as you can and keep a close eye on current potatoes. And you can compost blighted potato haulms. It only survives on living tissue.
      My potatoes also not great for the same reason as yours. Difficult to give them enough water, especially with sandy soil.
      Good luck.

    2. Good points Lynn and we removed volunteers in early April, before planting the new ones. Wait even until mid April before new planting.
      I see no decrease of yield over the years, added 10 shovels compost per bed last December.
      Yes sandy soil is not easy!

  23. Love the new weather station. (Thought I’d spotted the anemometer on some of your recent videos.) Live update fantastic too. Do you know if you can get a system that doesn’t need mains electricity and doesn’t eat batteries? For allotment so doesn’t need to be bees knees like yours.

    1. Thanks Jan and this has a solar battery. I tried a cheaper one first and it did not work so can’t advise, good luck

  24. Was patiently waiting for a new update on your site, I love reading them! I am having so much success in my garden this year due to your techniques (first time ever growing cabbages, onions and sweet corn). I refer to your diary and calendar every day. Thank you for sharing your gardening experiences and expertise with the world! ❤️ Cheers from Vancouver Island, BC, Canada 🇨🇦

  25. This year we had a new greenhouse so did some research and grew cucumbers, we were surprised to have to remove male flowers. Advise please, we’ve got some lovely squash plants (crown prince and uchiki kuri) grown using the no-dig method now in year 3; should we remove male flowers on these plants? We haven’t previously removed male flowers and had 2 Crown Prince fruit per plant and 3 uchiki kuri fruit per plant last year and wondered what the benefits would be if we were to remove them. Thank you.

    1. No need actually, sorry if I misled, it’s only for cordon cucumbers non F1 and certain varieties like Telegraph.

      1. Ah, thank you. Following your method of growing the last 3 years we’re going to need a bigger freezer! Kind regards, Mary and Andy

  26. Thank you so much for being so wonderfully competent, thoughtful, attentive and totally inspirational..
    My allotment kept me sane through the lockdown.
    Your videos, advice and website kept my spirits up and now brings food to the table.
    Very big thank you!

  27. Hi Charles, following no-dig with great success, thank you. One question, would you start peas off again now for succession crop or are the seasons against any success.

    1. Thanks melinda. For sowing peas in July, it’s not their season. However there is one variety Terrain, which can work, sow asap

  28. Thanks Charles. I enjoyed reading this. I must say your calendar is really helpful. I refer to it often as the year has progressed (which does seem to be getting faster!). I will buy again for next year.

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