June 2020 extreme weather, early harvests, mulching, no dig garlic, webinars, insects, keep sowing, problems with bought composts
May was the driest ever month here, in 47 years of my records. 1990 came close with 4mm rain compared to 3.2mm (0.13in) in May 2020. In the last 20 years, the previous driest May was 2010 with 34mm, so 2020 is quite an outlier. Plus it was the sunniest month I ever recorded, with the second warmest days and the third coldest nights!
In contrast, I am sorry to hear of endless rain in parts of Eastern USA . It seems the weather gets stuck for longer in any one pattern.
We are watering a lot with the hose, mostly to vegetables which are cropping or close to cropping, every three days or so. Also to new plantings, until established, which can be 5-10 days.
In place of courses here and talks elsewhere, I am giving two Zoom webinars about no dig. They cost £25 and the first one is about starting no dig, then a week later the second is my answers to your questions.
We are ten days ahead and already have so many first harvests. I love this time for all the new flavours. Because of the earliness, there will be more time to make second plantings, as long as we have access to water. My second online course explains this in detail.
I have a small problem with Boltardy beetroot sown late February, transplanted late March. The leaves look good, but many roots are smaller than I find normally, with paler colour and fatter leaf stems. There are two seed batches, one from Kings and one from Vital Seeds. The grey trug is by Loldean Timber.
Sowings and transplanting in early summer, finding space
You can sow celery and swede/rutabaga in early June, and beetroot plus carrots at any time during the month. Around mid month is good for broccoli to over winter, kale too.
Leek plants can go in the ground any time from now. We have potted on the module sown leeks so they continue growing, while spring plantings finish, such as peas and potatoes. Generally I recommend to sow 3-4 weeks before you anticipate having space available, because most plants thrive when they go out small. Timing counts for a lot, see this video.
See my video made on 4th June for more ideas.
Many people ask about this, but what does it mean? For me it’s mainly proximity, that plants like to be close to other plants.
As for variations of friendliness, I have found few problems happening. Poor fennel has an undeserved bad name! Main thing is that growth patterns are complimentary, so I would not plant lettuce near a courgette plant. Try a few things to see.
To mulch is to cover with any surface matter, even polythene. I use no plastic and am famous for advocating compost mulch, in order for slugs not to breed. Here we now have arid conditions and I am trialling a few undecomposed mulches.
The miscanthus is only a thin layer, 2cm or less than an inch. The seaweed is soggy and could result in slugs, if weather were wet. Is best applied in autumn, for soil fertility.
No dig in Scotland
Last December on a course here we hosted farmers from Munlochy near Inverness, who wanted to learn more about no dig. They sent me photos of the wonderful results, and it’s a neat comparison of garlic grown in two different ways. Their FB page is here.
I am jealous of their lack of rust, seems not a problem up there! Here it’s gaining ground and probably means an earlier harvest. We pull the polytunnel garlic around 10th June and outdoors around 25th. Don’t wait for it to be all yellow leaved, they are at least half green at harvest.
Asparagus beetles have discovered Homeacres, and it’s perfect weather for them, suddenly so many. The only remedy I know is squashing them in summer. At the moment they don’t cause too much damage.
Flea beetles are more problematic and we made a video to explain them more, with some remedies. In the UK, flea beetles eat mostly young brassica leaves: some farmers have had to stop growing oilseed rape (canola) because they can’t control them even with pesticides.
In the US, flea beetles eat solanum family vegetable leaves. and I wonder if they are a different strain. I hear about a lot of damage to aubergines/eggplants.
Caterpillars are here already but I am not spraying Bt yet, the cabbage and calabrese are good so far. There is a problem with availability of Bt and I am unsure what is going on. You can buy aminopyralid poison, but not the Bt soil bacteria, it makes no sense.
A tonne of manure, hoping for no aminopyralid
On 28th May we found time to empty the greenhouse hotbed of it’s 2-3 month old horse manure, with some wood chips too. See how we made the heap in late February.
Moving the manure now is a chance to mix and turn it, and removes a lot of woodlice (pillbugs) from the greenhouse. We add some water to the manure where dry, and to grow vegetables on top.
We spread some compost as final layer, to plant into. The new plants start rooting in this compost, then root into the manure below as it cools. Currently the heap is at 43C, too hot for roots.
Horse manure is at a small risk of contamination by aminopyralid weedkiller, occasionally sprayed on grass for horse-hay. Its the only weedkiller I know which persists for so long, and it’s lethal in tiny amounts (almost unmeasurable) which is why lab tests are mostly a waste of time and money. It’s highly damaging to potatoes, tomatoes and legumes, whose growing tips become curled and twisted, see the bottom of this page.
My plants on this heap are susceptible to the weedkiller, so we shall see. It’s a test, before I spread it in late autumn. I am not expecting a problem but the awful thing is, you can’t be sure until doing a “bio-assay”, more effective than a lab test. Beans and tomatoes are best for this in summer.
It upsets all of us to see plants being throttled by weedkiller, and it’s happening too much. Grazon weedkiller (contains aminopyralid) is applied to pastures and clopyralid is sprayed on lawns, often by contractors and without the owners knowing. This stuff is really out there. See my videos for the effects on plants.
This poison is in hay, from there in manures, and it’s in some (not all) proprietary composts of many kinds, except for organic approved. Any sack of manure or compost called simply “organic” is not truly organic in terms of ‘produced from certified organic fields and farms’, and the description organic on compost sacks carries no weight. It’s organic matter.
Most problems have occurred with horse manure, from a desire among horse owners for ragwort free hay and dock/thistle/nettle free pasture. However this spring, there are problems from cow manure, for example from Godney in Somerset.
Another issue is compost companies making poor “peat free” products. For example it looks like Bord na Mona are better at peat compost, than making potting compost from green wastes. When you buy a sack, you don’t know this. Seems they are rushed to market without verification by growing plants.
My “best buys” are all organic approved – Melcourt, Dalefoot and Morland Gold.
Dave Goulson’s The Garden Jungle book is a welcome distraction to this, and celebrates a garden’s many inhabitants.
Below are comments I received just in the last few days
Alex You Tube
My first real year growing vegetables and my peas have all been struck by this weedkiller. I thought I’d made a mistake somewhere but I’m pretty sure this is what has been going on. Also had terrible growth on peppers and beans grown in bagged compost.
Ewa Kozyra You Tube
I am having this problem now in my garden, it’s so sad. The same signs of damage are apparent in organic pepper seedlings from Bonnie’s plants (as seen just today in Home Depot) and most likely in other plants as well. It looks like this stuff being happily sprayed all over the US now, ironically also in “natural areas”
I am a victim of this very recently, I used alfalfa/timothy hay on 3 tomato beds… 7 years of building beautiful soil… Curling sad, deformed tomatoes. Since they’re raised beds, we scraped the soil.
The photos below are from a midwife in the English Midlands, who cannot believe this damage!
Growth has been fast, if one can water. May is such a lovely month.