Companion planting with fennel

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.

Spring harvests

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.

Companion planting

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.

Compost problems

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”

Cackleberry Garden

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!

Season change

Growth has been fast, if one can water. May is such a lovely month.

61 thoughts on “June 2020 extreme weather, early harvests, mulching, no dig garlic, webinars, insects, keep sowing, problems with bought composts

  1. Hello Charles,
    I’m engrossed in your courses 3a and 3b, which have so far answered all my questions as I’ve gone through the spring. Thank you for sharing all that knowledge.

    I’m interested to know how you found the seaweed vs miscanthus mulches. I mulched my polytunnel beds with seaweed last year…there is plenty here on the west coast of Scotland. It seemed to deter slugs.

    Dried bracken is another useful material; we have hillsides full of it ! – often a sign of previous cultivation. Laid on potato beds, it warms up the beds I think and you can pull it over if frost threatens. Bracken mulch under soft fruit area keeps weeds down, and it is great mixed with seaweed in compost.

    1. Hi Dorothy, and I’m happy you are enjoying the courses.
      You have amazing resources there and I would certainly use both of those. For the break and I think it’s quite rich as well, people say it has a lot of nutrients, especially potash. In my trial last year, the seaweed did not cause any significant change in growth, nor did the miscanthus.
      It could be that my soil is in very good condition anyway, so it would take something pretty special to improve matters. I should love some though for the new area!

  2. Charles

    Can you put cabbage collars around swede plants? First time growing for me and I have collars and will also be meshing.

    Also, as I cannot get my usual free horse manure this year (and couldn’t get much else either) I eventually took delivery of several bags of Westland farmyard manure. One bag filled a large trig for a spare Losetto tomato, another a large planter for a courgette and another a large pot for a cucumber. All looking very big and healthy so far apart from the cucumber which has wilting leaves. I have to say that some bags of the stuff were rather more pungent than others so could be just too strong – we will see. I have split three other bags and planted beans in to test them. If I see any problem I will not use any of the contents on my raised beds in Autumn but will empty them over my fence at the bottom of the garden where the bindweed comes through – no doubt nothing will affect the bindweed though!

    Oh, and yes, I pulled some of my garlic. All good, some small bulbs from weak stems but all a very usable size. All fifteen plants from my own saved garlic are still in the ground, presently providing yummy scrapes and looking very strong indeed! Need to do a sun dance now!

    1. ElizaD

      I had great success with getting rid of bindweed with planting turnips. I stumbled across this suggestion that sowing turnips super thickly might help get rid of it. I had one bed completely smothered in bindweed, so I yanked out what I could and then sowed turnip seeds all over. I kept on pulling out bindweed when I found it or when it got big, but I wasn’t overly paranoid about it. I repeated each year. The bindweed only had one small plant left after the third year, though it had moved into the lawn alongside. For some reason, it never grew again this spring in either the bed or the lawn, and my garden seems to be completely bindweed free.

  3. You said that aubergines/eggplants were eaten by flea beetles in the U.S. Although I live in Beligium, some flee beetles are eating my younger auberines plants. I had never noticed that before. Do you think I can still cover my aubergine bed with a mesh or is it too late? (if I can, how fine should it be?)

  4. We have been harvesting cherries in the first half of June: amazing! They stew very well and I am going to try making a cherry sauce for pork chops soon.

    I once again left the ‘weeds’ to grow freely until weeding them all today under the cherry and plum tree and in with the raspberries. You get plenty of compostable material, moisture is conserved and fruit crops do not seem to be affected at all. It might not be aesthetic, but for 2hrs work a season, you do generate quite a pile of stuff to compost.

    1. Nice job Rhys. I am amazed that birds do not eat the cherries: here they are stripped when half ripe! You have a little paradise there.

      1. A simple answer Charles: our cherry tree is in a decent cage, being on a semi-dwarfing rootstock.

        A bird did pull out one of my Cobra beans just as it was emerging, so I had to resow: even up here, we have pests, including the neighbours cats who like to rummage in my flower beds for reasons we will not discuss further….

  5. Thank you for the update, Charles.
    Flea beetles are indeed a problem for eggplants here in Upstate NY. I have some success with diatomeceous earth to keep them under control and usually interplant with bok choy as a trap crop.
    The weather is also being a challenge, with very little rain and extreme temperature swings. Yesterday, I recorded 43C (104F) and in a few days, we will be back to 17C (62F).
    The cucumber beetles and squash bugs do not seem to mind those temperature swings too much and they are out in full force. Between their onslaught and the dramatic temperature changes, I am not very hopeful for a successful cucumber, zucchini and winter squash harvest.

    1. Hi Anita. My word you face a challenge there.Makes me grateful for our weather and pests!
      I wish you the best of harvests nonetheless 🙂

  6. I’ve had aminopyralid problems with one load of compost out of 2 delivered last year. But I read that brassicas will grow in it without damage and I overwintered cabbage, purple sprouting, cavolo nero and chard with no problems. As I rotate beds this area is now designated for courgette, corn, butternut. The corn seems to be growing OK at the moment so I am hopeful that the brassicas may have ‘eaten’ the poison and cleared the bed. What’s your experience of clearing it out of beds?

    1. Horrible stuff… if not a concentrated amount, one year sees it mostly dissipated, I suspect your cucurbits will grow alright and good luck.

  7. Hi Charles! I absolutely love your lessons and have been binging on them (and the very helpful Hoss Tools channel) the last two months. I live in zone 9b in northern California on a river/delta with a Mediterranean climate, very hot dry summers and in general low rain-fall, rarely hit below 40 degrees.

    My soil is the ‘back fill dirt’ they use when constructing new homes, it’s pale beige and basically just sand and clay and most of the year is like concrete. It’s very hard to get anything to grow even when I heavily till and heavily amend, nothing seems to work and was very discouraging, but after filling some brick planters this early spring and gardening that way, I by chance came across your channel and books and my eyes were opened to a whole new possibility! I can maybe use my almost 1/4 acre yard?!

    I have made my first (roughly 6’x3′) bed today with my 5 year old niece who was dying to plant corn of all things, so I put a 2-3 inches layer of wood bark and old dried leaves over a 3-4 inch compost/manure layer over cardboard (which I soaked the ground and it very well before laying the compost). I direct sowed the corn into the compost with some blood meal and heavily watered. Do you think this is thick enough for something tall and deep rooting like corn to penetrate that hard native ‘soil’? Do you have any special advice for my climate that I need to be careful of or am I on the right track? Thank you so much, sir!

    1. Hi Sabrina, that sounds excellent! Fun to do it with your niece too.
      If you can keep it moist underneath, to depth eg water throughly twice a week, then the soil below will soften to roots, a little more each year.
      Your compost depth should be enough but to start out, another inch would not go amiss!
      In that heat, some dry grass over the top will help hold moisture, until October, then rake it off.

  8. Charles

    I know you do not recommend the use of Strulch (longer to break down in soil, expensive, etc) but I had a couple of bags and have found a use, not on my raised beds but on some pathways where the soil was damp and slugs were fond of travelling! Only a very thin layer and so far it is working well, seems to be discouraging the slugs and keeping my boots cleaner too. I also like the look of it on the paths so might even replace some of my grass with cardboard and a thin Strulch layer when I eventually remove the now beginning to rot wood on some of my raised beds. I like the look of grass but it is such a pain to have to keep edging and trimming grass around wooden raised beds when you could be growing more veg! Hope all good with you, Eliza.

    1. Fair enough Eliza, since you had it, sounds practical!
      Miscanthus grass mulch is better for soil, and chemical fee, worth checking too.

  9. Thanks for your quick answer! I’m glad I nearly found the reason and that my compost is better than the bought one !!The other beds are growing strongly with melon, courgettes, Butternut, multisown Beetroots, brocoli, carrots, and of course french beans ( i’ m French!). Thanks again as it is all your inspiration thanks to the lockdown. Norbert

  10. Hello Charles, for the first time I go no dig following your advice. I made 2 beds with my home made compost and one with buyed compost. In this last one , plants are yellowish, don’t die but as an example I sowed radish 4 weeks ago and they are stil very small and yellow as well. Every morning there are small mushrooms which I think show that there is enough moisture. If i’m right can I blame the compost? I’m in the south of France( Biarritz roughly) very dry and hot weather for quite a long time. I water far more than you do!! Thanks again for your inspiration! Norbert

    1. Hi Norbert
      Yes sounds like a compost problem. Mushrooms indicate a lot of wood, maybe it’s still to fresh, will be good by autumn!
      Hope the other beds continue well

  11. Charles

    Should we all be fleecing over squash plants the next five days? Maxima predicted to be 13-17C, nights 8-11C.

    My plants have been in 5-13 days, so are settled in OK in the warm weather.

  12. Thanks Charles, I’ll see to it over the next few days.
    Also, garlic. Mine was planted 25th October, bit later because of all that strange thing called rain we had last October! It looks pretty ready and some of the spindlier ones have fallen over. Some yellow leaves also. Would I get much more growth now by leaving it longer? Ate my last clove from last year a couple of weeks ago so looking forward to this harvest.

  13. Charles

    My multi-sown leeks are now 9-10″ high, still quite spindly and with roots just starting to appear out of the bottom of 2″ modules. My carrots and peas are not going to be cleared for at least another 4, possibly more weeks so what to do with the leeks? Options are that I could leave them In the modules they are in, replant into slightly larger modules, or try and plant them between the carrot rows and hope no damage when the carrots are pulled. What would you suggest? If and when I do plant them would an 8″ x 12 spacing be ok for multisown? Just off to do a rain-dance now as I see clouds on the horizon!

    Best wishes Eliza

  14. Dear Charles,
    I live in Belgium and I have been a no-dig gardener for about six years and I have been using this method in three gardens. Last year I finally found some purple spouting broccoli seeds, that are organic. I sowed them mid-June and planted them in July after peas and broad beans (I did the same for my home saved kales). The kales cropped from October to April but the broccolis did not survive to a very mild winter, while it was advised to grow them like that on the seed packet. What did I do wrong?

    1. Hi Thomas and that is frustrating. Without knowing all details, it’s hard to say but maybe the variety was wrongly labelled. Overwintering broccoli is normally a tough plant from sowing in early summer.

  15. After reading about weed killer in horse manure I am rather fearful of using it on my small allotment. However, I don’t generate enough home made compost to suffice. I think I will have to give it a try and hope for the best. It is produced on a large scale, peat free, just composted horse manure.

  16. I bought Westland compost this year. I always plant my broad bean seeds indoors as mice eat the seeds I also do the same with my runner beans. This year I have more than 30% failure rate. The seeds have rotted into a squishy mess. Normally use Wilko’s own brand for big seeds with good results. The method of sowing in pots and treatment has remained the same the difference the use of Westland compost.

    1. Hello Hugh and this is so poor.
      Westland are a huge company and perhaps don’t care about a few gardeners suffering.
      However I am hearing more and more stories like yours, and they need to be careful to improve their compost feedstock.
      Ultimately, the powerful poisons are out there and increasingly hard to avoid.

      1. Hi Charles and Hugh, I can also report that we bought Westland multi purpose compost for potting on plants that have outgrown their modules. Mixed the westlands with roughly 50/50 mix of homemade 3 year old gorse compost (very light and sandy) with the aim of eeking out the Westlands compost further. Have not had problems with Westlands last year when we first trialed no-dig to great success. This year the worst affected plants to be potted on appear to be a multiple varieties of chilli plants. Started out strong and healthy but now setting upper leaves that are narled looking. Hoping they will grow through this if we repot them into well rotted (8 yr old cow manure/compost). Wondering if the seeds could also be contaminated prior to seeding?

        1. Sorry to hear of your Westland problem Ken, don’t blame the seed! There is a clear thread here and the pyralid contamination is alwyas giving that effect, on the newest leaves. I expect your plants will recover.
          You chould email Westland, they need to know at least the degree of problems.

  17. Insect pests: my allotment seems to be a hotspot for cutworm. The damage is obvious where clumps of multisown onions are cut off near the base, but it’s taken me two years to twig that they must be what is making 1/2 to 3/4 of my carrot seedlings disappear. I rooted around a 10′ double row of brassicas this week and found ~50 of the blighters – around the healthier looking plants as well as the poorly ones. I’ve planted new sprouts with a foil wrapping around the stem at ground level. I get the feeling that a) this is a hazard of no-dig, and b) over-wintered crops sustain the larvae so they can attack tender spring plantings. Options that come to mind: not to have overwinter crops (except where spuds will be next year, they don’t seem to be affected); foil collars; diatomaceous earth; bacillus thuringiensis? Any thoughts?

  18. Charles. You do seem to depend on bringing in large quantities of animal manure. I am not using any and only use homemade compost. Mainly grass cuttings, hedge cuttings, weeds, sawdust from cutting firewood and kitchen vegetable waste. Additionaly I use wood ash and lime. Do you think that this is a sustainable system and capable of producing similar yealds to yourself?

  19. A really dry warm spell does teach you which crops thrive under such circumstances and which struggle.

    My parsnips and early carrots both look absolutely fantastic, not having been watered since the plants came through about 5 weeks ago. Spring onions (both Guardsman and White Lisbon) have done brilliantly without much watering either. Pea shoots did great until the end of May but now they are all going to flower a few weeks early. Both Boltardy and Pablo beetroot are doing really well. Radish crops were epic.

    On the other hand, the onions have struggled, I am now watering them much more but I may lose several of them. Potatoes were doing fine until this week, but now they are getting watered, particularly the first earlies. Peas do fine for four weeks without water, but then need a hefty dose.

    Turnips I have watered regularly and am thinking that maybe the SE of England is too dry in spring for a good crop without incessant watering. They are doing well, but I cannot believe it is economic to have to water as much as I have been doing.

    Leek I have watered morning and night for two days every ten or so. They are doing OK, but they are really a Welsh crop where it always rains!

    Red Alert Tomatoes I found to be a bit like early potatoes, being resilient enough to bounce back from two nights of near frost (after which they looked very sorry for themselves) to look good and healthy now at the beginning of June.

    As for my tomatoes grown in pots, I have never seen a more perfect spring for growing. Plants sown on 27th March now have 2-4 trusses formed, flowers on first truss and are growing at a real rate of knots.

    I must say though, rarely if ever have I seen deep cracks appear on my clay soil at the end of May. July yes, but this early? Most unusual.

    As for companions: parsnip and carrot live side by side very well, as long as the carrot is not shaded out; lettuce and spring onions enjoy each others’ company; marigolds and pole beans; chives and pear trees.

    New tests this year are anise and carrot, Welsh onion and chard, artemisia and asparagus.

  20. Well i think I’ve lost over 120 plants to leather jackets this year.
    Life goes on however, how to proven then?
    I am trying Nemasys leather jacket killer, does not say if i can use it on a veg patch but I’m trying it. I have put some on in the spring(late but need to act some times). I will do two application in the autumn, total cost of 60 pounds😞.
    Also I intend on encouraging spiders to my garden, only trapping voles not mice when need to and encouraging birds only netting when i have problems. Removing the net when plants are strong.
    We must remember life is a balance and are part of it.
    Hope this gives you hope and idea’s.
    Good luck Billy

  21. Hi Charles, thank you for your updates with photos. They are inspiring. In central Portugal, I am on year two of No-Dig in most of garden, which is riddled with couch grass and other pernicious broadleaf weeds. We have had an exceptionally wet winter which is welcome for our well and the aquifers but led to blight on the potato crop, both those in the ground and in pots. I have cut off all the foliage and left the plots to sit for two weeks as suggested on Youtube. I pulled the potatoes from one plot this week and they are lovely, a bit small only. I have planted butternut squash and a melon on that plot as I understand I cannot use it for two years for potatoes, tomatoes etc. Any other advice? What about the contaminated soil in the pots? Compost or disposal? Thank you.

    1. Glad you asked Susan.
      That soil is not contaminated.
      It upsets me how many people are misled by false information. The understanding you need is that bight spores cannot survive in soil or compost, because they need living plant material to live themselves.
      You can add all blighted material to your compost heaps, I have proved this here, explain it more in online course 1.
      Your melons and squash will be great too!

  22. Have been using no dig for two years now…last year was great this year we are plagued by moles. We are on heavy clay and the 3-4″ mulch is composted bracken and the moles are working away between the two layers and wrecking all our veg in the polytunnel and outside. We have caught two but there seems to be many at work. They don’t damage the plants as such but their activity lifts the plants out of the ground whereupon the plants die. The ground looks like a network of veins…there are no molehills as the moles find it easy to burrow through the thick mulch but every day the plants are out of the ground replanted and the same thing happens again.
    Any ideas – moletraps are not any good as there are a myriad of passages only an inch or so beneath the surface.

    1. Oh dear that is so maddening.
      Unusual to have a lot, I had one here and it did much lifting before being caught.
      Wonder if you are near a breeding site.
      Afraid I am unsure of a remedy, others may have one.

    2. We had the same problem for years. Tried all the molefriendly and unfriendly remedies. Last year we made raised beds with mole netting underneath. It works wonderful. Moles are still trying as I see around the raised beds. For us the only way to grow anything on our allotment surrounded by agricultural ground.

  23. After gardening here for 5 years, I suddenly have an infestation of leather jackets! So sad to see my beautiful brassicas big and healthy one day and laying down dead with their roots chomped off the next. What to do?

    1. Oh dear. It was the warm winter which enabled 100% survival, after a perfect wet autumn.
      We had some here and I lost lettuce then found and squashed the leatherjackets, replanted, lost a few and all good now.
      Have a rummage to find and squash them 🙁

      1. Well i think I’ve lost over 120 plants to leather jackets this year.
        Life goes on however, how to proven then?
        I am trying Nemasys leather jacket killer, does not say if i can use it on a veg patch but I’m trying it. I have put some on in the spring(late but need to act some times). I will do two application in the autumn, total cost of 60 pounds😞.
        Also I intend on encouraging spiders to my garden, only trapping voles not mice when need to and encouraging birds only netting when i have problems. Removing the nest when plants are strong.
        We must remember life is a balance and are part of it.
        Hope this gives you hope and idea’s.
        Good luck Billy

        1. Good response Billy.
          For Nemasys to work, soil needs to be moist, is difficult in dry August weather.
          Let’s hope for some frost in winter!

  24. About asparagus beetles and other beetles, try black or white pepper powder over the vegetables. It might be that the beetles stop eating the veg. It helped me with my pea plants, they were eaten as soon as they came out the ground. The eating stopped as soon as I applied pepper powder. I have a lot of beetles (fire bugs, flea beetles and lily beetles) in my garden, hardly any slugs.
    You can use this also for radish and other veg and lilies!, it is worth a try.
    Good luck from a very dry Netherlands, got to keep watering too.

  25. We love the phalacia for the bees as well, but they do spread there seeds about, It is easy to hoe off though

  26. Dear Charles
    What mulch would you recommend for the paths between no dig beds on weedy allotment. Many thanks.

    1. Cardboard on weeds and then a little compost, even part decomposed or wood chips, on the thick cardboard, well overlapped

      1. 5 yrs ago, I would have agreed but would now recommend 3-4cms of sawdust/shavings or 4-5cms of wood chip with no card. Reason = card over couch grass (wicken) is making a problem for the future. The roots of this pernicious weed will try to travel under card no matter how thick and is then difficult to remove without major disturbance. Deep organic matter such as suggested is easy to lift couch roots from without disturbing the rest of the material. We’re weed free now but I would not use card again on an allotment – which is traditionally riddled with couch. Best approach in my opinion is to remove the couch and then employ no-dig.

        1. Interesting but the cardboard worked here to eliminate couch, without any pre-digging. Card is basically adding to the layer of organic matter and in places where couch pushed up through, it was weaker and easier to pull.

          1. The cardboard method is really working for us and hope that it will continue through the heat of the summer. I have access to some really heavy duty cardboard (from a car dealership parts store), and it actually makes for a cushiony, springy stepping path once fully wetted with the first rain. Finding that violets are the stubbornist weeds zooming around almost as fast as I can cover them. Thank you, Charles! (Zone 7, north Georgia, USA)

        2. I am just going through the process of establishing an allotment plot, spending 3 months last autumn clearing a jungle of perennial weeds, relocating currant/berry bushes; then 2 months creating 2 Huegel beds and covering around 100sqm of beds with cardboard and 5cm rotted horse manure from the adjoining farm. I also made paths with cardboard and woodchips (in some places 2 lots of 5cm woodchip+cardboard)

          The past three months have seen quite a few weeds emerge, but I am noticing that their frequency and vigour are starting to decline after 6 weeks of dedicated work weeding every 1-3 days. There are certainly some perennials that will eat their way through cardboard and come up through 5-10cm of manure/mulch.

          As for growing success in year 1, I am finding that the potatoes are emerging fine after a late sowing in early May; the squash have settled in well; broad beans and peas have grown/are growing well; but onions, dwarf beans and beetroot have been somewhat variable, growing well on some spots but being massacred on others. I have just today planted out some brassicas, so it is too early to say how they are going to do. Shallots started well but have lately been attacked a little bit, whilst leeks are going out in a week or so.

          Most perennial pollinators planted out in vaguely good soil have taken well, I have lost a few where plantings occurred in marginal soil.

          The one thing the hot dry period caused was for cardboard to emerge on the surface of beds as the wet manure dried out and reduced in volume. It may well be the case that it is best to put the cardboard and manure down in the autumn, giving 3-4 months of cool damp weather for the cardboard to rot, but I had to work with what I had on a timetable which was what it was, so I may have done things in a slightly suboptimal manner.

          I have certainly had significant amounts of couch grass coming through, but nothing excessive, there is more bindweed in some areas and plenty of thistle everywhere. There are a few places where nettle roots are rampant and they may need to be dug out: the areas are not those currently under cultivation.

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