Mulch of home-made compost after taking the final harvest

March 2021 new no dig gardens, starting seeds, potting composts and trays

This is a full on time for a propagation, although also there is no rush to sow tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes, sweetcorn et cetera. Spring is also good for making new beds, which you can actually do at any time of year. See all the details below!

My new online course 3A has appeared. Seed to Harvest, the First 15 of 30 different vegetables.

  • Each lesson is one vegetable, in a lot of detail and with a video.
  • I have just finished writing 3B the Second 15 and we are editing it, prior to publishing before the end of March.

Normally it’s reckoned that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. However this year maybe it’s the other way round, with March starting quietly. After a windy and dull February, just 63hrs sunshine in the month, see my weather details.

Starting seeds

Don’t be overawed by what you may read on social media about people starting their cucumbers and even summer beans. They have their time for sowing, and it’s not yet! See my timeline of sowing dates, and Calendar + Diary.

Multisowing is catching on now. It’s such a fine way to save space and compost, and seedlings enjoy being in clumps with their mates. See my guide for which vegetables work best, and how many seeds to sow per cell. This page is available in Spanish and Italian too.

Seed germination

The first few days is all about warmth. Seeds need higher temperatures to germinate than the seedlings need to continue growing. That’s why I bring trays into the house for the first few days, until the first shoots appear.

At this point it’s important to give them full light, to prevent thin leggy seedlings. Either with grow lights in your house, or outside where either it is cooler, but perhaps you can provide some warmth. I have space for a hotbed of fresh horse manure with straw. Electric mats are good too. See my propagation video.

In temperate climates you can also manage without extra heat at the moment, because all of these first swings are not tender to frost. You can also germinate seeds of lettuce, spinach, salad onion et cetera in a propagating area outside, but germination will take longer.

Which compost for potting?

Composts vary so much and over the years I have found Moorland gold to be the most consistent. However they tweak the recipe every winter, and so every spring I have nervous moments of wondering is it working this year? This spring at first some of the ingredients went a little mouldy and also the density felt too fine, resulting in a shortage of air for the roots, see the photo below. Therefore this is not good for sowing seeds in a tray, but it works very well in modules for sowing. In a tray, you can add 50% or more of vermiculite or perlite.

Which? Gardening ran a trial last spring on different composts and found that one of the worst for sowing seeds was John Innes No. 1. A reader sent me the photo below of his problems with it, and there are some poor compost being sold! Better ones include the Melcourt range, possibly Dalefoot if they have worked out their nutrient issues since last spring, and I usually hear good reports about B&Q compost.

Trays? Blocks?

I am enjoying using the trays which I designed, for the first time. The only seeds I would not use them for are broad beans, and perhaps multisown pea, although I am trialling that.

I use larger trays for broad beans, but they are not deep. A 5 cm/2 inch depth is plenty, despite what you may read about broad beans needing deep trays for their taproot. My online course module about propagation has these details.

I use trays rather than blocks because I have found it takes quite a time to make the blocking mix, and then you need dedicated trays to put all the blocks on. I cannot find a blocker for the size I want, either they are smaller or larger. With the CD 60 I can fit a lot of cells in a small area. Plus the trays can be reused time and time again, always without any cleaning or washing, so it’s a rapid process.

 

New ground, mulching weeds no dig

We grab any spare moments to do more mulching of the grass and weeds. No dig can be a nice incremental process where you chip away at a larger space, bed by bed. Learn more in the book of my online no dig course – what you see here relates to module 4, about dealing with weeds without digging.

The size of this new area (just 260 sqm / one fifteenth acre)  has led me to use polythene covers for the first three months or so. Under the polythene are various combinations of some spare topsoil I had, cardboard and compost. The latter is mostly green waste and I have done a bean trial to check that it is free of weedkiller. The bean seedlings are actually growing extremely well!

To save time I am not shaping beds and paths at the moment, just covering the whole area. We shall eventually do a final dressing of some extra compost on what will then become beds, and without any wooden sides.

Cardboard

Until two days ago I did not have enough and mentioned this on a YouTube members video, and a gentleman Steve appeared with a pallet load of cardboard, fit was used for plumbing appliances. Nice cardboard but a lot of staples.

In the photos below, the area in front has only soil on the pasture weeds, without any cardboard underneath. So now we shall apply the cardboard on top of the soil already spread, then the compost above that. I should have preferred to lay cardboard first, but things don’t always work out to plan.

Perspective

The drone shot gives a nice idea of how small the new area is! Although it seems quite large when we are working on it.

Bed prep existing no dig beds

This video we made 11 months ago gives ideas of what jobs you can do over the next month. One is to watch for new weed seedlings and deal with them when they are tiny, because that is much quicker and easier than letting them grow to any size at all.

It took me no more than 10 minutes to run a rake through the beds below, in the photographs. It’s a big advantage of having spread compost just before winter. The frosts have softened it and now it has a beautiful texture, ideal for receiving seeds and plants.

  • No-Dig is just such a win win
  • It saves time, saves effort, drainage has been excellent over winter, and moisture retention is excellent through summer.

New garden Netherlands

The photos below were sent by Gerrit from Friesland. He has created a lovely growing space! I love how no dig is spreading to so many places.

In a week or so we shall release a video we are creating with Wini Walbaum in Santiago. You will see our different gardens, in different seasons, and the conversation I have with Wini, who has not been gardening for long but is very happy with results of no dig, especially for moisture retention.

 

107 thoughts on “March 2021 new no dig gardens, starting seeds, potting composts and trays

  1. Hi Charles

    I’ve just taken on an allotment. It is completely covered on weed grasses and I have already spent many back breaking hours digging and weeding before discovering your website. I made my 1st no dig bed and as a bonus there was just enough compost in the old bins to make a bed 2x3m. I’d like to convert the rest of the allotment now seeing how quick and easy it is.

    My question is how level do the existing beds need to be. There are many areas that are raised with in grass covered beds with troughs either side. Should I rotovate the area for speed and to get a nice fine tilth to rake level, am I going to compromise the soil condition, or its is more important to have level land to lay on top off.

    Thanks for all your great content, can’t wait to see my results.
    David

    1. Is David and I’m glad you have found an easier way! In this case I would indeed rotovate. I hope that people will not crucify me for saying that! but it makes sense to get it level which is important in the longer run. Work fast too.You do not need to go deep, and best of luck

  2. Hi Charles,

    I ordered your diary recently which I’m finding to be immensely useful so thank you for that.

    This is my first ever year growing veg and I’m so happy to have found your channel. One bedd I have Cavolo Nero and Russian Kale growing has green moss covering it – is this ok or should it be removed?

    I also have another bed with a strange type of ring fungus growing right next to a kale bed that’s under fleece – should this be removed also?

    Thanks,
    Stephen

    1. Hi Stephen, and all is fine.
      Moss is an indication of continual dampness, so perhaps that bed is not seeing much sunshine on its surface, which is not a problem as long as there is enough light for the plants. It’s more an aesthetic thing and you could scrape it off if you wish, to the compost heap.
      Fungi suggest decomposition of woody bits in soil and compost, mainly, and are absolutely nothing to worry about. Rather the opposite, life is happening!

  3. For some reason I haven’t received any news from you since February. I so look forward to you telling me what I need to do next! Could you tell me how to get myself back on the system? I need to ask why my squash seeds have rotted in their compost. I’ve had very few germinate successfully and the seed is so expensive so I’d love to sort it out. Many thanks for your continued inspiration.

    1. I just added you to the newsletter contacts list. No idea why it stopped!
      Rotting seed can be:
      Lack of warmth (cold nights in a greenhouse included, because they stop germination)
      Old seed with little vigour
      Soggy compost.
      Hope you get some growth, it’s a good time to sow now. Keep in your house for 5-7 days, for warmer nights.

  4. It is often read that we should not plant tomatoes out in the polytunnel before May 15th. I did plant them in March as we had a 10 day spell of summer temperatures. They are covered with double fleece and the temperature inside the tunnel is 5C more than outside. We had frost and the wind blew strongly which might have lowered the temperatures in the tunnel even more… The old leaves are dying. but new ones are sprouting .

    What would that do to the tomatoes? I never tried before so this year I did attempt the experiment.

    1. Hi Alex, and tomatoes do resist cold, just they are killed by freezing.
      So yours will probably survived thanks to that extra protection you are giving, and if there is sunshine by day they may even thrive. Light levels are another context because here for example, we have much less sunshine than in mainland Europe and recently it’s been grey and cold by day, even in the polytunnel. My salads are growing but much more slowly than usual, for April.

  5. Hello Charles,

    Do you need someone to translate this page in French?
    I’m available to do that if you want.

    See you
    Tim

    1. Hi Tim and this is kind of you. I am not sure how many French readers there are here and how worthwhile this will be for the time you spend? On the other hand, doing it will attract more French readers!
      If you send the translation, we shall post it.

  6. Hi Charles, My gardening experience started in the 50’s, Rural science at school, followed by digging my parents garden. Needless to say my own gardens have been lawns, border shrubs and conservation (weeds). I’m now 80 with limited mobility, however your videos and books have given me new interest, so this year, hopefully vegetables from the no-dig garden. (That’s if the pigeons and sparrows don’t get them first).
    I’ve had great fun seeing your videos and reading your books. Hopefully when movement restrictions are over, will visit Homeacres. I’m a short distance away in S.M.

  7. Dear Charles,

    I first heard of you on the German gardening blog “Wurzelwerk” and you have kind of become my “garden guru”. Before I watched many of your videos and read some of your books, I have tried some variations of no dig in my own way, basically with what I had (which was once a thin layer of old soil on top of the cardboard –> very mediocre harvests; and once loads of fresh horse manure –> complete fail), but this year I’m gonna do it right and already had a huge amount of well decomposed green waste compost delivered! 🙂

    You say on a new bed you spread 10-15cm of compost (or around 3-5cm per year on existing beds) and you walk on the freshly spread compost to tread it down. My question is as follows: Is that 10-15cm (or 3-5cm for yearly application) of compost before or after treading it down?

    Thanks a million for all the great content you provide! I have already learned so much from you!

    Greetings from Bavaria

    Susanne

    1. Hi Susanne, you are a natural 🙂
      It is either before, or after.
      I don’t like to be prescriptive because that makes people worry that they have either too little or too much, my measurements are to give a rough idea. Say 15 cm before and 10 cm after!
      Enjoy your new year!

      1. Hey Charles,

        😀 You made my day!!!

        Thank you for your quick reply!
        My ultimate goal is to get 200kg of veggies out of my 50 m² of beds this year. I think with no dig I can do it 🙂

  8. Dear Charles,

    Started no dig mid last year inspired by you and had a bountiful harvest. I re-read your books and looking forward to following your advice to try double sowing to extend the harvest this year. Can’t wait!

    A few questions:

    1) I used only spent mushroom compost in my polytunnel and grew cauliflower, pak choy and leeks etc to overwinter for our vegetable supply. However, we got mold spots on the cauliflower heads and that quickly spread to all 40 cauliflowers which we then had to remove
    Want to get your advice as I know you grow salad leaves over winter in your polytunnel. Is it common to get mold in the polyunnel especially if the doors are no opened due to the cold? Do you open the doors during winter (ours are double doors, half netted on the top on both ends like yours ) Do you think the mold is caused by the spores in the mushroom compost?
    Would the mold situation over the winter impact this year’s planting of tomatoes, abergines, okras which I’m planning to grow?

    2) we’re up north in Dunfermline Scotland same zone as yours. Can we grow butternut pumpkins, cantaloupe melons and sweet potatoes outside or better in the polytunnel for warm?

    3) last but not least, we’ve got some fresh wood chips – can we use them as mulch on the paths around our raised beds now? Our raised beds have wood planks around them. Would that affect the vegetables in the raised beds in terms of drawing nitrogen from them or should we really leave them for 6-9 months for it to break down a bit before we use them for the paths (for suppressing the weeds).

    Thank you for being so generous with your knowledge.

    1. Hi Jan, well done.
      1 the mould is caused by lack of ventilation!! Nothing to do with any compost. I keep my doors open all winter because fresh air is so vital, and also you may be over watering. We gave no water between Christmas and the end of January for example. You’re a polytunnel is not warm in winter, but it’s keeping the main wind off and the lashing rain.
      2 no you cannot grow those outside and even here I do not attempt melons any more except in the poly tunnel.
      3 yes you could spread some fresh woodchip, on the pathways, and it does not remove nitrogen when it is on the surface. I prefer to spread more decomposed woodchip, because it’s fungal content is then higher and good for soil.

  9. Hi Charles, first, thank you so much for all your valuable information.
    I work for two school districts in west Michigan, USA teaching K-12 students food literacy through gardening and nutrition education and finding your site during the pandemic has changed the way I approach gardening. No one has time for weeding! Your solutions are simple and brilliant.
    Next, I have a question about a new hoop house garden program I’m running with the 8th grade class. We are building no dig beds and just received our load of compost from a dairy farm up the street from school. Unfortunately it came in quite wet and clumpy although the farmer said it was created in September, 2020. My question is how can I tell if the compost is “ready” to direct seed spinach, lettuce, etc. Should I top the compost layer with an additional drier compost mix more suitable for direct seeding?

    Thanks for your work, you are a treasure!

    1. Thanks Lynn, and I am thrilled you are working with students and younger people. The feedback so far suggest they really like no dig because it removes the onerous weeding job, or most of it anyway!

      Yes I would do exactly that, rake level the surface of your lumpy manure, then spread probably 2 inches of fine compost such as ‘potting soil’ or any fine compost, for direct seeding.

  10. I have watched so many of your videos and they inspire me tremendously.
    I mentioned before I have done no dig for over 30yr here in Canada and maybe if you would like, I will send some pics sometime.
    I have a compost question:
    I have been cautious with what i put in the compost but would like your thoughts on two items that i have never added. I shred papers from mailings etc and thought maybe they would be ok but i worry about the ink. I have never used newspaper either but i know many use it under the mulch in the same way you use cardboard. Is the ink or type of paper of any concern? I also have a long coat German Sheppard that sheds a lot of hair. I brush her daily and wondered if that would be ok to add to the compost. What are your thoughts?

    1. Hi Al, thanks for your photo offer, I am lacking time to process at the moment! I believe with inks that most of them are vegetable-based so I don’t mind some, but I never add shiny paper. And I would certainly add hair from the dog, full of good things I am sure, even the wildlife!

  11. I’ve been no-dig in an amateurish way for several years, but reading your new book (3 times already!) has galvanised my efforts, given confidence to go further, taught good techniques and shown what we really need in our new garden – our own properly made compost. I made a 7mx5m vegetable bed with all the boxes from moving house last autumn and invested in three pallets of Compost Direct’s ‘Black Gold’ – looks great, but still slightly warm when spread. And my three pallets meant… Two questions: (i) on border areas where I have roses and loads of spring bulbs, with perennials to come later, I should think time for deep mulch would be between end of the spring bulbs and beginning of HP flowering? (ii) I’m sure I’m not the first to ask this: you say that the compost heap becomes like a new member of the family, to be fed and watched grow. Is it too cheeky if we name ours ‘Charles’?

    1. Hi Alan, nice to read this, and yes that would be an excellent time to spread the compost. I hope the commercial stuff works alright.
      And I would be honoured to create and spread good energy in your garden!!

  12. Hello Charles,

    I just wondered why you remove the staples from the cardboard? They will rust and would the Fe not actually be beneficial to the soil?

    I always put the old nails from my ash pan into my compost heap as I heard an ex prisoner of war talk about how they used to leave a few nails soaking in their water tank, to keep their iron intake up.

    1. Craig,
      That sounds plausible but I am not convinced it’s so simple as that, because of all the interruptions in soil which I’m not really understood and too much of one thing leads to less of another. It’s not very natural to have lots of new iron landing in soil! And example is the high iron content in spinach leaves, much of which is not accessible because of the high oxalate content.
      Plus with the staples, they are sharp so you might be planting a potato with your trowel and cut your finger.

  13. Hi Charles,

    Thanks for a great website with tons of info. I’ve created 12 no dig beds and now realise I need more but have no more compost. Is it ok to use the multi use compost for the beds? Also, how well does rhubarb manage in a no dig bed, have you tried them?

    Thanks,

    Phil

    1. It is fine to use any compost for creating beds. And any plant likes the no dig approach, I have grown rhubarb for decades and it always thrives.

  14. Hi Charles!

    Thanks for all the great info you distribute. I’ve been going through your online course #1 and in it you mention tree roots in the garden. There is a Populous genus tree (not sure of species) in our neighbor’s yard that has covered about 1/2 our small garden with its roots. I have started removing the roots I can reach (about in the top 1’/.3 meters). Is this a fools errand? Am I doomed to just winter plantings in that part of the garden or is worthwhile to remove the roots I can reach so that I can plant in the spring and summer??? Many thanks for your time, videos, and courses!

    1. Hi Robert,
      That is bad luck for you, because poplar trees gulp a lot of water and the roots are quite superficial. It will make a difference to remove some roots but that involves some digging, and then a large tree quickly makes new ones, shooting up from the deeper roots below.
      I fear that you are correct, winter cropping will be best for that area.

  15. Hi Charles, we’re just starting out on a no dig market garden, which was inspired by you, was just wondering what do you suggest is the most important things to prioritise. We’ve been wanting to do it for years. We have a design plan and it would be great to receive your imput.

    1. That sounds exciting and also challenging! Main thing I guess is that you have customers, and you need to grow your market with a good offering linked to continuity of supply, with no weeks of missed harvests, say of whatever vegetables you want people to buy. With salad leaves this is possible, using my picking methods rather than cutting. And keep sowing and planting all through the season, to have beds full the whole time.
      I wish you success!

  16. Hi Charles

    With the early, more hardy crops (onions, beetroot, lettuce, radish etc) when transplanting the plugs out into the garden, would you suggest hardening off beforehand?

    On YouTube, for radish you suggest not and just to fleece over the top. Would it be the same for the others?

    Thanks in advance

    1. I may be wrong, but I don’t think Charles hardens those plants off, I certainly don’t but cover with fleece as he suggests….

  17. Charles,
    I have recently discovered your books and methods-thank you. As a professional landscaper (design, install & maintain) for 11 years who focuses on the greenery (not hardscaping), I began using cardboard to smother weeds a few years in my own trial gardens, and occasionally for clients. I have met and tackled many weeds over the years, including the field bindweed (super tenacious), creeping bellflower, sweet pea (enormous roots 3 ft. below the soil surface), Japanese Knotweed, coltsfoot, and my least favourite creeping tormentil (cinquefoil/potentilla/silverweed). The latter I encountered for the first time 4 years ago. Smothering only seemed to strengthen the roots and after a year, it came back with a vengeance. Last year, I even began to sift the soil to find any remnants of roots. It has invaded many of my flower and vegetable gardens and is proving very problematic. I noticed that this plant is mentioned in your book No dig gardening, Course 1, but not in the list of weeds and how to deal with them. I would appreciate any advice on dealing with it. I read that it thrives in disturbed soil, and it seems that it must have been present on the rural property that I purchased and as I began to establish gardens, it became reinvigorated. It has invaded some lawn areas as well. Karin, http://www.greenscapesbydesign.ca

    1. Hi Karin, and that is one weird I have not mulched myself but I have seen others being successful. I wonder whether the version we have here in the UK is different to yours because what you say sounds truly horrendous! So I’m afraid I cannot offer you any specific help, just I wish you well!

    2. Hi Charles, Karin, or other folks,
      How do you go about ridding an area of knot weed? Thank you kindly in advance!
      Kind Regards,
      Steve

  18. Hi Charles,
    I havent been able to get your new seed tray as yet but a friend showed me his yesterday.
    I must say I’m very impressed with the quality.
    I didnt realise (failed to visualise) how small the cells are which prompts me to ask.
    You say, in one of your videos, that you can multisow in these trays.
    I’m wondering as I usually multisow seeds in 4cm square cells, 5.5 cm deep, would you consider supplementary feeding would be required with your trays?
    My own feeling is yes if you use a seed compost but perhaps not if using potting or multipurpose compost. I think you would probably be looking at potting on Leeks for instance?
    Don.

    1. Hi Charles,

      In a nutshell what I’m asking is….as your tray carries approx 1/3 of the amount of compost you would have in the standard 40 cell trays wouldnt the nutrients therefore be exhausted faster particularly if multisowing.

      All the best,

      Don.

      1. I meant to say. My concern is only around multisowing.
        I will most certainly be using them for my Tomatoes, Kale, Cabbage, etc., and other single sowings.
        They are absolutely brilliant. If I had my way the flimsy type cell trays would be banned and who knows but maybe this tray will eventually leed to such a ban!

        Don.

        1. I dare reply… yes multisowing means that you have to plant the seedlings before they run out of nutrients and start going yellow. As far as I have seen with Charles this doesn’t happen that quickly… only after the plant exceed 10-12 cm in height

  19. Hi Charles

    Excellent content as always! A question if you don’t mind, something I have never been able to get to the bottom of. I germinate heat loving plants (tom’s, chillies, aubergine, peppers etc.) indoors, and grow them on before moving them out to the greenhouse/polytunnel. Although I know not to plant these out until after the last frost, when would you move them out to an unheated GH/PT whilst still potted up? Keen to avoid leggy plants/cluttered house, but don’t want to lose all to frost damage.

    Thanks

    Rich

    1. I cannot say because it depends on your greenhouse, and your climate and where you are, which governs when spring frosts are likely.
      From about the equinox they will profit from the warmth and light by day in the greenhouse, you need to insulate by night if frosty

      1. Many thanks, sounds like the devil is in the detail! Zone 8b, will plant extra and try putting some out after equinox (protecting during frost) and hold some others back and see what happens. Many thanks

        1. I dare answer again… I also live in zone 8 continental climate. Here one farmer used a double inflated foil, a warm air ventiloator and a solar cell movable unit in the greenhouse to heat it all through the winter. On a 10m x20m polytunnel it costs about 500 euros a month in electricity. he grows tomatoes

  20. I’ve learned a great deal about vegetables from you which I am very grateful but I would also like to get into flowers (cut and edible, so things like dahlia/zinnas and calendula/ breadseed poppies/sunflowers respectively).

    I couldn’t really find any timings in your YouTube videos or the couple of books I have for the flowers that you grow (other than one video on the topic and late April zinnas on your timeline). This is quite understandable really as you are a vegetable farmer.

    Are there any flower farmers that you would recommend who have a similar philosophy and passion as yourself?

    Thanks

    1. Hi
      I have the same interest and I bought a book called the “flower farmers year” by Georgie Newbery and found it really good quality and helpful.

  21. Hi Charles, when will your seed module trays be back in stock please, and can I pre order?

    Many thanks, Gaynor

      1. Gaynor – it looks like they have them now in stock at “The Refill Room” where you can order them on-line. They are made by a company called Containerwise but they are currently out of stock.
        Charles – do you recommend Containerwise’s 40L Shallow Long-Life Propagation Trays for a 40 cell tray?

  22. Hello Charles
    I’ve just received my order of your new module trays from the Refill Shop. They look and feel brilliant, and I also love the hole size to push the plants out when ready. I was very impressed with the speedy service from Refill, too.

    1. I thought that I had enough trays and so was sad that I missed out, but after starting sowing seeds, I’m not so sure. Might pick some up when they are back (77 module trays are a bit small and 40 too big for most).

  23. Thanks for this.

    I was wondering if you have a strategy for dealing with seeds that don’t germinate? Or take a long time. Do you have a cut off where you say “I’ll cut my losses and try again with a new batch” how long would you wait? Is there a maximum for each seed type?

    This is a problem I have because I don’t know if the seeds are no good or if they are just taking their time and will germinate the next day! My onion seeds seem to be taking about a month to germinate!

    Be interested to hear your take on that,

    Thanks

    Gareth

    1. I don’t know Charles thoughts on this, but for most things after about ten to fourteen days I would be thinking of resowing with either a new batch of seeds, a different compost, more or less water, or in a warmer environment – or maybe all of the above. Parsnips are the best known exception to this rule taking ages to germinate when sown outdoors.

      I don’t remember my onion seeds taking much longer than other seeds – but then I’m rubbish at keeping records and getting older so my memory is’nt what it was. So if you are having success with other seeds in the same compost and in the same propagating space then I would suspect it’s a problem with the seed. Try again, if the first lot come up in the meantime you can always give away any extras and promote Charle’s multi-sowing technique in the process!

      1. Quick update – my onions germinated in 7 days, a fact dutifully noted down in my newly-purchased copy of Charle’s diary.

  24. I’m looking to start no dig and I happen to live near the sea, if I were to include freshly gathered seaweed in the bed construction what layer would I add it to after the cardboard and roughly how thick a layer?
    Thank you

    1. Lucky you Natasha, and I would add it always as surface layer, best in the autumn so it is mostly decomposed by spring. Maybe not too much at this point, or spread as much around larger plants once they are growing

  25. I have been using the fertile fibre seed compost for sowing and their multipurpose. Really impressed with the results, good germination with all my seeds so far. I have watched a lot of your videos and can’t recommend them enough for people starting out (I have learnt a lot and I am inspired to try and get the most out of my space, multisowing onion, leeks, spinach, kale).

    1. Thanks Jamie. My reservation is that it’s coconut fibre which is imported organic matter from countries where maybe they need their organic matter. Also I wonder about the nutrient status, keep us posted after you have grown some seedlings for 4 weeks

  26. Love the videos, Charles, as well as the blog. I use the videos as much for their calmative qualities as for their gardening advice. They should be available on prescription from the NHS!

    Regarding slug habitats… I’ve seen you talk about removing wooden sides from beds to reduce their hiding places. My main growing area is essentially a large raised bed (or collection of beds, really) contained within four brick walls. Would brick be favoured by slugs, do you think? Or am I safe because it doesn’t rot?

    1. Thanks Rob, nice comment about the videos! And bricks do offer damp hiding places for slugs so be careful with them, it would not be my choice of bed sides

  27. Hi Charles and thanks once again for a great post. On the subject of seed compost I’d like to share experiences with other no-dig growers here in europe.

    This will be my second year using ökohum peat-free compost that I bought from my local organic nursery here in Basel, Switzerland. I am very pleased with it, particularly as it apears to resist drying out much longer than the other peat free alternatives you get in the larger garden centre chainstores.

    Looking at the packaging it is also available in Germany and Austria – anybody else tried it or found other good seed composts?

    1. We made our own compost by asking neighbors to give us their organic materials and using the big lawn mover to chop them down. I do not turn my heaps and thus they take about 9 months to decompose. That is the best compost I found…

  28. I will be trying no dig on our allotments this year. Husband isn’t convinced so he’s having a dig area and me no dig! May the best gardener win !
    The beds have weeds on, if I covered them now with rotted horse manure can I then plant directly in?

    1. Sounds fun!!
      Yes as long as the weeds are not say couch grass, and manure is thick 4in+.
      Or some card on weeds now, will decompose by the time your plant’s roots are down there

      1. Ok brilliant thank you. So the neat manure won’t burn the roots of the veg?
        I’m going to win you know 😁🌽🥕🥒🍓🧅🧄🍒🍎🍐🫐

        1. When you say manure, you mean well rotted manure which basically is compost. Millions of us do this all the time, so it puzzles me where this statement comes from! Your roots will be fine

          1. Thanks. I have your diary ready to help me be more organised than usual, especially as I’m semi retiring end March. May even get down to Somerset for one of your courses when we get the “get out of jail” card!

  29. Hello Charles, thank you once again for another great blog. Hurray for Spring.
    My garden in Cumbria is full of moss (varieties of common moss) as we have a very damp climate and it mainly lives on our dry stone walls. My flower beds are always covered in moss but I have learnt to live with it. The moss is now starting to appear on my veg beds and I am removing it as soon as I notice any. So far I haven’t been putting any moss in the compost bin up as I was not sure if it is a sensible thing to do. What would you advise – would you compost moss? (I do not get the high heat that you achieve in your compost bays).
    Thank you Charles.
    Alice

    1. Thanks Alice!
      Moss is fine in compost but is slow to decompose, goes better with grass and weeds. Hope it dries soon for you 🙂

  30. Hi Charles
    I am going to try this year some home made “block” containers made from short cut lengths of square plastic downpipe rescued from a skip. They fit snugly in a tray and are easy to fill as well as almost indestructible.
    Wooden slats from unwanted venetian blinds also make good large labels for the end of rows.
    As you can guess I have a problem with waste!!!

  31. Thanks Charles!

    I’ve just planted Raspberry canes in a bed that had plastic cover for over a year. When digging a hole for them I saw that there are still some bindweed roots deep in the ground. Would it be ok to cover around the new stems with cardboard and compost on top to keep the weeds down or would the new raspberry shoots struggle to get trough? I.e. only put compost down and hope for the best?

    1. Hi Barbara, there may be only a few find weed roots there, in which case maybe no need for cardboard.
      Or if you want to place card up to the main cluster of raspberry stems, that can work, after planting.

  32. I purchased the Course 3A on Friday and have worked through five of the fifteen lessons so far.

    Even after 6 years of no-dig growing, there is still a wealth of new insights in there, and going from seed to harvest with each crop is a great way of seeing the whole picture, particularly if as a beginner you dislike uncertainty and like a clear road map to follow!

    A few learnings from the past six to twelve months:

    1. Bulbs will grow happily through a woodchip mulch (I put a small amount down last September as a trial and strong and numerous bulb plants are now coming through where the mulch was laid).

    Here in NW London we tend to have hotter and drier spells than down with Charles in Somerset, particularly in spring and summer, so I am looking for ways to conserve moisture in the summer. Wood chips seems to do well. I am going to do a 1sqm trial on one of my no-dig beds with 6-month old woodchips this spring to see if crops will grow well too.

    2. Although it is still too early to sow tomato seeds, if you made your own, now is a great time to test whether the ones you made last year are good or not. I sowed mine on 26th February and 4 of 7 strains are already coming through on day 3!

    3. The difference in germination speed indoors vs outdoors, even in the mild conditions of the second half of February here, is astonishing. I sowed 81 modules of Radish Rudi on 20th February and left them out of doors for a week. Almost no germination occurred. I brought them indoors and within 2 days, all 81 modules had 3-6 young plants bursting through!

    They are now living outdoors again in my lean-to, along with beetroot, kohlrabi and peas for shoots.

    4. If your only source of ‘free compost’ is horse manure (as is the case down at my allotment site), the following crops work very well in year 1: broad beans and peas, transplanted in Feb/March; potatoes, winter squash, cucumber sown/transplanted in April/May; beetroot, swede, turnip, winter radish, leek planted out in June or sown in August.

    The only thing I would question is growing onions if the horse manure is not yet fully rotted down. That was really my sole failure.

    I put down compost made from all the material cleared from jungle in 2019 in late 2020/early 2021 and >95% of garlics planted into that have come through strongly over the winter.

  33. It is easier to remove tape from cardboard once it is a bit damp, so I just lay it on the ground overnight. To get staples out, it is much faster to just cut off the bit that has the staples in, it is a fraction of the very large box.

  34. Great post Charles and great photographic details as to how small weeds should be to catch them before they get going. I’ve created 16 beds of between 5 and 7 metres across two allotment plots with great success. Horse manure from the field and stable last summer has totted down well under plastic sheets and already has garlic planted into it.

  35. I love your method Charles. In December, I laid cardboard down on a patch of lawn I want to convert to a vegetable patch, and covered it with a good layer of compost about 4″ deep. I’m planning to plant out early and second early potatoes followed by leeks, just like you’ve shown us in your garden. I live in warm South Devon and some weeds are starting to poke through (I perhaps didn’t overlay the cardboard enough). Should I put black plastic sheets over it all please?

    1. Good to hear this John, except for the weeds.
      It depends what they are but probably you can remove them by hand, unless it’s a whole mass of lawn growing through, but I doubt that. Just keep pulling them and probably we will have clean ground very soon.

  36. Thanks Charles for another great post. I also used moorland gold this time after seeing it in one of your videos. Unfortunately almost half of the trays/blocks (with various seeds like broad beans, peppers, broccoli, spinach) did develop mold. So far 30-40% of seeds didn’t germinate. After seeing your post now, I’ll re-sow some of the seeds as it looks like the problem were not the seeds.

    1. I feel bad about this Semih, and don’t know what they were thinking of! Best email them at least, and I think the compost is ok now.

    2. Hi Semih, I mix Moorland Gold about 60/40 with a Melcourt blend which is a very light and fluffy compost and the two combine very well. For small seeds I also add some vermiculite to the mix, which would then be 50 Moorlands, 40 Melcourt, 10 vermiculite. Good luck.

  37. Hi Charles,
    I’m relatively new to the No Dig way. Only really starting at the tail end of last summer. I think your approach is absolutely right. I recently bought your No dig Gardening book and calendar. Both are amazing!
    Just a question I’ve inherited a front garden with fairly deep gravel boarders. The weeds love them and are difficult to deal with. I’m at a loose end trying to decide about how to deal with this. Do I need to dig the gravel out? Or can I use the No dig method, by placing cardboard straight onto the gravel boarders , followed by compost? Obviously with Spring approaching I want to transform and make full use of this space. Your guidance/ suggestions would be very much appreciated.

    1. Hi Mark, that is nice to read about your enthusiasm and you will need it for dealing with the gravel! Such a horrible material for any garden and I would actually remove at least some of it, until you reach muddy gravel at the bottom which could be left. It contributes nothing to some fertility, nor to drainage. May your garden repay what will be a fair amount of work.

      1. Hi Charles,
        Thank you so much for your advice. At least I know what I need to do now. Thankfully my Back garden plot has no gravel. Looking forward to attending one of your courses, when the restrictions permit.

  38. Hi, thanks Charles for all your videos, no-dig book and blog posts – I’ve now made 4 no-dig beds, and am following your calendar this year, with a view to adjusting it to North Wales if needed. On compost, I’ve had good germination in Westland New Horizon (peat free, but unfortunately not organic) from B&Q (can’t easily find a supplier close by for Moorland). It’s early days, the seedlings are just under 2 weeks old, but all good so far. I’m enjoying microweeding for the first time ever! 10 mins today, and just a handful of ‘microweeds’!
    I’ve got some fresh wood chippings from reducing a couple of trees Oak&beech) in January. I’m thinking of trying to mix in some fresh lawn mowings to the 1m cubed heap to get a warm (rather than hot) bed to put my cold frame on to raise seedlings – have you tried anything like that before/have any suggestions?
    Thanks for all you info and help 🙂
    Julie

    1. Sounds great Julie!
      We put fresh woodchip in the greenhouse hotbed last year and it does generate heat, less than manure and you need a lot of wood – but the grass would be ideal with it, about 2/3 grass and one third wood chip

  39. I followed your You tube videos last year and watched the older ones throughout this winter. I had your diary as a Christmas present which has lots of key sowing dates that are useful and is in full use at the moment .
    I have been a keen gardener for years, just a small area in a big garden but I felt it was not big enough as I want to grow as much veg and fruit as possible.
    It has, however taken me a while to convince my husband about No Dig as he always rotated our beds. Finally after I made him watch some of your videos he has agreed to let me expand our growing area. We are now in the process of setting up 8 beds a small orchard and a fruit garden in a new strip of a field adjoining the house.
    He has also built me a composting area as we will need lots of compost for next year.
    Thank you so much for being such an inspiration and a brilliant tutor, we are so looking forward to the coming months sowing seeds and harvesting our bounty.

  40. Thank you Charles, much appreciated.
    I have seen some now which have been blended with 50% green waste composts. Though as you say I suspect it is fresh not composted.
    Do you have a recommended supplier for green waste?

  41. Fantastic post Charles! Thank you.
    I am gradually swapping over to the containerwise trays and they are wonderful, much sturdier and easier to work with. Currently using the 40L Shallow for my showings.
    Have you had much experience with the fermented veganic composts? I am in need of a lot of bulk this year for bed building and wonder who you might recommend? I am overly cautious/hesitant after my terrible aminopyralid issue last year.
    Many thanks

    1. Hi Em are and I advise you to be very careful with biodigestate because it’s not compost at all, it is just waste material from an anaerobic process. My experience of using it is not overwhelming!
      It might be good after a year of sitting in a heap and filling with some sort of life and worms, but mostly it is sold fresh and for a lot of money. I recommend you source some green waste compost, or very old woodchip if possible

  42. Hi Charles thank you for showing your new beds! It’s so encouraging to hear that sometimes things don’t always go to plan.

    I have a question about well-rotted horse manure. Last year we started our first veg garden ever with three beds of lovely 3 yr old horse manure over cardboard. All went well, although we had lots of weed seedlings sprout. Now this year I don’t know whether I should do your recommended inch layer (of the same rotted horse manure) over the top of our beds? Will the benefits of a mulch layer outweigh the downside of loads of new weed seeds?

    I would really appreciate your thoughts on this. At the moment I think purchasing another type of compost is not feasible so just want to do what’s best! Thank you.

    1. If you felt your plantings all grew really well and you can still see some nice soft, old and composted horse manure on the surface, you may be fine without adding any more this year!

      1. Hi Laura, at some point you will obviously want to use that lovely sounding horse manure and those weed seeds will still be viable for a good number of years to come. You could try spreading it now on some of your beds that you will be first planting up in late spring, (eg with beans, courgettes, sweet corn, cucumbers etc) and then covering with clear plastic sheeting. The theory is that the warmth under the sheeting promotes rapid germination of weed seeds that you can then repeatedly hoe off leaving you a clean bed for planting in may. I’ve never had to do this myself so I can’t vouch for it myself but it does sound vaguely sensible…..

  43. Once again you have inspired me! I have lots of seedings I was worried about putting out in case they were too small but now I’ve decided I’m going to go for it!
    I had terrible issues with onion seeds not germinating. They were last year’s would that be a problem? I’ve ordered more but is it too late to sow them (they should arrive this week)
    Saved peas from last year (Alderman as you suggested!) and they are flying . Will definitely try more seed saving this year.
    Thanks again for all your help and advice , priceless!

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