multisown beetroot and singles of broccoli, fennel and coriander

March 2021 update new seedlings and sowings, new land, no dig bed prep, cool spring

It has been a different kind of winter here, somehow cold and damp in a more damaging way than 2018, when we had bitter winds in March but with less damage to plants. See the broad bean photos below. However, I am encouraged by the broccoli which I sowed last June and it should be cropping within a month, through the beginning of hungry gap time. My new course 3A has a lesson for each vegetable, with lots of these details.

And the plantings I made into the compost of a brand-new bed with cardboard underneath, and strong perennial weeds under the cardboard on 21st November (see video with Epic Gardening), have all done really well. The one exception is direct sown spinach. Transplants generally work better, although the garlic was cloves I popped in.

I heard from a follower in South Sweden who said her broccoli has not survived the winter. Their frosts of lower than -10 C/14 F seem to be a temperature limit for its survival, but also depending how long that level of cold is sustained, whether there is snow protection, and how windy it is as well.

Soon we shall pass that exciting time of equinox and already the days feel amazingly light, even though it’s not very sunny here! In the first 12 days of March we have had four hours of sunshine and the average night temperature has been 1.8C / 36F with average day temperatures of 9C / 48F. Rain to 12th March was 32.4mm / 1.3in, less than normal.

The weather charts suggest that we are not warming up much any time soon, and I think that’s the same for most of north-west Europe. The wind direction at equinox is a clue to the next few weeks of weather and it looks like being more northerly then southerly, so I am expecting a spring more cool than warm, sadly. Fleece covers will serve well for new plantings.

Sowing now or soon

Despite the cool and windy weather, some of us can soon make a few sowings outdoors. I find that late March is excellent for carrots and parsnips here, and you could also make outdoor sowings of lettuce, spinach, onions plus salad onions and shallots, onion and shallot sets, early varieties of cabbage + cauliflower + broccoli, radish, broad beans and peas. For the latter two there is always a risk of mice eating seeds.

Sowing under cover is more reliable, and you can so any of the above plus tomatoes celery, and celeriac. I do not recommend sowing leeks yet unless you want a few for a very early harvest. I do my main leek sowing in early April, together with chard. Both of these have a small risk of bolting if sown too early. Find sowing dates all year in my Calendar, now cheaper in our spring sale.

See the photos and this IGTV video, for how I rapidly prepare beds after winter, for seeds and plants.


I use windowsills and space in my house for most germination at this time of year, five days or so straight after seeding which is when one counts for the most, and before light is necessary. If space allows I also germinate on the hotbed of fresh horse manure, whose surface is currently 39 C/102 F, after we added two large wheelbarrows of more fresh manure, four days ago.

The Moorland Gold compost is performing better now. I am sure it contained some ingredients which were too fresh, not fully composted, partly because of how it is not holding moisture so well as normal. Plus we did not react enough to its being so fine, and should have pushed it less firmly into the cells. After realising this I mixed some new potting compost with the Moorland Gold together with some of my own compost which I sieved, and much of what you see in these photographs is that mix which is growing well so far.

Making compost

Most of us want to make more compost and at this time of year, there is not a great deal of raw material. I find that my compost heaps fill very slowly until April. We just finished adding to the heap which we started last November, and it had been 3/4 full by Christmas, then has received only small top ups until recently.

A final boost was using the lawnmower to cut some brambles and grass and ivy, which was a quite nice mix of green and brown, more brown actually with the bramble stems in small pieces. To finish the heap, we again used the lawnmower and cut some year old woodchip, to make a capping layer of about 3 cm/an inch. The temperature is only 30 C/86 Fahrenheit which reflects the lack of green. It will become nice Compost but more slowly and with more weed seeds, than if there were more green additions. I should love to add a little fresh manure from the neighbour’s horses, but simply do not dare to because of the potential pyralid weedkiller, see below.

New land, new video

We continue to do some different mulchings of weeds in the new ground. Some mulches we spread six weeks earlier made a great backdrop for the video with Wini Walbaum in Santiago. I first met Winnie on Instagram over a discussion about T-shirts, and one result of that is a new range of no dig clothing in organic cotton! When you buy before end of 14th March, they plant a tree for every order received.

It was such a pleasure discussing with her on Zoom, which has been one small blessing of lockdowns. We are in the process now of making available my courses at Homeacres and first ones in June, do keep an eye on the website.

Sadly the villagers have decided not to hold Alampton Gardens open day on  23rd May, but we may do a visits day then instead – again do watch this space.

Checking composts for weedkiller

It upsets me that this is necessary, but I want peace of mind. Happily, many of you will be fortunate and succeed with clean compost. Then there will be a few of you who do not, and there is no way of knowing by looking at compost, or by talking to the sellers who don’t know either, whether the highly poisonous pyralid weedkiller is in there.

For example in garden waste compost it can come from lawn weedkillers. It is far worse than glyphosate, which does break down in a compost heap. Happily, both batches of green waste compost which I have purchased are free of this poison and even better than that, they are growing excellent plants, as you can see in the photograph on left.

Compared to them, the beans I sowed in freshly delivered mushroom compost hardly germinated, which got me worried. Then three weeks later I sowed peas in the same mushroom compost and they are looking fine, so probably the compost was just too fresh (heap was 50C). That shows how worthwhile it is to buy compost a few weeks before you want to spread it. However this is not always possible and you can still use fresh compost as a thin mulch on the surface, to feed soil life rather than plant roots, but I would not use it to fill a whole bed, until more mature.

I have added the photograph of a contaminated plant to give you an idea of the possible symptoms, which concentrate in the growing point, not so much in lower leaves.

Want a job?

I have been asked by Russ Carrington at Knepp Regen Farms (rewilding) in South Sussex, if I know a grower with experience of no dig market gardening, follow the link. Also there is an opportunity at Roots to Work in central Somerset.

New ground for no dig

My new area is expanding and I have less time than ever before, because of so much computer work. Therefore I have employed a full-time gardener, Adam who lives in Bruton. As well as being familiar with vegetable growing, he has a passion for working with fungi.

The biggest job of the last week has been removing the last fence panels and massive amounts of bramble and ivy. Most of the roots are still in the ground, but we mode very short and may just keep going which will allow the grass to develop and grow between. It’s amazing how grass develops in this climate when it is repeatedly cut short, making it spread horizontally into a lawn!

The selection of culinary apple trees on M26 root stock, are from Pennard Plants, who are near here. Chris Smith the owner is building our RHS no dig garden at Hampton Court.

Design for no dig show garden, Hampton Court London in July
Design for no dig show garden by Charles Dowding and Stephanie Hafferty, RHS Hampton Court London in July 6th – 15th

Beds ready

Winter has been long, and spring is rushing in. With no dig it’s such a beautiful method of preparation that takes almost no time, to rake the bed lightly, and remove any weeds including any in the pathways. People sometimes ask if I have cardboard under the woodchip but absolutely never do I use that after year one, when it is for smothering perennial weeds.

Broad bean failures and learning

I am so disappointed to have lost a lot of broad bean transplants, and it is partly my carelessness. I have been so immersed in writing course material this winter that I have not given quite enough time for a few jobs. We rushed to get these transplants in the ground in December, just before a frost as it happened, and there was not time to put a cover on. Normally I would have waited to transplant them later, but I have been trying to get everything done when I have a gang here, and that’s not always at the right time.

Nonetheless it’s fascinating to see how the most damaged beans are in the three strip trial, on the bed which we fork, while the neighbouring no dig bed has a reasonable survival rate. This is the seventh winter of growing broad beans there.

99 thoughts on “March 2021 update new seedlings and sowings, new land, no dig bed prep, cool spring

  1. Hi Charles,
    Live in middle France (alt 650m). Currently sunny days and cold nights. By using your diary & calendar I have been able to raise numerous veg & varieties using my vermiculite propagating bench with grow ligjt panels.
    My neighbour has an open compost heap (4m x 2m) which he has been composting to for some 8 years. He has offered me ‘free’ the contents of this heap. I have so far removed around 6 x 50 L sacks of the compost and sieved it. It looks very similar to your own compost but is much lighter. During the sieving, I have come across very small orange coloured millipede type insects. Are these benecial or are they a problem? Can I use the compost for seeding or just as a mulch? Any advice would be appreciated

    1. That is a wonderful gift Aaron, and I would not worry, do not know what they are but am sure of no problem there.
      Bonne continuation!

      1. Merci. This week we have temperatures high mid 20’s peaking at 4pm with night temperatures going no lower than 7. Next weekend back to 6° C daytime max to – 3/5° C nights. Love what you are doing to your new acquisition. Keep surprising us – please

  2. Hi Charles,

    We’re going to try our first year of no dig vegetables and I’m very excited to see the results. We moved into our house recently and there are some flower beds with established perennial plants – roses, rhododendron, daffs etc that also have a lot of weeds including ground elder. Can I put cardboard and mulch down around these bigger plants or do I need to cut them down / dig them up and essentially start the bed from scratch? Thanks so much Sarah

    1. Good luck Sarah and you can do either of those. Eliminating ground Elder is easier when the space is 100% clear, but it is possible and takes longer, to fit cardboard around existing plants and then to keep removing new weed shoots where they come up in the light, near to your plants’ stems

  3. Hi Charles, I’ve been inspired by your work (and blog) and built a small raised bed out of an old pallet in the garden – it’ll be my first time growing vegetables. Today, I have planted out some chitted earlies and some spinach seedlings that I germinated indoors (4 weeks old) plus I sowed beetroot and lettuce and covered with mesh. I have two questions as a newbie – will I need to cover with fleece instead of mesh at this time of year (I’m based in Ealing, London) to protect the seedlings and help germination? How should I protect my seedlings from slugs? I listened to a podcast where you mentioned going out in the night to pick them off – I’d be interested what time in the evening you go. Thanks, Tom

    1. Hi Tom, sounds good and yes fleece in April is better than mesh, for warmth.
      Just as the light falls, is when molluscs emerge, from 7pm this evening.

  4. Hi Charles,
    Just saw you on YouTube and we really want to try No-dig. One question if you’d be so kind: would a layer of straw be ok to put down first then compost? We have a lot and wondered if it would work ok.
    Thanks so much
    Adrienne from West Virginia 🙂

    1. Thanks Adrian, and I see no reason for doing this. The straw would take nutrients while decomposing, might also increase life population. I would put it in a pile wet so that it turns to compost

  5. Hello Charles,

    Thanks for the time you take to answer my question. What do you do to avoid leggy tomato plants, especially if you grow hundreds of them?
    Many thanks

    1. Tim, I sow after mid March so they are just emerging now, means they have space to grow in a greenhouse with good natural light levels, keeps them more stocky

      1. Hi Charles, I am wondering when I can put my tomato seedlings in the greenhouse. They were sown on 12th March, transplanted 6th April with first true leaves. I am in East Scotland just north of Dundee. There is no snow lying but night time temps are forecast to dip to -3 on Friday 9th. The greenhouse has no heat source. My 6 chickens and coop were in the 8x6ft greenhouse until April 1st (3.5months). Most (guess 2/3) of the chicken manure was moved to the compost heap but some manure was mixed into beds which will need compost added. Is the chicken manure ok for the tomatoes? I also have spinach sown on 12th March and was hoping to plant out under fleece. The no dig bed is ready topped with the first batch of my own compost and I think I’ll cover it with some black ground fabric to try to keep some heat from the sun in.

        1. Mairead, please don’t put that horrible fabric on your bed, it will make no difference to warmth, and it’s just adding plastic and holding slugs underneath. Also you did not need to incorporate the chicken manure.
          It sounds good otherwise and you can plant out your spinach which is very frost hardy, we just had two nights of -4 and it looks fine here. However tomatoes are very cold sensitive and I would wait until early May, even then you might need a fleece over at night if it’s forecast frosty, just depending on your microclimate

  6. Hello Charles,
    I have been following you for a couple of years and am working through your online course 2 – really appreciating the wonderful encyclopedia of your knowledge and experience that you are sharing with us, especially the information about planning for succession crops.

    If you have time I would value your advice on getting the right moisture levels for germination, especially for seeds that take a long time to germinate. My onion sowings (2 varieties from 2019 and 2021) have pretty much failed. The module trays were well watered after sowing but, maybe because my house is warm but dry (35-40% humidity), the compost (Moorland Gold bought this spring) dried out within a few days. I gently watered but hardly any seed germinated. A second sowing with 50% vermiculite (I read this holds water) also wasn’t successful. I tried covers on the module trays, but got worried about the condensation and very slight signs of mould, in case this was now too wet. My last sowing of onion seed on 15th March was in 80% vermiculite, but it is too early to tell if this has worked. Should I germinate the seed in the polytunnel (I am in NW Scotland). What am I doing wrong?

    Thank you, Dorothy

    1. Thanks for your feedback on course 2 Dorothy and I’m glad you like it.
      That is interesting about the compost because I think it is the Moorland Gold 2021 early mix which was not good. I had trouble myself and noticed how it dried out in an unusual way, because I think they had some green waste compost in there which was too fresh. They have now rectified this but those of us who used their first batch have had problems especially with early sowings.
      I have a feeling that your latest sowing with mostly vermiculite could be fine, and you do you still have time for a successful harvest.

      1. Thanks for your reply Charles. Unfortunately I have 15 sacks of the Moorland Gold bought specially for propagation !

        1. Yes a problem, or maybe not.
          I have 60!
          It is excellent for potting.
          For sowing small seeds, I am adding 50% of my own compost, sieved. Just an extra job.

      2. Having the same trouble. I thought I could water the seeds once a week but like you realised the compost was drying out , but only after five days when I realised it was a solid brick. Might go back to John Innes seed compost from the local nursery next year. I bought two bags 😌

  7. Thanks for course dates 😊
    When it is sunny, when!, do you have to shade your seedlings in the greenhouse or can they cope?
    Many thanks.

  8. We got down to -18°C here in Germany, exceptionally cold for this part of the country. Everything that was not protected got killed, but most plants in my poly tunnel are fine. All the kales died, many of the broad beans look absolutely dreadful! I hope they will recover under fleece now that it gets warmer.

    The plants in the poly tunnel look amazing though, I have already harvested twice! Absolutely no damage to Swiss chard (taglio verde), most mustard greens ( Green in the Snow did a lot better than Moutarde Rouge Metis, which looks pretty miserable even in the tunnel) and the spinach has started to grow a lot as well.

  9. By the way, you are a complete inspiration. I’ve read your first book and bought your calendar and am hoping to take a course soon. My Dad, a very seasoned gardener, is very keen to learn about what I am trying next. He loves the hotbed in my greenhouse! Luckily I have horses that help keep it stocked and warm. I am now just waiting to start transplanting. Broadbeans are in the cold frame and will be going out soon – under fleece, of course. Peas grown in guttering over the winter in the green house have gone out too, with fleece. I think they were a bit shocked, but are doing well now. Thank you, thank you.

  10. Help! I planted out some broadbeans last Autumn (following Charles’ guidance) and they have been doing very well. Growing quite rapidly now on 20th March. But I’ve just noticed that the leaves are being eaten and most of the smaller leaves that are still a bit curled up still have beetles in them. They drop off when the plant is disturbed. I’ve squashed some of them. Can there really be beetles this early in the year? Last year, my broad beans were pretty much destroyed, so I’d like to try and get on top of it now.
    FYI If it is the bean and pea weevil, it didn’t touch the peas last year, which were planted next to the broad beans.
    Please help!

    1. Sorry to hear this Lise, and I am puzzled why you should have so many of those weevils (I think). But then if they are not eating pea leaves, I don’t know what to say!
      Happy that you are making progress otherwise.

  11. I’m in Zone 10b and planted no dig (first time). I transplated a bunch of tomatoes, chili peppers, onions, and cucumbers and the leaves are turning yellow. Do you think this is from my green-waste compost. I laid compost in December and planted in Feb/March. It’s really disappointing and not sure if I should be adding some sort of liquid fertilizer or something. Any advice would be appreciated.

    1. Oh dear, and it is possible also that it might be the weather. Even though 10b, it’s early for planting outside, and cold conditions mean plants cannot access nutrients.
      But it could also be the compost. I would wait 2-3 weeks to see.

  12. Please can you tell me how you protect your seedlings from very cold nights in your greenhouse? I appreciate the ones on the “hot bed” may be ok, but the others? I ask because we only hav a polytunnel, and I’m scared to lose my seedlings if it’s too cold. I do have fleece, so would it be ok to lay it on top of them (about 1m below the polytunnel roof) to protect them?

    All my tender seedlings are indoors under grow lights at the moment, as it’s been very cold here in central France (750m altitude too).

    1. Brr!
      Seedlings like lettuce, spinach, onions, broccoli survive freezing. Others which are tender stay on the hot that. Yes good plan to leave fleece over before frosty nights, right on top of any leaves

  13. Sorry to bother you again Charles, I have been gifted several tonnes of indeterminate age horse manure which I mainly intend to cover and use in 9 months.

    I’m testing for AP herbicide (only just sown) but I’m also in the process of filling 3 half metre high raised beds that I would like to plant plugs in next week (I know you are against these but the Mrs insisted that she didn’t want in ground beds with children running around).

    I’ve filled the bottom half by hugelkultur methodology and plan to use mushroom compost on the top 6 inches. Can I use this fresh manure in the middle of the bed for planting this year? I’m not sure how much AP would affect the crops at this depth or if it would rapidly dissipate being incontact on all sides.


  14. Hello Charles,
    I’m very excited about making new garden beds using your method this spring.
    My options for compost are 100% municipal leaf compost about 1 yr. old, OR a mixture of Canadian sphagnum peat moss, composted pine bark, topsoil, structure sand and 40% leaf compost. I’m leaning towards the 100% leaf compost, but the fellow selling it seemed hesitant to plant directly into it. I’d so appreciate your advice.
    Thank you,
    Janel, in the States

    1. Hi Janel,
      I agree with your feeling about using 100% leaf compost, that sounds brilliant.
      It’s really odd that the guys selling compost rarely understand it and prefer soil mixes!

      1. Hello again,
        Thank you SO much for replying. I will purchase with much less hesitancy knowing the leaf compost is the route to go. I’m looking forward to my new garden space, without tilling up the field to get it!

  15. Hello Charles, sorry, a spacing question 😬
    I’ve just planted out some of my multi sown onion clumps at 5-10 x 30cm as advised in your organic gardening book, but I watched your growing onion and spring onion video tonight and saw they looked a lot further apart, and after checking through the comments on YouTube, found you had spaced them 30 x 30cm!! Should I lift some of my clumps and replace them further apart? Or just thin them more or will they grow to a decent size at that spacing?

    1. It’s not written in stone but 30 x 30 is fine when clumps have minimum four onions.
      In the book I actually write 25 x 25 which is also fine.
      The spacing of 5-10 is four people growing in rows which are 30 cm apart. When I wrote that book, most people grew in rows and multisown clumps were uncommon so I had to give both spacings. The book was written on an economic shoestring and there was no space to properly explain that.

      1. Goodness you’re working round the clock! I didnt expect an answer so quick!!! Thanks for explaining, Charles. I will thin to 30 x 30. Lots of spring onions this year!!!
        On another note, are your CD60 module trays too small for multi sown onions or would you simply plant out earlier? You recommend 4cm modules.
        Im a big fan of your module trays. After cavilling at the minimum order of 5 CD60s, I bought them thinking I’d never use them all, but I’m now looking at placing an order for more because I’m actually having to juggle plugs between module trays to make space for new sowings!! (something you could never do in the soft plastic ones)
        I might get some larger ones too for onions if so, also tomatoes, melons and squash.

        1. Thanks for the module three feedback Daniel that sounds really good. Yes we are growing onions multisown in the CD60 and any smaller seeds are good for that, such as radish and turnips, also we sowed tomatoes in them this week.
          But yes I would use larger cell size for broad beans et cetera

    1. That is possible… Just less easy for growing, because there will be more weed seeds, which are sticky to remove from wet soil, and the structure will be less good, as will the nutrient status

  16. Great content – thank you!

    I watched your YouTube video on sowing dill and coriander – v helpful. However, the dill seedlings that I transplanted a couple of weeks ago and have been in my coldframe since have turned a purplish colour. Are they struggling with the temperature? I’m also concerned that some of the salt that I put down to deter slugs may have somehow found it’s way into their soil…but the lettuces they are sharing a module tray with look fine.

    Have you had any issues with purplish dill before? Thanks 🙂

      1. Many thanks Charles. I don’t know how you do it – replying to all our comments, writing new courses AND growing all this food!

  17. Hi Charles,
    Thank you for all your advice I have taken from you tube videos as I only started growing last March at my plot. I have bought Roscoff onion seeds & they will be ready to plant outside soon. I have now built a raised bed so would you advise me to plant them in raised bed or in my plot?
    thank you.

  18. Hi Charles. Seeing the photo of your broccoli crop I have PSB envy! Most years my crop does OK giving a good crop in March but this year my early purple broccoli started heading up in mid November and has continued through the winter.
    The main problem however has been that this crop, together with the Kales, rotted after two episodes of very mild, windless weather in December/ January combined with several days of continuous light rain and drizzle. Leaves and branches of the crops just yellowed and collapsed to the ground in a matter of 24 hours. I live in south Hampshire, so surely not too different a climate from Somerset? This seems to be down to climate change and I don’t know how to prevent this happening again next year – apart from growing my brassicas in polytunnels! Any thoughts or similar experiences from others? Thanks, Peter

    1. Sorry to hear this Peter.
      In my experience that has more to do with the variety you have grown, namely early purple sprouting which is in its flowering mode through the winter, and therefore moving towards finishing, still in winter time and more susceptible to cold plus damp in that phase of its growth, compared to the stronger phase which mine are in, pre-flowering.

      Also the non-hybrids have been badly maintained as varieties by the seed companies, and I think they probably have lost some vigour. I would not blame it on climate change.

      1. Thanks Charles. Do you have any suggestions for a better hybrid variety which is ready for cutting this time of year?

  19. The main photo makes me happy as my shed looks pretty similar at the moment and I was worried that they were growing slowly…well except for the radish.

    I only had 40 cell trays left and so I put them in there and despite being sown 2 weeks after the kohlrabi, are already (healthy) taller than them. The biology of the radish is amazing with how it can grow so quickly having the same sunlight and nutrients compared to other plants (it seems to use the resources better). Either that or my radish are just super leggy haha.

  20. Hello Charles,

    Can you advise how you manage your Strawberry bed. Do you lay straw under plants to keep fruit off the soil, or is this just creating a lovely habitat for slugs? I’m considering replanting my bed, some plants now over 4 years old, but had good yields last summer. I do have weed suppressant membrane available.

  21. Hi Charles,

    Thanks for the update and sharing. After reading this post I went to the garden and cut some brambles. My question is, as I only have compost bin (600L), which the temperature might not be too high. Could I still put the brambles (already cut short and will put them into shredder again) into compost? Same question for ivy, these plants are everywhere in my garden, thank you. Phaedra

    1. Nice result!
      We put a lot of this, well chopped into the compost heap and I have noticed the heat is not there. It would be better if they were mixed with say grass mowings, good luck

      1. Thanks Charles,

        We have continous rain here (NRW, Germany) for the past few weeks, and can’t find a proper time to use lawnmower yet. However, our backyard chicken keep contributing some good manure and I saved also all kitchek scraps, cutting some unwanted plants. I will chop them carefully before putting them in. I will try this year also using your method for creating a cut flower patch, many thanks again for your kind and always informative sharings – it’s the best scenario when both know-how and know-why are well integrated into a systematic training program.

  22. Brilliant update CD. Cheeky question for you: have you ever tried multisowing kohlrabi and if so did it work? I haven’t noticed you doing it so I’m guessing either no/dunno or yes/no.

    1. Thanks JP and it ‘works’ but the result is quite small and often longer kohlrabi so I prefer one per station

  23. I planted seeds in February according to the guide in your diary. I just wondered when these should be transplanted outside?
    I’m sure I read it in your book, course one but I was so impressed with the book I immediately lent it to a friend is is struggling with her allotment so I no longer have it to hand. I may have to buy another copy and ‘gift’ that one to her!
    I have looked at the sowing guide on the website but although the introduction suggests it details the different times for sowing and planting out I cannot see dates for planting out. I know you suggest this can been done earlier than would normally be regarded with the help of hort fleece to protect the seedlings. Your advice would be appreciated.
    Presumably if I took one of your online courses I would have access to a step by step guidance?

    1. It’s more difficult for me to give dates for transplanting outside, because every situation is so different, in terms of weather and which module trays people have used, what quality of compost et cetera.
      In my monthly blogs you have many photos to give you ideas and I mention in the captions when I plant things.
      And yes this advice is given in detail, not in the first two online courses but in course three, and the entirety of that will be available 25th March.

  24. Nice update! I’m carefully following your sowing dates as my zone is similar to yours. All is good until I prick out the seedling into multi sow trays. Then these little seedlings struggle to survive. Something I’m doing with their environment isn’t working. What would you list as ideal environment for just pricked out seedlings (compactness of soil, moisture, temperature)? I have most of your books and calendar and have combed through your website with no avail at finding this info.

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Hedy, sorry to hear this, and I don’t understand what you mean about pricking out seedlings into multi sow trays. Either you multisow. Or you prick out seedlings one by one, at any stage between when they have just two leaves or even the first true leaf. Handle them carefully by the leaves not by the roots and compost is firm but not over firm etc etc!

  25. Hi Charles,

    Do you have any thoughts on “Effective Microbes”?

    I have been given some by a (I think) biodynamic gardener. Every year she applies them after destroying the soil ecosystem in her beds by shallow digging in an attempt to re-inocculate the soil. Now as a way of gardening this approach is clearly nuts, but I did think it would not harm to add them to my no-dig beds….

    1. Yes I agree, the digging is a problem!
      You need to be clear on what is containing these microbes, and usually it is wastes which have been anaerobically decomposed. They are not fully decomposed and I would add them to a compost heap rather than to beds.

      1. Thanks Charles, I did not realise there was an issue about undecomposed waste – the little I’ve learnt from Youtube implies EM are a problem-free way to save the planet. I’d like to learn more, can you recommend anything I can access on the Internet – particularly about any drawbacks or cautions in their use? How did you come to the conclusion that they should be composted? I’d like to discuss it further with the gardener who gave the EM to me but I’d like more information before I do….

        1. EM works anaerobically, and does not finish the composting process, in my experience. Others are happy with it though so it’s not black-and-white

    2. Peter, I have actually used ‘effective microbes’ in a no-dig situation as a way of enriching the ecology of my soil when my compost making efforts were still a bit rudimentary. What I did and still do, in fact, is to put a smidgen of ‘healthy bacteria’ and ‘beneficial fungi’ into my MPC along with a little dose of basaltic rock dust, mix it all up and then prepare my seed trays/module trays.

      It costs me a total of about £3 a year (as £10 of stocks tend to last 3 years) and I must say that I get very consistent- and even growth of young seedlings doing it.

      Compost is after all a way of introducing bioavailable nutrients, as well as a diverse ecology into the soil.

      I just try to help that process along by adding small amounts into each transplanted module of vegetables/flowers.

      Doing it this way, you use a lot less than trying to cover your whole garden and it ends up where you need it (namely near the roots of your growing flowers and vegetables).

      I’ve never done any formal tests, but what I can say is that it definitely does no harm and vegetable growth is in no way diminished by doing it.

      1. Thanks Rhys, I had’nt considered adding EM to my seed compost – it makes complete sense and it’s good to hear your results. Could you be a bit more specific about the amounts of EM and rock dust you use?

        1. The ratios given online and in books vary a lot. I sometimes do Bokashi bins and then mix the fermented plant juice 1:100 so 100ml to 10l. But others use different ratios.

          For the Bokashi I use basalt and lava rock dust. I think all rock dusts are pretty much the same, so I would always recommend buying a local one (quarries give dust away for free sometimes)

  26. Hello Charles,
    I love this time of year with all its promise of new beginnings, so have been following your calendar for my seed sowing. However I forgot to sow Florence fennel in February, would it be too late now? I’m assuming it’ll be in the same group as beetroot and onions for which day is best. Similarly globe artichokes, would they be the best the same day as tomatoes etc. ?

    With what I’ve sown so far germination has been mixed. The last couple of years I’ve had big trouble with pyralid contamination in multipurpose composts so I’m using Moorland Gold for the first time, having managed to get some in Bruton just before Christmas. Now as you suggested I’m mixing it with vermiculite (builders’ grade sifted to get rid of the bigger lumps)
    As usual many thanks for all your advice and new videos.

    1. Hi Diana
      Yes you have just time to sow fennel before equinox, and globe artichoke are indeed with tomatoes.

      The batch of compost you bought was 2020 mix, so should be not too bad and certainly better than the most recent mix which they sold

      1. Thanks for your reply Charles.
        To update you on my leeks which bolted last summer/autumn.. …in the last month I have pulled them all, and managed to get enough “leaf” for 4 small helpings from the whole bed of about 50 leeks ! The good news is that I now have some Philomene seed and won’t sow them until April this year.

  27. Sorry to hear you ‘lost a lot of blood’ over your broad beans. Good old spellcheck ! But the Pyralid problem seems to be getting worse and not sure the compost companies are taking heed yet. I’ve also stopped using horse manure from the local stables, they are noticing less people taking it for free. They might soon have a problem of what to do with all that dung!

  28. In your photo I noticed that to protect your broccoli from pigeons you only had netting laid horizontally, with the sides exposed. Is that how you have had the netting since autumn or have you recently changed it to make harvesting easier?

  29. All so exciting Charles! Thanks for update.
    I notice you use fleece and thermacrop this time of year. I’ve not used thermacrop. Do you have any advice for which to use for what?

  30. Thanks for the update Charles. You and your team have been busy!
    It took me a little while to work out why you had lost so much blood, then it dawned on me that the autocorrect had kicked in and you were referring to broad bean transplants.

    1. Cheers Kath. It’s funny!
      I don’t have time to do a proper edit, all of that I wrote yesterday morning and put up the photos and captions, in fact I’m not sure how much longer I shall have time to do this! No one else really can

      1. Dear Charles, I am sure we all value your photos captions and what you write in your updates, but I can imagine the pressure on your time taking on a whole new acre!

        The comments everyone adds are really important too so I do hope your updates will continue. And we will all forgive any typos!

  31. Hi Charles
    Thank you for being such an inspiration and for sharing your knowledge.
    Where could we buy the CD60 you mentioned for double pea sowing? Or did you mean the CD60 from containerwise?
    Best wishes

      1. Hello Charles,
        can we buy the CD60 in Belgium or Germany?
        On the website of Containerwise I can only order for Great Britain.

        1. Yes I’m afraid they cannot export to Europe because the amount of paperwork and duty to pay means they actually make a loss on those deals. So they stopped exporting, nobody likes losing money.
          How did we end up in this absolutely mad situation?
          And nobody takes responsibility. Or they deny it’s happening.

          1. Speaking of…. I’m in Northern Ireland and can’t even get seed from Britain anymore. The gardening magazines have stopped adding free seeds to the monthly magazines if shipped to NI…. it’s just madness all around.

          2. Yes the flipping …! We can’t ship module trays to Europe, lose money with all the forms and duty. Kind of social isolation!!

  32. Hi Charles, I’m just starting a new season using the things I’ve seen and read on your extremely good videos and books! I’ve had an allotment for some twenty years and had fair crops! but now having found you and your so clever methods I’m excitedly starting anew, having watched your planting of pea seeds in modules and planting out I’m not too sure of the row spacings that you used when you planted the alderman Pease, also the spacings of the little plugs of Pease,

    1. Hi Reg, sounds good, I can’t keep answering spacing questions, they are in No-Dig organic home and garden book for example. Or watch how to grow peas on YouTube

    2. Hi Charles,
      I have had a truck load of horse manure sitting on my land since February last year. It was tarped and turned into nice compost. Once As you suggested I have convered my new veggies no-dig patches with 1″ of manure , then 4″ of compost on top. What else could I use the horse manure for on my land? Would it still be good compost if I just let it sit under the tarp until Fall?

      1. Hi Dominique and you can use more than1″ if you want, I would.
        I have made beds with 5 inches old animal manure and just 1 inch fine compost on top and growth has been excellent

    3. I really recommend no dig home and garden book for its very concise tables on sowing dates etc. It’s a real time saver and invaluable. The other thing to do is build up your own data base of the dates you sow things and the spacings.

  33. Hi Charles, I’ve been told that for root vegetables (parsnip, carrots etc.) you need to have the manure dug in, in order to get deeper roots as the roots will follow (to a certain degree) the manure/fertile soil. I’ve seen your videos with excellent results, but is there any truth in what I’ve been told, or is it another myth! They were basically suggesting that the roots will find the nutrients and if it’s in the top layer of soil they won’t be encouraged to grow deep for it. Many thanks! George

    1. It’s a complete myth and shows a massive misunderstanding about how plants root, which is a lot near the surface.
      Also it’s not all about nutrients and chemicals! As you can see from the results in my garden

  34. Hi Charles

    The new land is good news! I wondered how you were going to handle the bramble roots? We had an area of dense bramble of 8m x 10m on our new allotment that hadn’t been touched for years os they were pretty high! We cut them all down and dug out what crowns we could, and covered it all in thick black plastic. That was about 9 months ago and they are still growing strong when we look underneath. In fact, some stems I chopped down at the time and put into bags to rot are still shooting inside the bags!! Is your plan to just mow and keep taking the tops off each time to starve the roots?

  35. Hi Charles, all go!

    Notice you are sowing broad beans undercover and then transplanting, as opposed to direct sowings before Christmas. I usually lose a few direct sown and it leaves some mildly irritating gaps – is this why, generally, you now sow undercover? Thank you, Tris

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *