May 15th 2018 planting, picking leaves, weed thoroughly, plant supports, removing covers, compost quality

May is proving way sunnier than April, as spring merges into summer. However there are still cool nights – we are forecast a ground frost on 18th. I hope you are enjoying some fine leafy harvests.

Sow and plant!!

Planting continues, a bit of a rush now to get frost tender plants in the ground. We just planted basil & cucumber in the greenhouse & polytunnel, still some tomatoes to go in.

Sow French and runner beans, squash, sweetcorn, cucumbers for outdoors: so many options now. Plant celery and celeriac too.

No dig

No dig continues to amaze me with how few weeds grow compared to dug soil. However it does not just happen, we stay on the case, and have already hoed most potential weeds as seedlings of tiny size. It’s very quick: Josh and I spent two hours weeding the 3/4 acre/3000sqm garden last week and half an hour this week. Veg area is a third of that.

In the main dig/no dig trial, the dig bed has problems with some very weak spinach, beetroot and peas, but is doing well with onions.

We were visited by Annabelle of Life at No 27 and this is a blog about her impressions of Bruton and no dig.


In the small garden, explained in this video, weeding takes about five minutes a week, and much of that is keeping edges tidy with a knife or secateurs.

Few other beds are growing weeds now, we just pull any weed seedlings we see, in passing. So the garden is always tidy, attractive and with no possibility of weeds setting seed.


We use mostly posts and polypropylene string, a waste resource from the local stables, from bales of hay and straw. As peas grow, we add more strings. See below for more on using plant roots to anchor strings in the soil: don’t try this with jute though, it will break.

Planting with string as support

For tall plants undercover, we put a knotted string at the bottom of each planting hole. It’s top end is tied to wire above.

Plant care & size

How big before you can plant? It depends on the veg, mostly we plant from modules when no bigger than the celeriac below: I planted some already and the rest are going out next week.

I water my seedlings from above, and in the morning, so that leaves are dry by nightfall..

Donegal garden

While teaching in Leitrim, I met Patrick McCartney and was thrilled to hear of his no dig success, since 1988 when he saw me with Geoff Hamilton on Gardeners World. His garden looks so gorgeous.

Removing fleece

We uncovered most beds on 3rd May as it finally warmed up. It then took little time to pull a few weeds and enjoy the beauty of now-visible plants!

Qualities of seeds & of potting composts

I continue to be puzzled and worried by my West Riding compost. In the last blog I reported on the multipurpose, now in a separate trial we are finding poor growth in the Seed & Cutting, which last year grew superb plants in the 2017 batch.

Also I am disappointed with the unevenness of Poloneza seed from Kings. Two years ago its radish were much more even: this year there is varied colour and shape, with less fine taproots.

14 thoughts on “May 15th 2018 planting, picking leaves, weed thoroughly, plant supports, removing covers, compost quality

  1. Hi Charles
    Could you help me (yes Kate whose family was friends of The Peckham Experiment)
    I have some tomatoes growing in pots outside and now I see that brown patches are growing on the bottom leaves, and going higher too. Is it the soil I have used from my compost, or not the right nutrients. I have grown successfully for many years now, and this is the first sign of leaves mottling.

    Would be grateful for you advice – thank you

    1. Hi Kate! Sounds like it must be the compost, and am unsure how to rectify except by repotting in different compost, good luck

  2. Hi Charles, thanks for all the great advice! I was wondering if you might have some turnip insight for us, please? We sowed purple top milan and snowball on feb 16th and planted out march 23rd. We did 4seeds per module. It’s been really slow and ridiculously variable temperature wise down here in cornwall and although the snowball are still creeping along all the purple top bolted in the first wk of may. They went into freshly composted beds. Any ideas please? Also spectacular fail with red grenoble again. Zilch germination from franchi seeds a few yrs ago so i gave up with it. Gave it a whirl again with simpson’s seeds this yr and altho some varieties of lettuce have germinated and romped away the RDG germination is shocking. Has anyone had success this year? I’d like to grow some, especially for autumn/winter! Thanks everyone! Fingers crossed for the late frosts…..

    1. How maddening. I grow only the hybrid, sweeter and denser turnips now. Sweetbell F1 has been and is excellent, 7304 F1 is flowering, so it’s a variety thing. The old varieties are perhaps not what they used to be.
      More useless seed is frustrating, you need just a few to save your own seed, if you mail your address I can send some.

  3. brilliant blog and most helpful – love the “planting of string support” bit. Can you tell me, the “bird netting” over your plants (can’t tell if they are salad crops), with a wire hoop support – is this to protect from birds, or do you use the hoops for fleece support too? I am trying to think ahead so we don’t get caught out.

    Also, I have been in the habit of “planting” an upturned plastic water bottle next to each tomato plant to water to the roots deep down. Do you practice this method, or do you simply water above and feed above?

    And lastly, I love your little watering can – we can’t find small cans here in France with little rose on them, so I am hoping a friend in the UK will find me one to bring over for me 🙂

    1. Yes the netting is to protect from birds, and rabbits too.
      Which? Gardening trialled watering methods and found the bottle in a soil does not give such good growth as simple watering of the surface, and that is what I do.
      It’s just as quick and keeps soil more alive too.
      The small black can is 14 years old, made by Garland.

  4. I just wanted to let you know that I definitely dont want to unsubscribe.. I,m enjoying it all so much ..thankyou ! I,m mostly “no-dig” …..but just occasionally , I do just like a good ol’ dig ! lol ! 🙂

  5. Hi Charles

    Thank you for your brilliant updates! You mention that a ground frost is forecast. Will courgettes, cucumbers and tomatoes be ok? I just set some plants out yesterday!

    1. Allotmenteer, yes those plants are susceptible to frost, however it depends where you are and cities in the South should be ok. We are rural here and in a valley, so prone to frost.

  6. Experimenting up here, I have found by trial and error that growing onions and shallots for longer in pots/tubs and planting out later seems to give better results than transplanting 4 week old seedlings from modules in late March/early April. Cannot argue with your results, Charles, but growing shallot clumps in big polystyrene tubs and transplanting at 8 weeks around April 20th has been very successful for me so far. Transplanting earlier in previous years under fleece saw losses and failure to thrive. We will see how leeks grown similarly get on.

    The rogue potatoes left in ground from last years harvest came up in the first two weeks of May this year, so nature tells that spring delays are sensed by potatoes too. First comfrey harvest early to mid May also. Despite that, the garden is almost fully planted out, just a small space for dwarf beans remains.

    1. That is interesting feedback Rhys, it depends on the weather partly so the cold soil this year did hamper early plantings, so your method is less risky, though takes more undercover space and compost

  7. Please complain to the sellers of sub-standard compost. They are at the mercy of the producers they buy from.

    I was singularly unimpressed with the Miracle Grow I bought this year. For a multi-purpose compost, it looked to me like it needed some more months in the heap.

    And no compost that I have seen is sold from undercover, out of the sun and elements as is recommended.

    Thanks Charles for reminding us that we don’t have to quietly accept sub-standard horticultural stuff.

  8. Hi Charles. I too am disappointed by West Riding seed compost. I wanted to get everything as right as possible in my first no-dig year so bought several bags at an eye watering price from Garden Organic. All of the bags bar one (so far) have contained large pieces of grit and twigs and when dry I found it set like concrete so some of my seedlings have struggled. I asked on facebook whether others were having trouble but no-one joined so thought it was just me.

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