Cover with radish and carrot pushing it up

May 2020, propagate, pick, water, pests, no dig, clear to replant, new sowings

April in the UK has been kind to gardeners, unusually warm and sunny, and now there is rain. I hope it’s springlike elsewhere, or nicely autumnal in the southern hemisphere.

Gardening is at least an antidote to lockdown, and my heartfelt wishes go to those of you without access to an outdoor space to be creative in. I hope that will change soon.

At this time of year, growth happens so readily and is so beautiful. Here I explain details of timing, succession planting (see my latest video on that), keeping pests off, propagating, no dig, how to pick leaf vegetables, and asparagus! I explain and illustrate all of this in my online courses. which are selling steadily to all parts of the world, thanks for your support.

polytunnel far end, tulips, Shumei 26th,

How to pick

In all the writing about grow your own, harvesting what you grow often receives brief descriptions. How you do it makes quite a difference to regrowth, see my ancient (2014!) video When to Pick. Also a recent one in the small garden, although its sounds is poor.

For leaf harvests, I generally do not cut. No dig, no knife! My favourite method ie to pinch or twist off outer leaves, for example of spinach below, so that the central leaves are undamaged and then regrow more quickly. An exception is wild rocket in the photo above, so many leaves and it regrows well when cut, not too low. Lots about this in online course 2.

For multi-sown roots, you can either pull whole clumps of say four plants (see video), or twist out the largest.

Watering, covers and growth after rain

When it’s dry, new transplants need water every three days or so, depending how hot and sunny it is. Just a small amount to their roots, not the whole area.

Maybe then once a week in weeks two and three. Until all being well, it rains.

Water and rain go through fleece (reemay) covers, except when they are new and shiny. Hopefully you can buy the thicker grade 30gsm or 1oz/yard, uv treated so it lasts several years. See my Links page for suppliers. This year we have used only one new length of fleece, because it’s good to reuse several times, mostly to keep wind off seedlings here. Also I am trialling cotton muslin (promising but expensive) and yes you can use old net curtains, mostly!

Fleece and rain

I removed many covers on 26th April before the recent rain. Not because rain won’t pass through, but it makes them heavier, and it’s now nice enough weather for crops to grow in open air.

I don’t use hoops for support except sometimes for lettuce, my only crop of significant value, and for fragile seedlings like onions, not always though. Seedling leaves are strong and fleece is light.

The last few broccoli are going to compost now, and we shall transplant peas for shoots, until planting lettuce in late June. No addition of compost until November.

We also used hoops of 4mm wire for this bed of onion transplants, just in their first ten days or so. I had spare hoops, and it gave them more of a start. However the curved cover does shed some rain.

Pests

They are always with us, and a bad one in much of NW Europe currently is leatherjackets. These hungry larvae of craneflies love lettuce roots above all, also beetroot and spinach plus other vegetables. Favoured by the mild winter. We pull up damaged plants and find the larvae and squash or cut them.

For flea beetles the fine mesh is working well, see top photo and links. Mesh works best against insects, whereas fleece is less strong and you need only one hole for them to pile in, see below.

For birds check out bird netting. (I have no commercial interest in this)

Notice the flea beetle damage to radish under the fleece. Fleece keeps a lot of pests out, but it needs only one tear for flea beetles to be in there, and in happy protection too. However in this case I want the warmth for carrots, and the radish are mainly a helpful interplant! I have not thinned either the radish or carrot, managed to sow a good density without oversowing, just with finger and thumb.

No dig

Thanks to all of you expressing interest in my work, and no dig is going well. The questioning-assumptions part of it is being acknowledged. During lockdown in Switzerland, they even made a song (about me more than no dig), you can listen here.

Above all we need to keep things simple. To quote an email I received from Rachel Pratt who had just completed online course 1:

Gardening, strangely, has become a scary subject. There is so much conflicting information out there that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and give up. I nearly gave up our allotment and it was designed for the socially isolated of Derby, many of whom have a physical or neurological impairment. Your warm and relaxed approach has really helped me to find the confidence to try and make this work.

Growth in the comparison bed shows strong differences. Again it’s only the potatoes growing better on dig. First lettuce harvest was 0.91kg dig and 1.26kg no dig, spinach two weeks was o.07kg and 1.28kg respectively.

Start small

You don’t need a large space to grow a decent amount of food. Plus it’s more enjoyable to manage a small space well, than a large one haphazardly. One bed can grow a lot, and methodical is better than scattergun.
Nonetheless, there is always room for creativity and inspiration.

Don’t be hidebound by a plan, instead have ideas of possibilities. Feel your space around you and imagine what could be there, how it might work for you. Combine that with a few rough sketches.

For a planting plan, nothing beats knowing spacings and timings. Then you can improvise if need be. The bed below was spur of the moment, for a photoshoot of 17th March. Mostly transplants, with carrot and parsnip sown direct, all on that day, and early potatoes too. The pak choi and rocket afre full of flea beetle holes and I grew them for the photos, not because a good idea!

Plant raising

Check out my recent Instagram videos about this (not sure the link will work!) , also the three on You Tube. The sequence of 9 photo below is to show stages of growth.

Be around your seedlings as much as possible. For example in warm weather it’s good to water twice a day, unless you have capillary matting. It’s fine to wet leaves with overhead watering, and to water early each morning so seedlings are dry by nightfall, with less habitat for slugs and mildew.

 

Potting on and compost

Like so many things, this has been made daunting, but it’s very simple.

If plant leaves are yellowing, they are running low on food like the tomatoes below. Either transplant, or pot on, which means move to a larger container. Ideally wait until the module block or pot is filled with a fair amount of root in its compost. Or leaves are looking like the cucumbers in middle photo, quite strong.

My potting compost (potting soil in US) is 50% Morland Gold and 50% Dalefoot Wool, both organic approved and both of top nutrient status. Especially Morland Gold. See below for a really poor compost.

Warmth

Some heat is still useful to ensure rapid growth of warmth loving plants, like cucumber. See above, those plants are on the hotbed which is currently in the thirties C (86-102F) at its surface. We topped it up with two barrows of very fresh horse manure with straw.

This is ideal also to speed germination of new sowings. Soon I shall sow climbing and French beans for outdoor growing. And more sweetcorn, plus cucumbers for growing outdoors.

Also in early May it’s good to sow Brussels sprouts, autumn cabbage, perhaps more spring onions.

Seed and compost quality

I was sent photos of poor growth from Bord na Mona “Happy Compost”. The gardener is not happy. Looks like perhaps a lot of decomposing wood taking nutrients before roots can access any. Do email companies if this happens to you. There are a surprising number of improperly tested composts available to buy.

It’s a bit similar for seed. The photo is of two lots of one year old seed, still within sowing date as given on the packet. However without having two batches side by side, it’s harder to be sure that the seed is faulty.

Asparagus

It’s picking season! The two months of tasty harvests, until solstice. I let spears grow quite long, then snap them off. For German readers, this is green not white asparagus!

For those who are creating new beds, the second photo shows how large a single crown can grow, after eight years. Give them space, at least 60cm or two feet.

Clearing to replant

This is happening already, as with radish and some overwintered plants like chervil outside, and salads plus leaf vegetables in the polytunnel. Winter salads rise to flower through April. While Grenoble Red lettuce rises much later than that, can crop until early June. We twist them out when no longer needed, before they even flower.

After clearing we spread 3-5cm/1-2in compost, as soil food for the whole year, plantings of summer and winter. Organisms out of sight keep soil aerated and nourished, roots then find moisture and food.

I am doing a little comparison in the greenhouse , of basil. Some went in a newly composted bed one week ago, as seedlings. Some we potted on as its space was not yet free and they are on the middle bed. Recent warmth helped both lots. The garlic went in as cloves on 14th October.

QUESTION AND ANSWER

See also my video Q/A on Which? Gardening Facebook page 30th April, submit Q by midday 30th.

From Andrew, module tray quality

I am constantly amazed how easily your small plants come out of modules. I am finding it difficult to release the plant from the base of the module even if I poke a small dibber up through the hole. When they do come free they often break up before I can get them in the ground. I think it may be my compost or the amount of water at the time of removal.

Charles replies, I am afraid that the world of trade is not run by gardeners! The trays you use are almost certainly “inserts” and are not fit for purpose. They are designed to break, so you need to buy more. As they break, plant roots are damaged. Best check the Links page on my website for suppliers of sturdy trays. Sadly there are not many choices.

David, potato harvesting no dig

How do you ensure that you pull up all the potatoes, not leaving any to seed the following year, without disturbing the compost too much?

Charles

There is unavoidable disturbance of the surface layer.

Potatoes are not so friendly to no dig but the tubers go less deep than in loosened soil,

Roots go deep down but potatoes cannot do that.

Cedric, planting in compost, again!

We live in the Lot in France and do not have much house compost so far as we have only been here for a few months. The dechetteries here give away free compost but I have been told it is “ strong “ so has to be mixed with soil . What would be your take on this and the no dig technique? Could it be used for beds as it is or would it have to mixed with something else.

Charles

I often read expressions of worry, over using different composts according to the stage of growth. Even compost manufacturers baulk at seedlings growing in their richest composts – hence the category called “seed composts”, with fewer nutrients than potting composts.

For example the director of a company which sells “double strength” compost advised me not to sow seeds in it. I did, they germinated fine and then grew strongly.

I have sown and pricked out into Levingtons MP3, just to see… it’s one of the most nutrient-rich composts available. Seeds and seedlings grew fine, just as they do in cow and horse manure, which is often claimed to “burn seedlings”.

This might happen if the manure were fresh from the animal, but no sensible gardener would use such a manure. The “burn seedlings” claim puts a lot of people off using great compost! And even pushes them to use mixes with soil in, which results in weaker plants and more weed growth

Levi, bed prep complications

Considering that a claim in favor of cultivating is that it allows for quick crop turnover and good root integration (into the soil), are their certain crops that are harder to follow quickly with another sowing? I saw your video where you follow onion with leeks and kohlrabi with something, and it looked fairly easy, but for the plants with deeper root systems or big tap roots like Beans, winter squash,  corn and watermelon, do you ever have trouble getting out enough roots and preparing the bed for immediate sowing?

Charles

You are making an assumption! Actually, I aim to leave most roots in the soil, from any preceding crop. Twist out broccoli stems and lettuce, or cut at the base for broad beans etc.

No dig allows for quick crop turnover and good root establishment. We find rapid establishment of second plantings in undisturbed soil.

It is so much quicker and easier than with digging and raking. I am amazed how people have been convinced of the supposed need to do it all. “Roots need loose soil” is not true.

Janice, soil grubs

I read your no dig gardening but I suffer with having large chafer grubs every year eating the roots of some of my veg and feel I need to dig deep to remove them

Charles

Soil grubs are horrible and I have leatherjackets this spring, after the mild winter.

I am not convinced that digging helps, as you are indeed finding, dig every year.

With no dig they are to some extent protected down there, but so also are other organisms which eat them (beetles I believe) are not disturbed.

My experience with the dig/no dig beds shows more damage from wireworms, and overall, on the dug bed, compared to same plantings on no dig.

Plus all the other benefits like fewer weeds.

62 thoughts on “May 2020, propagate, pick, water, pests, no dig, clear to replant, new sowings

  1. Thanks, as always, for the work you do in sharing so much with us, Charles. Blogs, youtube videos, instagram, twitter, books, online courses, as well as running a successful market garden! It’s beyond me how you find the time for it all, but it sure is appreciated.

    1. I couldn’t agree more, what an absolute legend. Thanks so much Charles! I’m about to start my own 1-acre garden and am super excited to put into practise all the millions of things I’ve learned from you! Much love

  2. I love all these snippets of proper tried and tested and proven methods. Every time I learn something new that I can add to our growing, thanks Charles.

  3. Hi Charles
    Can you tell me what brocoli you have planted for the June harvest and when you showed it please. I’d
    Love a broccoli I could harvest during the summer.
    Thanks

  4. In the section “Start small” you write ‘nothing beats knowing spacings and timings’. I do so agree! But even after 50 years of growing veg I do not carry these easily in my head. And every Spring I waste time looking in three or four books. The advice can vary so much and I can’t help but think this is very confusing to new gardeners. As I read I usually think, on the basis of experience ‘ah yes that sounds about right’. And then I try to write it on my garden plan which I do for each year, but am sometimes so busy sowing I forget. The same comment applies to seed sowing depths! Seed packets from different companies can give different sowing depths.
    Anybody know of one accurate table for all of this information?

    1. The most thumbed page of my copy of Charles and Steph’s book “organic home and garden “ is the table of spacing. Everything you need to know is in there, Lynn !
      I am interested that a new edition is on the way and will look out for it.
      Many thanks for all your help, Charles.

      1. Augusta, many thanks. I have had the book for some while but had not read it from cover to cover. I had just used the index to look up specific issues and interests I had.
        The tables on pages 30/31 on spacing are superb, distances are usefully given in both cm and inches. Another great table on page 26 of sowing months and time till leaves seen and recommended temperature. In fact the whole of Chapter 4 is brimful of excellent advice on these topics just now – Sow, Plant, Space, Water. As ever a huge Thank You to Charles. Really the book is indispensable!

    2. Lynn

      To be honest the optimal spacing does to a certain extent depend on the levels of fertility your soil has. As my soil improves year on year (I am now in year 6 of no-dig), I do little experiments sowing things closer together to see what effect things have. There are leading organic growers who published that they sowed carrots in rows 6cm apart using precision sowers! Most of us use 15-20cm for young carrots and 20-30cm for maincrop carrots for storage.

      IT can also depend on what size of individual vegetable you desire: if you value young beetroot, you might as well space them really close (12cm in row and 15cm between rows), because you will harvest them when they are still relatively small. I reduced my row spacing for good sized beetroots from 30cm to 20cm last year and yields remained excellent.

      Having been following Charles for about 7 years now, I have noticed that he too tries new spacings quite regularly and sometimes he benefits from making things closer. I have noticed that his onion clumps, his beetroot clumps have become closer together over the years. So have mine!

      At the end of the day, there are a variety of factors that determine what spacing you may decide is optimal for your particular growing strategy….

  5. HI Charles
    Thanks as always for your very practical instruction and inspiration.

    I had the opportunity (pre-lockdown) to watch your videos. What a treasure chest of useful information! I usually leave my first sowing until about this time of year; inspired by your videos I sowed early, transplanted out at my allotment, covered with fleece, and now we have been enjoying spring salads for the past fortnight. Other plants are growing strongly.

    Fortunately, I can still get to my allotment during lockdown and have the luxury of spending half-days there (I now take my back garden hens with me – they are loving it!) So this year, I may even attain weed-free status – a characteristic of no dig that has so far eluded me.

    I’m looking forward to being able to concentrate on successional growing this year as wel. I have been doing this in previous years but could do better.

    Many thanks! The allotment is saving my sanity in the current conditions and although I have been gardening since the 1970s, its great to be learning new and more effective methods.

  6. Charles

    Despite it barely raining from March 9th to April 27th (we had a good dousing earlier this week), I have found that not watering at all from one week after transplanting or only watering until direct sowings come through has not stopped good growth of almost everything. The soil had so much moisture after all the autumn and winter rains that six weeks of drought did not really affect below surface moisture at all (when I have been hoeing weeds off between rows the soil is still obviously moist just below the surface).

    Beetroot, pea shoots, onion sets, first early potatoes, broad beans have all kept growing rapidly despite no watering for 3-5 weeks.

    I even put out a Super Marmande tomato plant into a sheltered area in early April just to see what happened and it is still looking very healthy.

    The other lesson I learned this spring is that giving old apple trees a really good prune makes them flower more vigorously than ever. There really does seem to be mileage in slowly trying to remove aged branches as vigorous young side shoots emerge, hopefully getting a balanced tree with young vigorous growth within five years of starting the pruning.

    If anyone has excess radish and also picks asparagus, you get a delicious soup using about 20 spears of asparagus and 16 nice round radishes together.

      1. To be honest, Charles, the half inch of rain at the beginning of the week sent all the asparagus spears skyward, so I had to do a big harvest in one go twice in three days just to stop trees appearing in April!

        We are back to sane amounts of asparagus to harvest now.

        I must say, I have never grown more even, high quality radishes than by planting modules of three plants out in mid March in a 10xcm*10cm grid and harvesting between April 15th and April 27th. I have never even seen such uniform consistency of root, probably by getting a density of plant not too great to cause leaves to predominate. I may try a grid next year at 7.5cm*7.5cm to see if that gives equally good roots at more roots/sqm.

    1. I think I over-pruned my apple tree this year, there are 2 seperate trees; clones (?). It was one whole tree once upon a time and was cut in half with the top half planted to the other side of the garden.
      I pruned them both early March. One has flowered and blossomed already, but the other hasn’t and is only growing more leaf! I get the feeling I’ve over-done it and now one tree is just focusing on making new growth instead of fruit and flowers.
      So I’m guessing only apples off one tree this year, until it regrows hopefully next year?

      1. They have both produced crops previous years, the trees are probably over 20 years old. No idea on the variety/type of apple though. Very sweet, crops early October

      2. We pruned a bit hard too, interesting to try it and it looks the same effect, less blossom.
        Let’s see! Am sure there will be fruit.

  7. I find that Moorland compost in modules for seed germination dries out relatively quickly in an unheated greenhouse on a sunny spring day when air temperatures can rise to 41C how do you manage on your hot bed without covers on the seed tray

    1. Michael the hotbed is a moist environment, even steaming a little.
      The opposite of electric heat which dries at the bottom, invisibly.

  8. Re Andrew’s question on module tray quality, I have had similar problems with compost & seedling roots almost sticking to the sides of polystyrene modules.
    I bought some hard plastic module trays from Containerwise & I am amazed at the difference. The seedlings slide out so easily & the hole at the bottom makes it easy to push the plug out with your finger. They are expensive but I won’t use anything else in the future.
    And no, I’m not connected to that company in any way !! These are just my observations.

    1. Hi Bram
      I agree – the Containerwise are amazing! I ordered some recently and am planning to order more. The transform sowing and planting out.
      Cheers

    2. I have done the same and I have also ordered some more from them so that I can prick out more seedlings into them while the others grow on a bit more. I didn’t think they were expensive given how long they should last.

      I am also impressed with the fact that the compost stays so moist and it doesn’t fall out through the hole! I still expect it to and it doesn’t. It has made watering a 2 minute job and my seedlings are so much healthier, presumably because I’m not worried about how much water they need although I’m not sure. The roots of my lettuce have gone straight down the sides and like Bram said, they just come out easily and the compost stays in tact. Makes life so much easier.

      Thank you for sharing the links with everyone Charles. My greenhouse has never been this full nor this healthy looking before! I may have too many seedlings but better to have too many and give some away I say!

  9. Let me say first of all how much I enjoy reading your updates and also your videos.

    I burnt my plants – hotbed trouble :

    I had successfully used a decomposing wood chip pile to keep my seedlings warm. But I tab out of space and put tomatoes, peppers and eggplant on top of a new pile just heating up with wood chip and asparagus. It had a slightly foul smell. ..
    The next morning the plants were brown and wilted. I guess it was the gases. Ah well, lesson learned. Next time I’ll make sure I cap the heap with soil and it doesn’t go anaerobic on me before I use it as a hotbed.

  10. Re. chafer grubs – if you have them in veg beds with lots of organic matter it’s likely they are Rose Chafers, which eat compost, not plants. Garden chafers eat the roots of grass, and are unlikely to be in the veg bed. We have lots of Rose chafers here in the New Forest though like many insects they are sadly declining. Adults look like big green metallic buttons and they are our friends, not pests. Please, please don’t make the mistake I made early on. See my blog post on the subject (with a nice picture) at https://rutharundell.com/my-wild-garden-2/

  11. They have both produced crops previous years, the trees are probably over 20 years old. No idea on the variety/type of apple though. Very sweet, crops early October

  12. I have had excellent experiences with Red Kuri winter squash from Seed Cooperative; and Crown Prince from Chiltern Seeds – uniformly excellent germination and good quality fruit to harvest from the plants put out later on. Red Kuri worked well two years in a row and I sowed the last seeds from the packet today. Chiltern Seeds were bought last year so they are being used up in Year 2.

    I am trying Butternut Waltham from Seed Cooperative this year: literally sowed all the squash seeds today.

    My germination usually works really well in module trays in an internal cupboard, then rapid transplant to 8-10cm pots once they have germinated. I just use a bog standard MPC (from our local garden centre), without sieving, and there has never been any problem germinating them.

    I made about 200 Red Kuri seeds last autumn but with the lockdown I am really short of compost so I have not tried sowing them to test. They were all the same size as those I bought, so I reckon they will do pretty well if I do use them.

  13. Thank you Charles for your considered and timely articles.

    Could I ask for some advice please…in my allotment I have had landscape fabric down for 3 paths inbetween 4 x 2m wide beds.

    The landscape fabric has been down for a year and works well, although I worry that slugs could hide under them. They also don’t look great.

    I am going to put wood chippings down. Would you recommend taking up the fabric or simply put the woodchip on top of the fabric? I see different schools of thought on this as the fabric prevents weed growth. Not sure of the impact on slugs to be honest.

    I know you would usually use woodchip on cardboard but given I already have the fabric down, would you take it up?

    Thanks!

    Gareth

  14. Hi Charles,

    In 2019 i started on a new allotment, i put on 5 cm of compost then. It worked really well.

    However this year i’m having troubles with many slugs after we have had rain this week.
    All my sowings have been eaten. Even some bigger plants had many slugs on them. 🙁
    Of course i can sow again, but am worried that it will be eaten again.

    Do you have advise what to do.

    My paths are woodchips.

    Saskia, Netherlands

    1. Saskia, sorry to hear this, many slugs survived in the warm winter.
      Transplanting is much better than sowing direct.
      Perhaps the woodchip mulch is too thick. Mine for example is so thin you can see soil/old compost of the path soil through the bits of wood.
      Maybe your beds have wooden sides.
      Maybe weedy edges. It needs to be tidy.

  15. Charles

    Is there a right way to take pea shoots for salad or just literally pinch out the top two inches, tendrils and all, as I have done this evening? Grow peas often but have never taken shoots before.

    Also, I want to try swede, turnip and spring cabbage this year. I have one bed that doesn’t get a lot of sun after October but is sheltered and the other two beds are sunnier but catch the wind from the north. Which veg would be better where in your opinion please?

    Happy gardening and keep safe all, Eliza

    1. No right or wrong Eliza, depends how you like them, could be an inch.
      Either of those beds will be fine!
      Thanks

  16. Hello Charles,
    As a newcomer to no dig I am really appreciating the change it has made to my allotment this year, plants are looking happy and healthy and coming on so much earlier than before, the fleece really has helped. All your tips and advice have given me a lot more confidence and I feel thrilled to see the results.
    Can you help me with what to do about potatoes. I slipped the seed potatoes into the soil and they are now coming up happy and healthy. Do I need to cover them with compost or just let them be?
    Thanks again,
    Jane

  17. Hi Charles

    This is probably a very stupid question – I am COMPLETELY new to gardening and know nothing as my parents weren’t gardeners either! I have laid down thick cardboard over an area of 1.2 x 1.2m (I’m starting off small) with 5cm of Daleford wool compost on top. Can I plant veg directly into the compost – is it deep enough? I’d be very grateful for a reply from anyone. Thanks Tamsin

    1. Well done Tamsin, and it’s a sensible question!
      The answer depends what is under your cardboard.
      1 If bare soil, you did not need cardboard (!) but it wont’s hurt, needs to be moist for plants to root through
      2 If many weeds such as lawn, you need say 10cm compost for plants to develop in, while weeds are dying under the card, which then (8-10 weeks) decomposes enough that plants can root down into soil. Also some weeds may appear – keep pulling them until they give up.

      1. Thank you! I’ll put more compost on. And one more thing, can I grow carrots? I’m sure in one of your videos you say you may have to wait a season to grow carrots?

  18. Oh Charles, looking for a hopeful response. Old gardener, new to no dig. Due to lockdown, I sifted some lovely 5 or 6 year old compost from an impromptu heap made up of garden cuttings, located under trees. I spread this about 1 inch thick on a newly cleared flower bed. In my excitement I planted out Borlotti beans that were greenhouse sprouted…. 3 weeks ago. They are now yellowing, refusing to put on any more growth! I think I didn’t harden them off – at all. Do you imagine they will just start growing again once the weather warms (I’m in sunny Kent UK). I don’t believe this is anything to do with the compost as I’ve successfully grown seedlings in the same mix and have some healthy look tom plants correctly hardening off. Kicking myself 🙁

    1. Carol, you sowed way too early, no getting away from that I’m afraid. They are yellow because of insufficient warmth for them to photosynthesise.
      In view of cold weather arriving Sunday for a few days. I would resow borlotti’s. Unless you work miracles with fleece, but plants checked by cold take a while to get going.

      1. Darn, thought so Charles. Kicking myself! It was April’s hot sunny weather and lockdown that drove me to it! I’ll see if I can knock up some mini cloches now – yes, I have put the remaining seeds in the greenhouse to sprout, so finger’s crossed. Am making note in my diary now so as not to be so premature next year. Thanks for the explanation.

  19. Hello Charles,

    Yesterday was our last warm autumn day (19°C) down here in Melbourne. It is great to have a garden to escape to during a lock down.

    I found some Fielderkraut cabbage seeds available only from a market farmer in South Australia. I hope to have some big cabbage hearts at the harvest this sesson as I determine to do everything right If not then I hope to gain the experience to improve next season ☺ With the homemade compost, everything in my vegie patches seemed to be on steroids after the compost applied. There is also no competition with weeds since no dig method used in the last few years.

    I recently have heard about Diatomaceous Earth can be useful when growing brassica. I wonder if it has the same effects as when you apply Bacillus Thuringiensis .

    My cabbage patch soil is at pH 7 at the moment. I haven’t added any extra lime to the compost when I put the seedlings in. I just worried that the soil is not ‘sweet’ enough for the cabbages 😊

    With best wishes,

    Annie

    1. Hi Annie
      This is nice to hear and 19C is good for May. We were 24C today and 13C on Monday coming!
      I wonder what you mean by sweet. Don’t see you need to worry over pH.
      I have heard of the diatomaceous earth but without strong evidence, more hearsay. Keep us posted and good luck with the Filderkraut.

      1. I have seen some gardeners added extra garden lime when planting cabbages and thought maybe the soil pH should be more alkaline than usual.

        Autumn is our favourite season here. We are glad to have more rain after a brutally hot summer.

        Thank you so much for answering all our gardening questions here and have a lovely summer.

  20. Hi Charles,

    I ordered some asparagus claws.
    How do i plant them no dig? Or is it not possible with no dig and do i always have to dig them in?

    Thanks!
    Saskia

    1. Hi Saskia, yes you can either make holes for them, large enough to spread out the roots.
      Or place them on soil surface and add 3-4in compost on top.
      If planting now, keep well watered.

  21. Charles

    Really a bit of forward planning but is it too late so plant spring cabbages when my outdoor tomatoes finish? (presuming they don’t succomb to blight of course).

    Best wishes Eliza

    1. Eliza you can plant the cabbages between tomato plants, there is space at the bottom around the tomato stems in September, I did it small garden last year with spring onions

  22. Oh good, that means I can get three crops off that bed then! I grow bush tomatoes but hopefully by September I will have removed some lower leaves to enable me to plant around them, and I can remove the basil and marigolds. Of course if we have a wet summer there will be plenty of room and time!

    Still trying to work our where to put a couple of courgettes……….

    Best wishes, Eliza

  23. My heart leaps up!

    I forget what poem this is from—my heart leapt up when I found you on YouTube. You changed my life completely and forever, from a life of toil and drudgery preparing for planting, to joyous anticipation of a bountiful harvest. I have much to learn along the way. A glorious adventure it will be. Thank you Charles Dowding and all those who support you.

    1. Thanks Gale how lovely to know that your heart is happy 🙂 and I wish you a newly happy time in gardening 💚

  24. Hello Charles

    I love reading your newsletters. So many tips of the trade. However, is there one for this? I grow my peas in gutters, always, and have a really good success rate with them. Then slide them into the ground when they’re a decent size. That’s as far is it goes really because a mouse and its family then munch their way through and leave stubby shoots. I thought at first it was birds so hung up all sorts of shiny barriers. I’ve soaked the peas in paraffin before sowing. I’ve sprayed them with a disgusting smelly rhubarb leaf tea when they’ve sprouted. On the point of giving up growing them. HELP, please.

  25. I’ve sown and planted czar runner bean too early. As a result the growing tips have been damaged . Will they still grow or should I start replacement seedlings. Thanks.

    1. I think they will regrow, we had it last year from rabbits grazing tops. They look unlikely now though but should be ok

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