Drone view shows most beds covered in April

May 2021, coping with cold weather and perennial weeds, new seedings new harvests, woodchip

Weather rules.
This is turning into a difficult spring, with temperatures significantly below average – in particular by night. In the UK, there have been more frosts in April than in any other April since records began. Homeacres has had air frosts on 16 out of 27 days so far this month. The average night-time temperature in April has been lower than in January, and the lowest for the UK since 1922.. Plus it was very dry until 28th, when we were fortunate to receive 14mm/0.6in rain.

One positive is that sunshine levels have been high, and anyone with access to a little water has been able to keep new plantings watered. However, bottom line is that without warmth, plants do not grow and if you have not been using covers over new plantings, they will still be small, even struggling to survive. See more on covers in my new video filmed 24th April 2021, also in this video.

Covers I recommend include horticultural fleece of 25 to 30gsm/1 oz per yard approximately, and cotton muslin or toile if you have some of that. A cover directly on or suspended over plants increases growth in three ways:

  • by sheltering plants from wind
  • by increasing warmth when there is sunshine
  • by protection from pests.

A fleece cover does not actually keep out all the frost, as I notice regularly here. For example yesterday morning 27th, I removed a frozen cover of 30gsm “frost fleece” which was on lettuce, and many lettuce leaves were actually frozen. Fortunately this was -1.3C and not like a hard winter frost. By 9:30 am, we were picking leaves from those plants and they were very tasty! If the lettuce had been French beans or courgettes, it would have been end of story.

Covers example

On 19th April, four weeks after we had transplanted the lettuce, I switched the cover from fleece directly on top, to Thermacrop suspended on hoops. The photo above left shows the result one week later, and the photos below show the process.

Also you can see how much the lettuce grew in one week after this (in photo above), following an improvement in the weather, with much more sunlight. Nights were still frosty but not quite so cold.

Growing information

We have separated out the lessons of Course 3, to make them saleable as individual items. The photo gallery below is to give you an idea.

There are 30 lessons, some with more than one video. I have priced them according to how much information is in each lesson, and the length of new videos.

 

Sowings direct

Early direct sowings this year are growing more slowly than usual, because of low temperatures. The covers have really helped, but even so my parsnip seedlings are so small, after five weeks.

For carrots, the intersown radish help by holding the cover above those tiny first leaves of carrots. Carrot seeds are particularly small, and need decent conditions for the first month as they establish. After that they become much stronger.

For the first three weeks or so after sowing, the cover is good when flat on the ground, because it holds warmth at ground level. This is one reason I don’t use hoops too much in early spring, another is that covers risk blowing away.

Propagation under cover

The CD 60 trays are proving good for most sowings, even broad beans. They are economical with compost. I am discussing compost with Moorland Gold, whose product is more variable since January.

For faster growing plants like cucumber and squash, I sow in the larger 5cm/2in cells of polystyrene trays (not now available to buy), which equate in size to Containerwise 40 L

You can buy my 60 cell trays from various distributors across Europe, including the Farm Dream in The Netherlands.

See my latest sowing tips in this video filmed 24th April. Don’t sow runner or climbing French beans yet, for outdoor planting, my 2021 Calendar is still relevant for all these dates still to come.

 

Hungry gap

In terms of harvests, we are heading into the leanest month of the year. The merry month of May can be the hungriest for vegetable harvests, especially if the weather stays cool. And stored vegetables are finishing soon.

I am on my last jar of sauerkraut which still tastes really good, and I’m just eating the last apples, stored in boxes in my garage. While appreciating all the fresh greens, including the first asparagus (slower than usual), I still have some winter roots in the shed: Oxhella carrots, celeriac, beetroot and Charlotte potatoes. Also garlic, onions and Crown Prince squash in the house.

Vegetables harvesting now, end April

From sowings in summer and early autumn, there are quite a few nice harvests you can be taking now, in regions where winter is not too cold. Our lowest temperature this past winter was -7 C/19 F. Spinach can survive much lower than that, just remember to sow it in August.

Find more sowing and harvesting dates, in this online course lesson of Useful Information.

Onions, salad onions

Onions (and leeks, garlic) are hardy plants, as you can see from the first photo of overwintered salad onions. Also the photos are to show you how it’s fine to lay fleece on top of onion seedlings, whose leaves are surprisingly resilient.

Thanks to no dig, we have done almost no weeding on any of these beds. It makes gardening fun. And I use no fertilisers or slug pellets. Feed your soil life and they grow resilience, health.

New plantings are growing, slowly

I was delighted to make the first harvest of new lettuce, even after there had been a frost just two hours earlier. Once plants reach a certain size, they have sufficient roots to ensure that growth continues.

This is especially true now, when light levels are strong and long, equivalent to August in fact. Light can to some extent can balance the low temperatures, especially where covers are used. They convert otherwise-unused light, to necessary warmth.

Perennial weeds emerging in the new area

One of the joys of summer has begun, namely bindweed! This one is the small leaved, pink flowering ‘field bindweed’ Convolvulus arvensis. There is also the climbing hedge bindweed (not in the area but in nearby hedges) with larger, white flowers Calystegia sepium.

I knew from seeing this area last year, that there would be a lot of Convolvulus, and we (mostly Adam, is @ads.wood on Instagram) are now removing the new shoots every week or so. See my captions to the photos, and module 4 of course 1 about mulching weeds, plus my Course 1 book.

Woodchip uses and value

This is an amazing resource, which you may be fortunate to have available in your locality. Do make some enquiries! Wood avoids the worries about weedkillers in composts – see this Twitter group if you are concerned about that.

For my commercial use I find it worthwhile to buy three ton loads, of new or old chip, for around £72 including VAT. Or sometimes it’s free!

As woodchip ages, it turns more and more to compost. We are trialling it’s nutrient content, after sieving year old chips to about 10mm size. In the sowing video I start a potting trial to compare it with potting compost. Its texture is nice and open, but nutrients are probably in small quantity for a while yet, because it still looks woody after sieving.

No dig in Bangalore

I was thrilled to receive photos from Bangalore in India, because I can share with you the success of their beds and the wonderful harvests they are taking already. Sekhar Reddy works as software engineer, has a family and little spare time.

He and his family are delighted with no dig progress, and all the food produced by their beds.

77 thoughts on “May 2021, coping with cold weather and perennial weeds, new seedings new harvests, woodchip

  1. Hi Charles,
    On but off topic! – incorporating brown into compost to attempt to balance green:brown, I observe that you use a Bosch shredder / chipper. looking into the world of such machines, the reviews are all over with praise through to a good as useless. The Bosch would suit my property – would you buy again?
    We have hawthorn hedge for 150+ metres, therefore a good source of debris + lots of other varied green material. A petrol machine would be too costly and an over kill.
    Appreciate any comment – Peter
    PS – the peony did have Peony blight after all!

  2. Hi Charles,

    Thank you for all the information you give. This is my first season growing vegetables and have been able to start as no dig. I have had my first harvest of radishes, which has been very encouraging. Some however appear to have small bits of the skin bitten away. What could have caused this? The ants appear to be attracted to these “bite marks”, but I suspect they are just sucking out the goodness from them radish and taken advantage of the damage. Could this have been something like a field mouse?

    Thanks again.

    Best Regards

    Simon

  3. Hello Charles,
    I have access to grass cuttings that are almost a week old. The cuttings have been left where mown and have lost moisture and colour. Are they now regarded as ‘brown’ for composting?
    Regards,
    Michael.

  4. Hello, Charles, and thank you so much for all the information you provide. It took me a while to accept that my allotment will never be as immaculate as yours, but I have something to aspire to! I have told everyone on our thick Northamptonshire clay about no dig, but it is the new gardeners who seem to be most enthusiastic!
    I do have a problem, and hope that you can help. The mulch sits on top of the heavy soil, and this has encouraged either a mole or vole or rat to burrow immediately under the mulch, thus disturbing my lovingly planted lettuces, spinach and onions. Rats we are dealing with separately, but is there any way I can discourage moles and voles? I have tried spraying with strong scents and treading the mulch down but it doesn’t seem to be improving. Are traps the only alternative? Catherine Parry.

    1. Nice to hear Catherine, except for the moles and voles and traps are the only remedy I know, I’m afraid!

      1. Hello Catherine – I have the same problem and can sympathise wholeheartedly. We have had to resort to traps (Duffus tunnel traps mostly) as the moles have repeatedly destroyed one of the veg beds. I bought a copy of ‘How to Catch a Mole’ by Armour Roberts and that has helped our ‘technique’. Good luck and have a good season in spite of the tunnelling.

        Alice

        1. We have lots of moles and I leave them be except in the poly tunnel where I put peppermint essential oil in the runs. Have you tried digging down into the runs and placing the drops of oil there? The runs are only about 6 inches below the surface and I’m told that they are very sensitive to strong smells. Certainly, they seem not to like the smell as they moved out elsewhere, leaving our most valuable indoor crops in peace. No traps used.
          They did move into the beds outside more during prolonged hot, dry weather like last summer but don’t seem to have cause too much significant damage. I assume tunnelling in the very hard ground compared with our lovely no dig beds is hard going for a mole!

          1. That is very good news Helen – I have not heard anyone use peppermint oil and be successful. So much kinder than trapping the moles. Thank you for the advice.

            Alice

  5. At the moment I use Enviromesh to protect my crops.

    My existing stock is becoming worn out and needs replacing

    Would I get the same results plus warming with Thermamesh or would the crops get too hot in summer?

    1. John the thermacrop is not a pest protection because the holes are quite wide, compared to environmesh. I would buy more mesh

  6. Thanks for taking the time to the reply Charles!

    I spent the day today with the tomatoes, chillies, peppers, aubergines and grandpa otis plants outside today spraying every plant with a hoselock type spray container filled with a mixture of castille soap and water, after doing a bit of research online.

    It took a long time, (several hours!!) but showed promising results as the aphids were either blasted off the leaves or the ones that were left were dying off. I’ve a feeling I may have to revisit this practice again in the not so distant future. This is also the case for the overwintered lettuce in the polytunnel. The aphids appear to be targeting the youngest plants first, then moving around to any neighboring plants. I really struggle with killing anything, but I also struggle to see healthy plants killed also, especially when we rely on them for food and as cash crops.

    Fingers crossed that some milder weather is around and that hopefully some helpful aphid predators will show up.

    Many thanks!

  7. Hi Charles,
    1. Converting my garden to “No Dig” this season. Being on Lincolnshire Glacial till (ie Solid clay!) is no fun but does produce the goods. First bed covered with home made compost.
    2. Relating to Aminopyralid et al. contamination – have you had comments on plants from garden centres that have been re potted whilst still in the centres then once in the home garden started to show problematic symptoms?
    The reason I ask is that my wife grows Peonies and has one that is showing crinkled leaf symptoms – unlike any thing I can find information on (unlike Peony blight for example). I am wondering if there is a compost problem.

    1. Hi Peter, sounds good except for that problem.
      Best ask the nursery if they are aware of any problems but I think it’s unlikely, because that would’ve affected a huge number of their plants. Peonies are susceptible to the weedkiller for sure.

      1. Charles,
        Thank you for replying. 102 Sturon well growing sets planted today in the fore-mentioned bed. Covered with “Veggiemesh” to keep the wood pigeons at bay. Threats of overnight frost (-2 degrees) causing a pile up on the window sills.
        Turning your thoughts regarding garden centres / compost: Since they are consumers of large quantities of such material, it seems logical to me that they would have encountered / suffered from contaminated produce . Now whether they would admit to that…
        Wishing you good health and weather for the season.
        Peter

  8. Hi Charles
    I am fascinated by all your no dig videos, they are brilliant, I have had my allotment for about 6 months now & have totally transformed it, I am getting lots of tips from my 90 year old father in-law about traditional veg growing but I’m trying several wooden frames with your no dig method, which are going well so far, one of the biggest problems we’ve got on our allotments is Mares Tail, just wondered if you’ve got any tips of how to treat / get rid of ?? Keep up the great work, many thanks Mark

    1. Cheers Mark.
      Regular pulling is best option, it diminishes year by year. Paths and beds and keep edges mown or cut to reduce its vigour and inward spreading

  9. Hi Charles
    Loving the new videos. Can you tell me is it okay to compost the part of rhubarb that is poisonous.I

    Carol

    1. Yes, it’s fine. I do and never any problems. The oxalic acid will quickly break down on the compost heap.

  10. Love the pictures of the new plots, Charles, and thanks for sharing RE: Bind weed. We’ve all been/are there with you. I hope your plans for a lake/pond were approved and I look forward to hearing your expt.s with this too.

  11. Charles,

    Where do you get your weather information from?

    Funnily enough just after Christmas I bought myself a Hurricane Lantern to use in the Greenhouse, my wife then suggested I got a small paraffin heater from B&M & either it or the Hurricane Lamp has been on in the Greenhouse every night since January – as has the log burner in the house.

    Its still very cold

      1. Thank you Charles.. so much to see on your website. Didn’t know you had this on your page…

  12. Another excellent and informative blog, thanks Charles.

    I really value the link to the Farm Dream in The Netherlands. As we live in France, and I had already bought some of the Containerwise modules a couple of years ago, I was very envious of the new CD60 trays, and now I can buy them quite easily! I also like the look of the propagator unit designed for these modules and will be adding them to my order too.

    One happy gardener in mid France 🙂

  13. Ugg, bindweed! I will be curious how you fare with it. My garden is infested with the dang stuff and I have so much trouble keeping it at bay. I have never had luck with mulching them, they just keep peeking through.

  14. Thanks Charles. You are such an inspiration to me and I have learnt so much from following your videos and blogs. Last year was my first full year with a greenhouse and when I discovered the no dig method, I bought your sowing diary and have followed your timeline and growing advice on your videos, especially, the small gardens. I recommend you to everyone! My early spring plantings are growing well under fleece. Do you think it is ok to plant 5 week old tomato plants in an unheated, bubble wrapped greenhouse bed now. They have been inside the house at night and in the greenhouse in the daytime and I thought they could go in this week but the cold nights forecast for the next 10 days in our area (Bransgore near New Forest) is a concern. Would fleece protect them enough? They were planted by this time last year. I still feel it is too cold for chillies to stay out though. Definitely running out of space in our dining room at night!! I look forward to hearing how your new plot and trials develop.

    1. Nice to hear Karen, and it’s probably okay to plant those tomorrow since your greenhouse is bubble wrapped as well as you using a fleece cover. Tomatoes tolerate some cold as well. It is a difficult spring for sure.
      Glad you like no dig and sowing timings

  15. My experience of this cooler April is simply that Kohlrabi are a bit fussy about cold weather (I only ever grew them in the autumn before) and that both onion sets and early potatoes have been somewhat delayed by the cooler weather. The sets took off when we had 3 days of 16 – 18C last week and now look really healthy. The early potatoes, planted around the equinox, are still only just emerging (around 6/24 through to date).

    Fleece definitely works for peas, beetroot, lettuce!

    Just to say that your advice in your Course 3 lesson on garlic re spring activities by the grower are spot on. I’ll say no more! I have rarely seen better garlics than my 2021 plants!

  16. Hi Charles. I’m interested to read that you’re looking at the nutrition in decomposed wood chippings. I have numerous bags of home made chippings from several different years, the oldest of which are pretty well rotted down now with just a few resistant chunks of stem in them. I have been planning to sieve these and use it as a mulch. The pH is pretty neutral, which is good. But I have wondered what sort of nutrition, if any, it might have, or microbial content for soil improvement. So please do report back on your findings.
    It has regularly been sub zero overnight during April in my greenhouse in South Yorkshire. I find old net curtains are pretty handy!

    1. Nice work Ann.
      I reckon that really old woodchip is quite nutritious for plants, and I would save your oldest to use for mulching,or potting. Try for just a few plants maybe. And I reckon the microbes are fantastic, am working with a scientist to measure some

      1. Dear Charles and Ann,
        I have been using old wood chips mixed with wood ash and chicken manure as potting compost for several years. This spring, I compared my traditional mix with pure wood chips and commercial seed compost. It turned out that plants had stronger roots in wood chips while the upper parts were nicer in commercial mix and wood chips plus feeds (more nitrogen I guess).
        I hope this was useful .
        Thomas.

  17. I enjoy reading your updates and have learned so much over the years. Working with woodchip, I recommend looking into musrooms, in particular Stropharia rugosoannulata which will aid in the breaking down and is symbiotic with plants too.

    1. Thanks Susan for being a follower from the very early days!

      Funny you should mention this because Adam, my new helper here, is totally into mushrooms and is actually a serious expert. He has managed to grow grey oyster mushrooms on poplar woodchip, watch this space! Shall tell him of your suggestion.

  18. Thank you, especially for the pictures and almost unbelievable evidence about our strange weather this year. Here in the East it’s the drought that threatens to be the worst problem – though thanks to No Dig there are no cracks in the soil. I hope that Courses 2 and 3 will also come out as books. Videos are fine, but I like books. Having bought your Course 1 via an offer in a magazine (which was how I found out about your work, having previously been a sort of hit-and-hope no-digger) I have re-read it several times, and shall no doubt do the same with the vegetable-specific courses later.

    1. Thanks Alan, and I am encouraged to read your book review! Do you post a review on the product page if you feel like it, they all help.
      And yes we are working on course 2 book for publication by Christmas, all being well!
      I hope it rains soon for you.

    2. I’m also in the east and haven’t had a spot of rain since mid March. Allotment doesn’t have a water supply so watering is getting problematical. Weather apps keep predicting rain… and passing without any. Ground cracking, moles very evident, desperate birds flicking mulch (and seedling) everywhere… Pinning hopes on BH Monday🤞🤞.

  19. Great news about the individual courses – I’ll be able to dip in for those veg which I want to grow but which are scarily new to me. Saving up to buy a complete course as soon as I can! Very cold in north east Scotland – snow on the hills all around and this week has seen heavy rain alternating with vicious hail storms. Daytime temps around 6 degrees C. It will be a VERY short growing season here – autumn starts here in August. Makes me glad I have nothing planted out yet apart from 2nd early potatoes only in a week ago, and onion and shallot sets last week. Onions are under fleece against the birds. Fleece still to go on shallots but it’s been too windy! Lettuce, spinach and tomato seedlings in greenhouse and house. Puzzling over continuing inability to get much germination from Lamb’s Lettuce, despite fresh seed each year. Is there a knack to this particular salad veg? Perhaps run a separate course on it!

    1. Nice to hear Linda and your climate sounds difficult!
      Lambs lettuce needs warmth to germinate, its natural time is late summer so in your case I would so it in July or early August. For cropping in autumn-winter, not summer.

  20. Hi Charles
    I have a wonderful no-dig garden in the Dordogne in France (thanks to your books and site, and much to the amusement of my neighbours who are avid gardeners but still love their motoculteurs and turn their soil every year!)
    I am thrilled that I can now buy the seedling trays from the Dream Farm team in Holland. I am dithering about the C60 trays which I want to buy primarily for late winter seeding of onions and shallots, but will use them later in the season for tomatoes, peppers etc. They seem very small – and I was wondering whether the 40 cell tray (4cm) would be better?
    We’ve also had strange weather here; late heavy frosts have had a huge impact on vineyards and orchards in our region. 45g fleece saved most of my early plantings, but my fruit trees have all suffered.

    1. Bad frosts eh? Hope the pruneaux give harvest!
      One difference between the CD 60 and the 40 L trays is that there is much less compost in each cell of the 60, because it tapers. This not only saves on compost needed, but also improves drainage and oration for roots which can be a little soggy in the 40L, so don’t overwater the latter.
      New seeds definitely start better in the 60, then you could pot them on for example

  21. Excellent blog Charles. Any chance of a video on Brussels sprouts from sowing to harvest? Please.

  22. Any tips for increasing success in germination of squash and sweetcorn? I only sowed them 2 weeks ago but some are already soft. I seem to regularly end up with quite a lot of rotted seeds. Thankfully I discovered this nice and early so have re-sown. The seeds are expensive (although I do save some of my own and expect interesting squashes!) so I’d love to get better at giving them a good start! I sow them on their sides so the water doesn’t sit on them. Other tips would be appreciated. Thanks.

    1. It sounds like you need more heat for them and even bring them in your house for the germination period of 5 to 7 days, for warmer nighttime temperatures. Or maybe it’s not good seed… Too old

    2. Hi Ele. We chit our sweetcorn seeds by spacing them in an old ice cream container on a sheet of dampened kitchen paper towel, covering with another dampened sheet and placing on a warm window ledge (with the lid on) for 4-7 days. The resulting sprouted seeds are then potted on into old toilet roll tubes before planting directly into bed when warm weather arrives. Never fails

  23. Hi Charles,

    How do you keep the CD 60 cells from drying out? Sit them on capillary matting? I’m losing seedlings because they are drying out too quickly. So no lettuce, cabbage yet!

    Penny

  24. Hello Charles, I have been waiting with trepidation for your individual lessons to be available. I am so excited! So many to choose from! Thank you so much for thinking of those who may not be able to access a full course.
    Loved the story of the family in India. I hope gardening give them some solace from the terrible situation they are going through at the moment.

  25. Thank you Charles for the timely, honest and up to date info. We have had an exciting time finding and implementing your detailed no-dig instructions this year. Here in Palo Alto, CA, we are Zone 9B and I am challenged to ramp up quickly to take advantage of the additional daylight hours to grow more before drought restrictions slow us down. We were able to establish an indoor “nursery” for seed sowing and a small greenhouse off the back house wall to transition transplants into. Our son built a larger enclosed greenhouse for transplants to move into for warm growth like your poly tunnel and transition zone for plants destined for outdoor as the weather warms. He also laid out three sunny no dig zones in the middle of our backyard. We are making our own compost from trees in the yard, augmenting with local green waste compost that includes aged horse manure, and have vermiculture worm tunnels scattered about encouraging the soil life. We have been eating peas, spinach, swiss chard, potatoes, radishes, and several different varieties if lettuce. I love your your fields with so many different colors! I sowed my last batch of warm weather plants last week in trays. Now, we are in D3 Extreme Drought conditions per U.S. Drought Monitor so I am pivoting a bit to focus on water conservation and preservation of the plants we have started so far. I’m composting, mulching, and have just covered with lightweight agribon “fleece”. Please keep posting your progress and encourage us regarding maintaining growth in the dry months ahead. I am reading all I can from agricultural college studies here and our local Master Gardeners website. Your recipes, calm voice and cheerful attitude help keep us moving forward. Many, many thanks.

    1. thanks Diane for your lovely feedback and I wish you great harvest going forward. Everybody has weather challenges and yours are quite extreme in the summer. On the other hand your winters have advantages!

  26. Hi Charles,

    Great post and video for what is proving to be an unusual and challenging start to the growing year with such cold weather, slow growth and drought. We are based in the north of Anglesey, which has been fortunate not to have seen so many frosty nights as in other parts of the country, though this may have been a disadvantage in some respects also.

    Late summer last year after a fantastic growing year (our second for no-dig) we had a brief spell of aphid infestation in our polytunnel, the worst affected plants were the aubergines, but by the time it was really noticed it was time for clearing the plants out to make way for winter crops. The winter hear had some spells of very cold nights, mostly January and February, but everything did well in the polytunnel with extra fleece coverings on those nights.

    Then in the last couple of weeks we had noticed small clusters of aphids on the undersides of overwintered and newly planted lettuce. I have been spraying every couple of days with a castille soap and water solution which seemed to be reducing they’re numbers without affecting the quality of the lettuce. Though in the last couple of days our tomatoes, peppers and aubergine plants (sown 27th Jan, and now well established) are becoming the main attraction for the aphids. I’m concerned that the cold spring weather has meant a delay in natural predators (I’ve only seen one ladybird and a few hoverflies in the polytunnel on the warmer days) and that the aphids may have overwintered in the polytunnel.

    Short of continuing to spray with the soap solution every couple of days (which is already time consuming just with the lettuce, and we approx 150 tomato plants hoping to sell), could you recommend any other natural remedies to significantly reduce their numbers? We have been looking at purchasing ladybird larvae, but unsure whether this would be both ethical and successful?

    Many thanks again for the continued inspiring posts!

    1. Hi Ken, thanks for the info. I don’t know of any worthwhile aphid remedy, because they go against nature. As you suggest!
      Aphids target weak plants, and plants are weak when they are struggling with unseasonal weather, or are out of season. The latter includes tomatoes sown in January!
      I always see quite a few aphids in the spring and it looks bad for a while, until predators arrive. I hope that is soon for you and meanwhile, I would use a hose to make jets of water to shoot them off leaves!

  27. Hi Charles. After being inspired after purchasing your No Dig Organic Home & Garden book last year, I’m going to give no dig a try in some brand new veg beds that I’ve recently constructed on a piece of field where the grass has been killed by 8 months of black plastic and now rotted horse manure has been put on as a mulch (only in the last month though)
    A question – I still have a fairly large quantity of general purpose ‘growmore’ type artificial fertiliser left over from previous years. Should/could I continue to use this until the horse manure gets worked into the soil by the worms etc? or might the chemicals in the fertiliser actually have a negative effect on the natural soil fertility of a no-dig/mulch method?

    1. Nice work Gareth, and I would not use that fertiliser because I reckon it depresses and discourages soil organisms from doing their work.
      Then when one stops applying it, suddenly growth is compromised so you are on a kind of treadmill.
      See what the scientists say about this at Rothamsted.

  28. Thankyou Charles. I always look forward to your updates.

    It’s interesting about the weather. I’m seeing graphs and charts that strongly suggest a Grand Solar Minimum. May looks likely to be another cool month in the Northern hemisphere. If any of these forecasts are true then we need to pay attention and make changes to how we produce our food. We’re already seeing seed shortages. The enviro-fleece that I ordered in March has still not been delivered due to shortages. I am interested to hear your thoughts and those of others.

    1. Melody

      There is currently quite a bit of argument about whether the reduced solar activity of the past solar cycle 24 is part of a temporary minimum akin to the Dalton minimum in the early 19th century, or a more full blown Grand Solar Minimum akin to the Maunder event in the 1600s and 1700s.

      Unfortunately, the data simply doesn’t exist yet to be sure which is correct, however my current hunch is that Prof Leif Svalgaard of Stanford Uni has been quite a good predictor of late and his cycle 25 prediction tends more toward the less extreme form of minimum (i.e. solar cycle 25 akin to solar cycle 24).

      Of course, this will probably mean that ‘global warming’ will suffer a temporary hiatus of 20-30 years overall, however on the basis that humanity managed to grow food in the 1970s, I do tend to suspect that we should still be able to grow food in the 2020s.

      What may need to happen is that certain crops may need to be grown further south than before….

  29. Thank you so much for this blog Charles, I have had both successes and failures so far this April.

    My lettuce and salad crops are all doing fantastically well under fleece. However my potatoes have not yet come up.

    They were chitted well and went into the ground around 2 weeks ago. I did not cover them with fleece as I did my salad crops. I was going to wait until the first sight of green leaves.

    Do you think I should cover them, or start again with new seeds?

    Thanks again for all of your advice.

    Charlie

    1. Hi Charlie,
      we did the same at the school’s allotment garden, potatoes planted 3 weeks ago into a normal raised bed, that hasn’t been dug this winter. The potatoes are not growing, I assume it’s too cold. Those planted in bags and put near the house wall are already growing strong leaves and have escaped the light frosts here in Hampshire.
      Steph

      1. Yes it’s the cold weather and I would be delighted if my potatoes had not come up yet, indeed many have not and we haven’t even planted quite a few. There are more frosts to come

    2. Hi Charlie,

      My early potatoes are the same, seems they prefer to stay in the soil for a while. Also for the asparagus, some specific trees, i event doubt if they are still in their dormancy or already gone. But anyway today I saw some positive signs.

      I also worry that this coming May, the last frost date might be just for reference and I will wait for one extra week for transplanting frost sensitive plants.

      Phaedra

  30. The Police have been investigating a report that an allotment site has rising soil levels. They have set up surveillance but to date have not established the cause. A police spokesman said that the plot thickens.

  31. Wow, so much great info, that is beautiful to see the family making gardens in India. Lead the way Charles!

  32. Another fantastic and informative blog Charles. Thank you.
    Will be interesting to see how the wood chip trial goes.
    Love seeing the no dig garden in Bangalore!

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