Mid February 2021 new no dig beds, new course details, sowing in milder areas, no dig clothes

Cold weather has been gripping much of the northern hemisphere this February so far, but days are lengthening! Some sowings can happen now, but there is no rush and see my comments below, where also I describe what we are doing on the new land.

My new video is proving popular: compost is such an interesting topic! And the You Tube channel is just reaching 400,000 subscribers, at the same time as Instagram reaches a quarter million followers. On You Tube there are many How to Grow videos, worth a look at this time, such as onions multisown, and lettuce.

on 20th February I am giving an online class by Zoom to West Dean College, only wish I was going there! Thanks goodness for gardening, and online.


During the summer months here, pigeons eat elsewhere, but are now enjoying my brassicas, see my previous post for ideas on prevention. And mostly we do not suffer from rabbits. However at the moment one or two rabbits come in the garden every night, looking to make a new burrow, which unfortunately involves digging! Every morning I fill in the holes.

We I have not had a great deal of snow here, and the lowest temperature has been -5 C 23 Fahrenheit, so not too bad! I am impressed by the plants growing in the new bed we made in late November, for the video with Kevin of Epic in San Diego. The only two failures are lettuce transplanted, and spinach direct sown.


Creating new beds and weed free paths

Although winter has been colder than average, the grass has still grown a little and when that is happening, there is some advantage to covering with mulch as early as this. There is no rush, but it’s a good job for winter, find the details in module 4 of my online no dig course.

I feel behind the game, having bought the land so recently and been uncertain of whether I could do this. Just today I am taking delivery of some mushroom compost from Woodland Horticulture, [email protected], and I took delivery of some green waste or municipal compost as well. For the existing garden I have sufficient home-made compost, but need more as a one off purchase for making new beds.

There is no prescribed amount to use, and if you do not have weeds you can make great beds with 5 cm/2 inches compost. Here we shall be closer to 10 cm, and I still have a heap of soil from building the cabin so we are putting a little of that as a base layer, to save on compost. That is still not enough coverage to stop the vigourous weeds from regrowing, so I am keeping polythene over the ground until spring, for light exclusion. See my no dig course book 1 for detailed advice.

The grass regrowing looks like Timothy or Cocksfoot, not couch, although there is some in places, also bindweed for later. Probably I shall keep the polythene on until mid spring and we shall grow potatoes, squash and larger plants, rather than trying to sow carrots or plant lettuce in the spring. There will be quite a few slugs initially, and possibly leather jackets too.

Topping the ground

My son Jack (Edward’s older brother) is an agricultural contractor and he has helped out by topping the old grass, which has tussocks of woody stems, making it harder to mulch evenly. The field now looks brown but will soon be green again!

Also we can see the undulations, which makes it easier to work out where a pond will be good. Before that can happen we have to apply for planning permission, so nothing is yet certain.

New online course 19th February, Seed to Harvest

Much as I love teaching in person, there is now so much need for online learning that we have pushed on this winter to get two new courses out. The first one will be ready next week, course 3A, how to grow vegetables for the first half of the alphabet, from aubergine to cucumbers. Cucumber is halfway to the 30, because so many vegetable names begin with C – it’s a good initial!  Then Course 3B is fennel to tomatoes, the second 15.

Each lesson concentrates on one vegetable, which I explain within the same outline structure. The aim is for you to understand each vegetable’s special needs and qualities, so that successful harvests are likely. There are quizzes for each lesson, and exclusive videos for two thirds of them.

I explain types and varieties, sowing methods, how to transplant, watering, ways of picking to maximise output and quality, storage, pest protection, clearing and what to plant next. More details next week, the price is £160 and soon it will be available lesson by lesson, although our first aim it to get the whole course out, followed by Course 3B by the end of March, or perhaps earlier. PS Course now available, link in header.

First sowings under cover, no rush to sow

Valentine’s Day approaches, although the weather is not cooperating! Actually it does look like turning milder next week, but not in the north east. For many of us there are now some sowings good to make, but there is no harm in starting later if the weather should stay cold. Sowings in spring have time to catch up, don’t worry if you are late by the dates in my calendar. They are the first dates and not the only ones! Thanks to a waxing moon, I plan a big sowing 24th-25th February – growth energy is strong for seeds sown before but not at full moon.

This weekend and on Monday I hope we find time to sow peas for shoots (not pods yet), broad beans, lettuce, spinach, onions for salad onion and some for bulb onions, cabbage and broccoli of early varieties, cauliflower, parsley, and turnips plus radish multisown. All of these will spend at least the first five days in my house, where the nights in particular are much warmer than in the greenhouse.

For germination of seeds you need steady warmth, and no light is necessary, just to be sure to have somewhere light for seedlings once they emerge. I have bought a small grow light kit but have not had time to put it up yet. Also we shall make a hotbed in the greenhouse, of fresh horse manure, for warmth once seedlings are growing (electric propagators are good!) – see this propagation video for more advice, and module 3 of online course 2.

I am sorry for difficulties purchasing the module trays I designed. Containerwise were amazed at such a strong demand, and are just catching up now by shipping back orders, plus they have found new distributors. Including I hope for mainland Europe where it’s now nightmarishly difficult to export anything from Britain. Containerwise had to stop exporting trays, after many were returned for incorrect paperwork, and it was costing them a lot of money.

No dig shirts

We were approached by a company email who design and sell T-shirts and sweatshirts made from organic cotton. I am happy to say that after many months of working on and deciding various designs, we have some clothing available on their website. Just when I needed to model a couple of shirts, there was a brief burst of warm sunshine in late January, quite amazing! I would not have been doing this last week. Between the shirt photos I slipped in a new creation by Louise, in compost!

Celeriac overwintered in the ground

A few celeriac got left behind in the garden, and it was interesting to see the quality when I harvested them last week. There is some rotting happening from the top, although most of them are still good to eat. What I saw reinforces my feeling that most winter root vegetables are better in store than in the ground. Even my Swedes/rutabaga are being nibbled now by rabbits!

These celeriac were popped in for a photo shoot last May, and then were overgrown by nearby sweetcorn and French beans. I am quite surprised there is so much to eat! Celeriac needs less attention than celery for sure.

95 thoughts on “Mid February 2021 new no dig beds, new course details, sowing in milder areas, no dig clothes

  1. Hello Charles
    What a wonderful idea a heated bed made from fresh horse manure in the polytunnel/greenhouse is to where I can transfer my germinated seedlings. Why has this not become common practice! Always been a problem in the past with the result being very leggy seedlings as they have remained indoors in poor light for too long. Mine, finished 21st February is now showing 50 degrees on the compost thermometer and is playing host to several trays. A couple of questions.
    1. Should I ‘top up’ the heap as it sinks?
    2. I have a piece of carpet directly on top of the heap, which feels pleasantly warm to the touch. I have my trays of seeds and seedlings directly on top of this. Will this be too warm for them? I note you have a pallet on top of your heap keeping your trays above the heap. With temperatures still plunging to zero at night here in ther Shropshire Hills I was afraid that damage may be done to the delicate growth.

    Thank you for the reminder about building a heated bed and the necessity for including bedding material as I was just about to build mine using pure horse muck from the field! I am told they ‘go’ eight times a day – that’s alot of poo!

    1. Nice to read this Lorraine, well done.
      Yes we top up the heap after 3 to 4 weeks and again after that.
      Your carpet is not ideal, it’s better to have air under trays, and indirect contact with what can be strong heat. Mine is half a pallet so we knocked off the bottom part.

  2. I have an allotment in damp central Scotland and in my innocence last winter I covered each bed on cardboard as the beds were cleared. Some I spread with compost before covering. This January / February we accessed a supply of fresh horse manure which I intended to spread after lifting the wet cardboard
    Do I leave the cardboard and cover it with manure? W here should I go now?

    1. Normally the cardboard will be decomposing by now, and I would leave it there. However I would not spread fresh horse manure, it needs to be at least six months old and of a reasonably dark colour

  3. Hi Charles

    I see your growing space continues to enlarge – wow! I imagine it is an exciting time and great that you are still so enthused after all of these years growing; I shall be interested in watching developments over the next couple years.

    A question, if you get chance; my plot borders a ditch along its northern edge, the banking containing bindweed, nettles etc. I used 800 grade black polythene to create a light excluding band, about 2’ wide along the plots complete length at top of the banking. This worked well for about six years, keeping the weeds away from my growing beds as well as allowing weeds to grow at the base of the bank and therefore preventing subsidence (very important!). Unfortunately the polythene has started to deteriorate so that weeds are now growing through it in places and it has to be replaced – but what with? What would you recommend as an ultra long term material for light exclusion? I wondered about mypex or really heavy gauge polythene sheeting? I would be interested in your thoughts.

    As an aside, first sowings about to happen so really looking forward to the coming season! Best wishes, Tris

    1. Hi Tris
      Thanks, and nice to hear from you. An early no digger.
      I do not like long-term use of plastic, because of what you describe, how it degrades in the end. I would keep cutting the edge to weaken those plants so that they invade less. Any plan which is regularly cut cannot photosynthesise so much, therefore its roots spread less. But I know this takes more time! With a sloping side you could use an Austrian scythe.
      We use the lawnmower so it’s a bit easier. Yes I am looking forward to the season and I’m a little nervous about it as well!

      1. Thank you Charles, and cutting the use of plastics is certainly laudable and something I feel we should all be embracing where we can.

        Access for mowing/ scything(real word?!) is very limited – I might end up in the ditch! However, I shall give this some further thought. The problem weed is hedge bindweed as its fat white roots sneak about six inches under the ground and then pop up amongst your beetroot/ onions etc. 🙁 Like yourself, I do like things in their place and tidy – efficiency is a watch word.

        I guess you either refer to your expanding growing obligations or Covid related uncertainty for the coming season? Growing has been a tonic more than ever during these times, helping to occupy the mind as well as the usual satisfaction and tasty meals. We do still intend to visit Somerset sometime in the future! Best regards, Tris

        1. Re roots getting in, you can perhaps use the v heavy polythene damp proof membrane available cheaply on 300mm width and put it vertically in the soil at the edge of your bed.

          1. Thanks Richard, I may do that if they continue to be problem. Access is not straightforward as I have located six compost bays and two greenhouses along that northern border. However, I’ll crack it. Best with your growing.

        2. If you have access to some, old carpet works well in place of the plastic. If you want something that will eventually rot down into the environment, look for old wool carpeting that people are taking out when renovating. It’s fairly light excluding and lasts a fair number of years before having to be replaced.

  4. Hi Charles from the Pacific NW USA
    My neighbor and I have recently found your youtube videos and are excited to switch to no-dig. Would you give us advice as to how to switch over? The soil in our gardens is covered with cardboard, newspaper, and mulched, however we have dug and mixed the layers of soil previously. (Will never do it again!!!)
    I am sure other people are in the same boat and we all could use your expert advice as to how to proceed.
    Thank you so very much. Heres to spring returning!

    1. Cheers Skye, great to hear and it’s really simple! That is really why I don’t mention it much. Most of you will be quite well on top of weeds so may not even need cardboard to start. Cardboard is just about smothering any thick mass of weeds, not to be used every year.
      Beds where you want to crop, pull any weeds, pass a rake over the top lightly just to level the surface. Then spread around 2 inches compost on top. And that is it, you are ready. Soil will take a year or 2 to organise itself again!

  5. Hi Charles,

    I think I posted this question in the wrong place a few days ago.

    I normally plant my Onion Sets in late March directly outdoors. And every year I engage in a tug of war with Frost and Birds replanting sets that have been disturbed.
    I’m thinking of planting them now (25th. Feb.) in module trays/pots which will be placed in a Coldframe for transplanting late March.
    Would you see any problem with this approach? Increased risk of bolting perhaps?

    Btw. I’ve been trying since you launched them to get hold of your new trays. Containerwise seem to sell out within hours of them going up on their site and they now tell me they won’t be selling outside the UK. However I have now located a supplier and hope to get them soon.


    1. Hi Don, nice to hear. Yes Quickcrop are selling them!
      Yes you can do that with your onion sets. It seems still early to me, if there are many cold nights that does risk making them bolt.

      1. Thanks Charles.
        Bolting was my concern. I will use this method but delay until end of March (my usual planting date). My last frost date is as for yourself, early/mid May,

        I currently use the Quickpot Trays, very strong, but too big for my needs really given the quantities I sow in. If yours are anything like that quality, and they certainly appear to be, they will be absolutely ideal. Can’t wait to get hold of a dozen or so.


  6. hi charles

    have only found your site and youtube vids and am planning on starting my own no dig garden this year. can i ask would you know how long i would have to wait to start sowing seeds as i’m in northern ireland and we wouldn’t be as warm as were u are situated.

    1. Nice to hear Helen, I would sow maybe 3-4 weeks later until April, then maybe a week later. And earlier after July.

  7. I’ve just registered for your new course 3A after completing the first 2 Online Courses. Apart from the great videos and tips of what I do and most importantly don’t need to do ( gardening myths) I have finally cleared my shelves of the many gardening books I have collected over the years. They have simply gathered dust and could never offer me any clear practical advice. Your online courses provide me with a speedy way to source the information I need, when I need it. The sowing/planting/harvesting timeline is an invaluable too.Thank you so much for all you do. My window sills are filled with seed trays and I really feel equipped to do so much more this year. The new course 3A even challenges me to try out, with a bit more confidence, the sowing, planting aand tasting of new vegetables I have never eaten rather than the same old, same old. Never realised there were so many vegetables starting with ‘C’! Lockdown has been productive! My husband has just built me a new compost area as my prevous one collapsed last year. Need some greenery to get it going again. Many thanks.

  8. Hi Charles, sorry if this has been asked before. Can you advise when/how to move indoor sown seedlings (some will be leaving a heated propagator, some will just be in covered trays) out to an unheated greenhouse? I haven’t got a hotbed in the (tiny) greenhouse to place them on. I’ll watch the propagation video again in case I missed it. I’ll have indoor sowings to move out now (sweet peas) and throughout March and April ( lettuces, other vegetables and annual flowers) Thank you.

    1. I just move them out.
      All early sowings are of frost resistant vegetables so heat is not obligatory. But keep tomatoes, aubergine et cetera inside. In fact don’t sow tomatoes until mid March!

  9. Hi Charles
    You have mentioned previously that you have had disappointing results sowing in digestates . However the photo in a previous post shows seedlings growing well in Apsley Farm digestates. I have a few large bags of Apsley Farm digestates that I was going to use in some new raised beds and I would like your advice on how to proceed. I can use the digestate under compost, or mix it with compost or even leave it for future use. I would really appreciate your advice as I don’t want to make a mistake at the start of the season.
    Thank you for your help, Gerard

    1. Hi Gerard, sorry if this photo is a bit misleading because the digestate is seven months old in that photograph, since it was delivered.
      Back in the summer when I spread some of it on a bed, there was bad slug damage to the lettuce, where as other lettuce nearby with normal compost mulch were not slug eaten. So it looks like leaving it in the sacks to mature has helped.
      I feel there is something odd about it and best use on surface, not under, not in a rooting zone. Those beans are looking less good now.

      1. Thank you very much for the swift reply – very much appreciated.
        I’m going back to the tried and tested recipe of 4 year old horse manure / mushroom compost mix with normal compost as the top layer.
        Thanks again, Gerard

  10. Good news on the additional growing space, looking forward to seeing it develop.
    I have grown salad leaves and tatsoi in my greenhouse over winter. I wonder if you can advise what’s making round holes in the leaves of the tatsoi. When I look at the back of the leaves there appear to be tiny brown eggs that some creature has laid. I also find that whitefly is a problem.
    Is there any advice you can offer of how to manger or eradicate?

    1. Thanks Karen. And yes tatsoi! Pests love it and especially slugs which are probably the cause of your holes, similarly for Pak Choi and Chinese cabbage if you had any of that! For some reason they are all particularly appreciated by slugs. And the only remedy I know is to go out at night with a torch and knife.
      The little brown eggs may well be aphids of some kind which you could jet off with a bit of water but they’re not too critical 🙂

  11. No Dig Clothes. What fun to wear one’s principles on organic and nicely made cotton garments. Nicely priced too.

    I’m very impressed with how they are grown and dyed, as well as the fun images and illustrations on them. The recyling water in the dye process is fabulous. I can see why you chose that particular company to make your clothes.

    Putting my money where my mouth is, I’ve ordered three garments and am looking forward to their delivery next week.

  12. Hi Charles- love your website, YouTube, books everything! Personal question: are you actually into religious pagan stuff or is it just a practical interest in how the natural / created order impacts plants?

    1. Haha no I am not into anything except what makes sense. A lot of what is called ‘science and modern beliefs’ actually does not make sense, whereas a lot of what is called superstition actually makes a great deal of sense. I just go where the value is! Thanks for your question.

      1. Charles

        Much of what is referred to as ‘science’ in modern times is nothing of the sort.

        Science is a method whereby a testable hypothesis is framed and then attempted to be disproved. The more attempts the hypothesis resists the disproving attempts, the more worthy it is considered.

        However, the best description of science came from Einstein: ‘No number of experiments can prove me right, but a single one can prove me wrong.’

        Let us all be clear that if you read something saying that ‘computer models predict’ xxxxx then there is no truth to the statement, merely someone has hypothesised it to be so.

        I don’t mean to be brutal when I say that the amount of money spent on global computer models for ‘global warming’ has been totally out of whack with the quality of their predictions. They have always erred on the scaremongering side and their supporters have always been volubly derogatory of those whose scientific predictions might actually have come true but absolutely silent when it comes to reviewing post facto the inaccuracy of the predictions made in advance.

        The same can be said about those making predictions about viral disease outbreaks since 2000, the predictions made about Foot and Mouth etc.

        The problem with science the past 30 years is that funding has been linked to political objectives, which has sullied the scientific method in very major ways.

        Your experiments the past 8 years at Homeacres have, however, shown no evidence that his hypothesis that no-dig horticulture is more productive than digging is incorrect. Indeed, my analysis of your data suggests that the advantage of no-dig increases as the years go by and are currently somewhere close to a 20% yield advantage.

        Whether that is due to solely selecting crops which prefer no-dig is probably something any reviewer of a submitted paper would be interested in examining.

        But there is no question that your data gathering is an admirably scientific approach to horticultural productivity improvements.

        1. Haha Rhys, your scientific analysis of my trial has made me laugh! In a nice way. Yes science has become a poisonous word which people throw at each other to justify almost anything. I love the quote from Einstein!
          With my trial the other point is a huge saving of time, so even if yields from the no dig bed were slightly lower, it would still be net advantage almost certainly.
          But my aim is not to prove something, more to learn. We are fortunate to have a job over location where new learning is so possible and exciting.

          1. Actually, most of the best science actually starts from not being a scientist at all, just being curious! Or alternatively, a totally unexpected result taking research in a major change of direction.

            I’m not trying to turn you into a scientist, I’m just saying that at the end of 2022 growing season, you will have 10 years of data and the chance to publish a very interesting paper if you so choose….all you might want to do is to have a few discussions with the scientists who have tested your soil to see if there are any key measurements they might do which could add significantly to what are already highly exciting results.

          2. Haha thanks Rhys.
            Those are nice points, although my two beds are not replicated anywhere else which is one prerequisite for scientific results! For me the point is that the results are different between the two beds and raise as many questions as they give answers.
            I’ve just had a scientist here doing a fascinating test on cotton degradation, the difference between each bed and I shall post a photo tomorrow.

  13. HI. I have plug plants(kale ) still alive in their trays from last year. Are they ok to plant as normal or will they go to seed .?

    1. Kale florets are delicious, Wayne!
      Whenever kales and cabbages manage to survive my NE US winter, I leave them be to make lovely sweet little broccolini-like flower sprouts from May to June. Just snap them off and enjoy. When it works out, they are an early and precious harvest.
      I’ve never tried to grow them from last year’s seedlings, but if you have the space you might give it a try with one or two.

  14. Dear Charles ,

    Thank you for all your inspiring posts and video’s about no dig gardening!! After I’ve seen and helped my parents digging their garden every year for the last 30 years, I now finally have the space to start my own no dig paradise here in the north of the Netherlands. Removed some bushes, bought a huge amount of good quality compost and I’m scraping together all te cardboard I can find! I also build my own wooden compost bins (3 bins of about 1,2 m x 1,2 m x 1 m) and filled one of them all the way up with some horse manure mixed with straw which I got from a local farmer to start making first home made batch of compost. Now that the frost is over I’ve been hoping for some heat in there. But my compost thermometer keeps saying 5 degrees C…. Should I be more patient, after all the cold weather we had last week? Or should I turn it and try adding more greens?

    1. Hello Bas and that sounds a wonderful garden you are making.
      Your compost is not hot because as you suggest there is not enough green in there, unless the manuare was fresh, say less than 3 to 4 weeks old. If so that should be heating but maybe it is older.
      With a large amount of basically brown ingredients I don’t think your compost will get very hot, but it will still become nice compost in the end. Heat is not obligatory for making nice compost, but once grass starts to grow, that is a green which can bring some heat

  15. Hi Charles,

    I once read a book by someone calling herself ‘The Angry Gardener’. Her main bone of contention was that the gardening press constantly churn out the same advice from the same gods and goddesses of gardening at the same time of the year – a fair amount of which is plain nonsense, which she went on to prove in her own garden.

    My favourite example is the one about only mulching after rain to lock in the moisture. What? Water can’t penetrate mulch?

    To my point – in the light of the terrible difficulties the Northern Irish are having in obtaining their seed potatoes (among other gardening things) this year, I’m interested to see you putting your own potatoes
    to chit and replant. I too have a sackful of Charlotte – they store so well, I wouldn’t be without them.

    Is this something you regularly do, or is this an extra alongside certified seed stock from a supplier?
    I replant my best shallot sets and garlic cloves every year as growers tell me that they acclimatise to local conditions, improving the crop. I’ve found this to be true.

    Is it true for potatoes too ? The standard advice seems to be only to use certified, virus free stock.

    1. Hilary

      I have saved Desiree and Sarpo Mira potatoes regularly each year from my home crops and the uniformity and quality of the crop each year tends to improve. It may be that I size select those to retain so they are all pretty much the same size.

      This year I have also saved other strains too (Casablanca, Kestrel, Shetland Black and Arran Victory).

      If you feel that you may be getting viruses, you can always start again from supplier stock: I’ve done that twice the past 10 years, mainly due to being paranoid, I suspect.

      1. Concerned about potato cyst nematodes, I have been putting peelings from bought potatoes in the council food waste, rather than in my own compost heap. Perhaps I need not worry, as I read recently that they do not inhabit the tubers. But is potato virus a risk from bought potatoes added to the compost pile?

      2. Hi, I’ve saved Harlequin for about 4 years now as it stopped being on sale. Great potato, cross between Charlotte and Pink Fir, stores well. So far no problem at all although always feel I’m doing something naughty!

      3. Hi Ryhs,

        Your experience is really interesting, so thanks for telling us. I’ve been faithfully buying certified stock for years, all the while wondering why I bother when I don’t do it for other things.

        You’ve given me confidence to break the ‘rules’!

        And thank you to Charles too, for giving us the forum to help each other.

  16. Hi Charles,
    I’m a complete veg garden newbie and I’m soaking up all your wise words like a sponge! Thanks so much for sharing it .
    I would like to buy one of your books to refer to. But you have quite a few so I’m bamboozled by choice! Which book would you recommend for a novice starting out? I’m in Exeter and want to make 1-2 small beds on top of existing lawn/grass. I have a greenhouse and also some container / pot space on patio.
    Thanks again

  17. Hello Charles,
    Thanks for all your great tips and great work. I am big fan!
    I have been doing your course now for the last 6 months and really enjoying it.
    I am looking to create a new bed on the weekend with some organic manure which I have bought.
    My neighbour has offered some top soil that he had left too but I am not sure if I should use it.
    I have covered the lawn with cardboard back in November and I am now ready to cover the cardboard with the manure.
    My questions below:

    1) Shall I also use some of the top soil? and if yes shall I add it under the manure?

    2) Also the cardboard is now disintegrating, would you recommend that I replace it with some new ones or is it fine to just put the manure on top?

    3) Would you recommend that I cover the bed with the polythene once I have filled it?

    Many Thanks,


    1. Sounds great Cedric.
      I would actually decline the offer of soil because it’s unlikely to be good, unless it really is fresh soil from his garden. Most soil which is traded is dead and was not brilliant often in the first place.
      You don’t need to replace the cardboard, it has done its job by smothering most weeds and you can simply put the organic manure on top. I would make it level then spread maybe 1 inch 3 cm of putting soil or something fine on top of the manure, unless it is very well decomposed.

  18. It happened to mine too, think it was the constant cold. Affected sprouting broccoli plants too, but didn’t harm the broccoli stems though!

  19. Thanks Charles. I planted broad beans in December, however some stems , about 10% have turned jet black and have gone limp. They look dead to me. I will leave them in just in case they sprout in the spring. I have no idea what would cause that to happen, have you seen it before?

  20. Hi I have purchased some Alderman peas to grow for shoots. It’s says to soak them overnight. I have watched you video on this and you plant them dried. Do I have to soak as it says in the packet? Thanks for any advice. Our first no dig garden this year!…. And growing any seeds!

    1. Hi Lisa,
      My wish is that when such advice is given, it would be qualified with the proviso that it’s optional. So often people feel they have to do something according to the instructions, because it’s so black and white. As you noticed I do not soak my peas. And they grow! But soak if you wish.

  21. Hi Charles I’m a bit late to the comment section party but I have to tell you about this! Celeriac grated and mixed with hoisin sauce then put in the oven (180C-200C for about 20-30 minutes) makes an incredible vegan crispy ‘duck’. I only found this out because we are eating totally seasonal this winter and I got a bit exhausted by the sheer amount of celeriac we received – but not any more! Hooray!

  22. Hi Charles,

    Thanks for all the great info and your hard work. I’m in the Scottish Highlands and don’t have a greenhouse or poly tunnel so all of my early seedlings are sown indoors. Last year they were leggy so I’ve been looking at growing lights but struggling to work out which would be a good buy. What set up did you buy or do you have any other recommendations?

  23. I’m really looking forward to hearing about your pond. Will you be doing studies of crops at equi-distances from the water’s edge? Might be nice alongside a couple of transects for insect/animal life and maybe some mycorrhizal counts. You could have one radial bed as dig and another no-dig much like your original beds, only radial (assuming your pond is curved). Fascinating, as always. Thanks, Charles

  24. Hi Charles,
    I am very enthusiastic about using your methods and hope to soon achieve complete self sufficiency in vegetables, but I have a bone to pick with you:
    In this, your most recent update, you twice refer to this time of year as still being Wintertime, and not yet Spring. When I was at school we were taught that Spring began on the 1st February, St. Brigid’s Day, also referred to as the pagan festival Imbolc, which you mentioned in last week’s update. I abhor the distorted view of the commencement of the seasons favoured particularly in America, where they seem to think they begin at the equinoxes and solstices. One only has look at the astronomical causes of the seasons and apply the logic which rules that the equinoxes and solstices mark the mid-points of the seasons, inferring that they must commence at 1st Feb (Imbolc), 1st May (Bealtaine), 1st August (Lugnasa) and 1st November (Samhain).

    1. Haha no thanks! Look at the weather, and that logic is my season basis, it affects gardening the most, and spring starts 1st March. Not equinox.

  25. Hi Charles
    I had to smile at the rabbit hole in the spring onions picture it looks just like mine!!
    This has been the worst year for Rabbits we can recall and they found a hole in the polytunnel and started digging a deep burrow in the dry compost but I think we have thwarted that exercise!! Good luck with the new field it brings back memories to me

      1. Hi Charles and Ali
        Rabbits I guess are easier to control than Badgers! I have active Badger setts on my land, thankfully nowhere near where my beds are (yet!).

        1. I feel your pain! Two years ago, we were plagued with night visiting raccoons and skunks who would dig up the corn stalks and other little plants to look for grubs underneath. There were only a few times of re-planting before my patience wore thin and my husband marched off to the hardware store. He came back with some stucco wire (much cheaper than fencing wire) that worked for a fence and some electric wire around the very top that discouraged any future marauding invaders. Ever since, we’ve had no misplaced plants and only have to contend with the birds who also love our yard!

  26. I have been no dig gardening for about 30 yrs & used to subscribe to your ‘magazine’.

    We are self sufficient in vegetables, apart from garlic, onions & potatoes. If we don’t grow it we don’t eat it.

    Just got your 60 cell modules which my husband is cutting down to 12 cells. What I mostly sow in. My propogators do not want to be filled with all 60 at a time. Who wants 60 lettuce plants? Sow in small batches.

    Also I use reconstituted tyre panels. 8’ x 4’ cut up in to 1’ planks as my walk boards. Much easier than creating paths with wood chips. Also good for holding down any covering one puts on.

    I am much enjoying your updates. Many thanks

    Caroline Hooper

  27. I got the container-wise module trays last year and have used them repeatedly. They are still like new. Fabulous company to deal with so definitely worth holding on for them. Really keen to try the ones Charles designed now! Even though the weather is terrible here right now I couldn’t wait and planted some carrots indoors for container growing! I just felt like I needed to get started! I am going to try to stick with charles’s sowing dates as a rule though as it worked well last year.

  28. Hello Charles,
    On the subject of seed compost, I see that John Innes peat free is not recommended but I cant find the info on what is…I dont wish to sign up to Which magazine and wondered if you could tell me which ones you suggest/avoid?
    Many thanks,

  29. Hello a Charles, we are creating a long new bed along the orchard wall. I want to put bush fruit in but practically I won’t have time to weed. I was going to plant into heavy duty membrane covered with bark but you think there will be any issues with the membrane degrading over time affecting the fruit? Thank you

    1. Yes Sarah I do think that and I would not recommend at all using that horrible stuff!
      With no dig when you are organised, like thick cardboard at first and smother all perennial weeds so that they do not come back, then use mostly weed free compost, the end result is a very easy and small amount of weeding. Much less work actually than managing a membrane, and cheaper. Plus you can easily feed the soil life and look after it better.

  30. Just sowed my first seeds of the season as the moon rose at 08.47 – a tray of Merveille des Quatre Saisons lettuce.

    There seems to be quite a debate here about moon phases. I’ve done quite a bit of reading on this over the years and it does seem to me that it can’t be a hugely decisive thing, as many experts from different parts of the globe confidently recommend rather different things! They do mostly recommend sowing in the waxing half of the moon cycle, but not all stick to ‘2 or 3 days before Full Moon’. John Harris for example (author of Moon Gardening) recommends sowing ‘below ground crops’ (like parsnip, carrot, potato etc) in the first quarter, with ‘above ground crops’ (others) in the second quarter.

    From personal experience, I had my finest ever growth of young tomato plants sowing them just after new moon (i.e. in the first quarter) and had an excellent maincrop potato crop last year despite having to sow under a waning moon (due to a family crisis precluding sowing on the planned date). So it’s certainly not disastrous to ‘break the rules’, as it were.

    Another issue with sticking rigorously to moon cycles can be that you can get limited by ‘appropriate’ sowing dates. So, for example, in 2021, it’s pretty hard to come up with more than one date to sow dwarf beans this year (May 20th) if you rigorously stick to ‘waxing moon’ dates. Earlier and you will risk losing plants in early May with a cold snap, later and its the middle of June and a risk that you won’t harvest a crop. So I wouldn’t be surprised if Charles were recommending a sowing on 10/11 May just before a new moon or possibly also on 28th May/6-7th June in the waning moon. It just works out like that some years….

    My hunch for 2021 is that there are perfect days out there for lettuce, tomato, squash, cucumber, courgette, maincrop potatoes, maincrop carrots , endive and chicory. Plenty of good and very good days for lots of other things.

    But if you want a good winter store of potatoes and squash for 2021/22 winter/spring, then the stars, planets and moon align favourably for you in 2021.

    Assuming that there is anything real in all the assertions!!

  31. Hello Charles, I’m just trying to get my head round sowing by the moon… you say you’re doing a big sowing on 24th before the full moon, I presume that’s for above ground crops? And is there anything special about this weekend’s moon or is it just to get some sowing underway now light is increasing? You are planning to sow both above ground and root vegetables…
    And last question, are all flowers sown as for above ground veg when sowing by the moon? (That sounds rather romantic!)

    Thanks for all your help!

    1. Actually not the last question haha! Should you take the moon into account when transplanting your seedlings into your plot? And if so, would a waxing moon (more moisture at the surface) or a waning moon (more root development so helping to establish quicker) be more beneficial?

      1. This last bit is too complicated and I do not pay attention to it. In the end it can be very constricting, like when do you harvest et cetera

    2. Hi Danielle, and these details are actually a bit of a minefield, so I am not too precise, see my reply to Dave Spray above.
      Main thing is to sew in the right season, which is from now for some vegetables, and when you have time, and when also you have the ability to look after seedlings by giving them sufficient warmth et cetera. Beyond that it’s fine tuning.

      1. Thanks for your answer Charles, yes I can imagine I would end up not sowing at all because I’d missed the window of best opportunity! I shall go by the dates here or in your diary and journal. I have them all!

  32. Hi Charles
    I plan to sow my radish lettuce and spinach this weekend 14th Feb. Can you please explain the benefits of…….

    “Thanks to a waxing moon, I plan a big sowing 24th-25th February – growth energy is strong for seeds sown before but not at full moon.”

    I’ve followed you for quiet a while and have your books and often wondered what this means as you reference the moon phases a lot.

    Regards Dave.

    1. Cheers Dave, and see the work of Kolisko brother and sister, 10 years in a laboratory in Czechoslovakia in nineteen twenties to thirties, found that sowing on waxing moon gives bigger harvests, especially sowing 2 to 3 days before the full moon.

  33. Those potatoes in the paper bag look lovely! I wonder what kept them from sprouting. How are the conditions in that lean-to? Light levels, temperature, humidity? Just estimates would be fine to gauge where I could try to keep my seed potatoes, having no lean-to at hand here (in Hampshire).
    The new distributer has also run out of seed trays, it seems I’m not able to get hold of those this spring, but I’ll keep trying!

    1. Yes keep trying, they will come back in stock. Temperature is not too late centigrade, damp, dark in the sacks which is important for potatoes. Charlotte!

      1. What is a not too late centigrade?
        My potatoes have sprouted in their sacs. I think it may have been too warm in my shed after harvest.

        1. Need to check typo! It’s quite normal for potatoes to be sprouting by now, I am just a bit surprised by my charlottes not sprouting. Yours are still usable.

  34. Couldn’t be happier with Containerwise, their products and their service. Hope everyone gives them a chance in these awful situations.

      1. I already transplanted Aquadulce Claudia broad beans sown in Containerwise trays in early January. The germination rates were very, very good and the plants looked really healthy in them.

        I’m having a go at being self-sufficient in Onions/shallots this year, so one of my big trays will be used to create around 100 modules of onion clumps (Sturon and Red Baron).

        Alderman peas for shoots, really early radish clumps and Boltardy Beetroot going in normal size ones later in the week.

      2. The trays are solid alright. Last year some 40 cell trays I had growing red cabbage were driven over by the car!!!😮 A few of the cabbages were damaged, but the trays were fine. If you are going to try this, make sure you drive right over the top of the trays, you might not be so lucky if you just catch the sides.

  35. Another good blog, sorry that it comes with questions!

    Chitting potatoes always or not? Previously I seem to remember you saying you don’t need to do it with Charlotte but here you are? I’ve read you do it if you want fewer but larger potatoes, what is your experience?

    I managed to get some granat cabbage from Bingenheimer before getting international seeds became more of a problem. Their website claims you can sow anytime from now until May. When would you do it? I’m itching to begin and our weather looks amazing from next week (11 high, 6 low all week more or less) but your ‘create a new vegetable garden’ suggests May for autumn cabbage?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Cheers Scott, and yes May 9th for autumn cabbage, and I didn’t want to write an essay about those potatoes but the point is more that if they are left in a sack they grow long fragile shoots. It’s not that I positively want to chit

      1. Charles

        I actually planted some tubers that had long fragile shoots on them last year (yes, I removed all those long, fragile shoots first) and the crops were still really good. I was seriously worried that they wouldn’t produce anything at all. They were home-saved Desiree and Sarpo Mira and I actually ended up putting them in the ground in early May.

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