Drone view no dig garden

Mid September sow & plant, no dig & nutrients, squash maturity, myths, harvests

We should continue to see strong growth for another month, until daylight levels fall off a cliff in late October. If you are still sowing seeds, every day now counts for a lot, so don’t delay (see below).

As background to the photos from my garden, the first half of September has seen average night temperatures of 9.7C/49F and day temperatures of 20.3C/69F. Sunshine of 70 hours is normal, rainfall of just 4.4mm/0.2in is unusually low. We have been watering some beds of salad plants, and new plantings of pak choi and rocket.

Squash variety and maturity

A recent question was “My butternut squash plants have loads of flowers but no fruit?”. 

There are two reasons. 

  • They must have been sown too late, because the flowering time is early summer not late summer.  
  • They are butternut, always slow to mature.

For early ripening I recommend Uchiki Kuri, good for anyone in a cooler climate. They taste good too. While for the utmost flavour it’s hard to do better than Crown Prince. It matures later than Kuri, but not too late. We are harvesting a few now, where needing space for new plantings. 

Or they do not hurt from being left on the ground with nothing under them, especially if some leaves are still green. Mildew is not a problem, as you can see in this new video.

What information is in which product

The Calendar gives you specific dates for sowing seeds in 2021 through spring, summer and autumn. Sowing dates are the main detail, and transplant dates should then be correct when you follow these sowing dates. See below too.

More details about sowing and growing are in the Diary and No Dig Organic Home and Garden books (double offer). They also have information about starting out no dig, making compost, spacing and picking. NDOHG also has a lot about storing and some of Steph’s recipes and potions.

My new book contains much detail about the no dig method, including its history. I give details of all my trials here and what they reveal. Then how to identify and mulch (cover) weeds, how to make compost, and how to use it. Plus there are cropping plans for one bed, and small spaces.

The online courses expand on all of the books, with extra information and many videos, which are not available anywhere else. Deeper understanding allows you to push the limits, with more success. Enter coupon allotment20 at checkout for a £20+Vat discount on any course.

Sowing now, and last outdoor transplanting

The main sowing now is salads for winter, to transplant under cover in October. Also you can sow garlic from now, for harvests in early summer. This year after an early spring, I harvested outdoors garlic on 11th June.

Garlic, like onions and leeks, is not harmed by frost. I don’t know what it’s lowest temperature is, for surviving, but know that it grows well in Scotland, especially hardneck types.

From sowings made earlier, we can still transplant a fair few vegetables. They include spring onions, cabbages to crop in spring, lettuce, lambs lettuce or corn salad, land cress, Claytonia, and oriental leaves.

We transplanted pak choi on 8th September and I am pleased to say there is no slug damage, yet! No dig with compost mulch really reduces slug damage. I keep a mesh cover over, against flying insects. 

My second online course has much about propagation, sowing dates, spacing and winter vegetables.

No dig nutrient retention and compost amount

Nitrate pollution of groundwater happens less with no dig, than with disturbed and tilled soils whose biology is compromised. See this article in Craftmanship by Tom Willey, an organic farmer of four decades.

You can also see the abundance in this drone photo of 13th September. 95% of beds have received no compost since 2019, and no feeds or fertiliser. There is clearly good nutrient retention, and availability.

Drone view no dig garden
Homeacres 13th September, most beds with second plantings and no compost since last December, no feeds or fertiliser used

For maximum growth all year, I recommend compost applications of 3cm annually to beds, about 60% of the surface area. A Czech scientific study quoted in Tom Willey’s article confirms the value of spreading this amount.

On one bed they applied 100T/ha, equivalent to my 3cm per year on beds. They discovered how this “high” application rate actually decreased the concentration of mineral nitrogen in the soil eluate in both periods. Biomass of the test plant was slightly higher too.

We just started the year’s fourth heap since April. I expect to fill it by late October and then make one more heap, a good six tomes of wonderful compost. That’s about two thirds of my total needs, and serves to grow about £25,000 worth of vegetables.

2021 Calendar

We added four pages to the new Calendar, so it has a fair amount of information about no dig and seeds, as well as the sowing dates, and beautiful photos. For a lovely photo tour of Homeacres, see this blog by photographer Julie Skelton.

We are now selling it in a double pack at discounted price, with my new book about No Dig.

Vegetables early autumn

Salads continue to offer regular harvests, including lettuce, endive, and hearts of chicory. We took our first pick since April of salad rocket and mustards. A superfine grade of mesh cover has kept most flea beetles away.

My autumn cabbage are hearting ahead of time. They don’t stand for more than 2-4 weeks, before splitting.

Pyralid poisoning of dahlias

This comment shows how serious the problem is, and how difficult it is to receive help from official sources.

It’s from JAG sixtyfive on You Tube, 4th September 2020

As an Exhibition Dahlia grower, the hobby has seen a lot more of this poisoning this season across many top growers’ plots all over the country…..Clearly the problem is still occurring and perhaps increasing, from my experiences within the hobby and my discussions with other dahlia growers….All I get from either manure or Soil conditioning suppliers is ‘we do everything we can to ensure our products are safe’…Sorry, these half baked attempts at reassurance is simply not good enough…We need 100% guarantees, and the chains of supply all the way down to be tightened…Preferable would be a complete banning of such pyralid products…Both clopyralid and aminopyralid.

Technical information about pyralids, by Peter Schoenen You Tube 11.09.20

Pyralid is an “Auxin-herbicide”, it has a similar structure to the natural hormone/ growth factor Auxin. The plants take pyralid up and the plants own Auxin gets replaced. But because agrochemists have built an analogue to Clor-atoms in its structure, pyralid is acting wrong, the plant is depleted by its own hormone and gets a poison instead. That is why the top of plants are crumbling. Another consequence of putting Clor in the ringstructure of Indol/ benzene is that the molecule gets very stabilised. The same synthetic stabilisation of molecules by Clor you find in PCH, dioxin and other Clor-hydrocarbons. Dioxin with 4 Cl-atom has a so strong structure that it needs 1500 Celsius to break it down. I am not surprised that pyralid stays a long time in the environment may be for many years!!!

I was told that… !

“it’s necessary  to change the soil in the glasshouse each year”. So much bad advice involves unnecessary labour. Soil does not harbour spores of tomato disease, although there may be some pests. Nonetheless, check this photo.

8th year in same soil, greenhouse tomatoes
8th year in same soil, greenhouse tomatoes are less vigorous but still good

“You should burn blighted material”. This is nonsense, and such a waste. I have some blight on outdoor tomatoes, and put the diseased material on my compost heap. Blight spores do not survive in compost.

Outdoor Mountain Magic some blight
Outdoor Mountain Magic variety has some blight on its leaves, much less than Sungold which I had to remove

“Cucumbers like humidity, so wet leaves regularly”. Instead, I have found it good to water roots only, after midsummer when downy (not powdery) mildew can be a problem.

Cucumber Carmen still growing
Transplanted four months ago, these cucumber Carmen are still producing on stems which I looped over the top wire, are now descending


43 thoughts on “Mid September sow & plant, no dig & nutrients, squash maturity, myths, harvests

  1. Hi Charles, I wonder if you could help me with dahlias. I garden in Somerset not far from sparkford and have been asked to put in an dahlia bed for cutting. I practice no dig as much as I can and would like to make a bed suitable for this. What would you suggest (we have pockets of quite heavy soil)? I imagine that you don’t lift your dahlias….or do you recommend doing this each year. Thankyou in advance for any help you can give… Carolyn

    1. Hi Carolyn, I have not lifted dahlias for years and they keep coming back, with soil being fairly heavy here, silt not clay.
      I reckon that a normal compost mulch would work well for them – initial 6in compost, then an annual inch top up. Leave bulbs in.

      1. What zone are you in please? I live on the East Coast of Canada, on Prince Edward Island, our zone averages 5 to 6, depending on whether you are in a city microclimate or out in the country. I wouldn’t dream of leaving my dahlias in all winter, but I hate trying to overwinter them either, as my basement is too warm for them. So I gave up growing them as I lost many. Any suggestions? Thanks!

        1. Zone 8, mild winters no lower than about 20F.
          I would try a thick layer of straw or equivalent, on top of them in the ground

  2. Hi Charles
    Just a query on harvesting Czar beans. We had the first frost in Staffordshire last night and I’m just wondering if this has caused any harm to the Car beans and whether to harvest them before another frost. I’ve read that you can hang them up to dry as an alternative to leaving them on the plant.
    Also last year some of the beans were mouldy in the glass storage jars, how do you ensure the beans are dry prior to storing them? and do you ever put them in a dehydrator to dry them?
    Many thanks

  3. Dear Charles,

    Quite a few of my leeks have Leek rust on them – which is the best thing to do with this problem?

    Thank you

  4. Dear Charles,

    Quite a few of my leeks have Leek rust on them – which is the best thing to do with this problem?

    Thank you

  5. Charles

    My Wheelers Imperial cabbage will shortly be ready to plant out (following removal of a few tomato plants ripening thick and fast with this lovely sunshine). I will pull some next Spring, hopefully, for greens and let others grow on. I am thinking of a planting distance of 6″ x 6″ on the basis that I will pull every other one. Is this too close and would 6″ along the row and say 10-12″ between rows be better? I’ve not grown this variety before and because of limited space I’m always shoehorning wherever possible! This will be the third crop to go in this bed this year so I’ll probably put a little compost on at planting time. Enjoy the weather!


    1. This sounds good Eliza and I would do similar.
      Including some compost before planting. Great use of space and fertility.

  6. My Cobra have been great here in Somerset, sown direct in two sowings, been eating since early/mid July, early for me. Also grew some Blauhilda for a contrast but Cobra my absolute fav,and I grow them every year.


  7. Hi Charles, you converted me to No Dig some time ago after reading all of your of your books, brilliant.

    Very puzzled this season with the performance of Cobra and Lady Di climbing beans, just did not perform at all well, never had this problem before. Could it be the exceptional heat ?


    1. Nice to hear Michael.
      Yes it could be the heat. Whereas someone on a course commented how well their Cobra had done, but different weather probably. I hope yours may be cropping now.

  8. Hello, Charles, this is again Urszula from Illinois, US. I am amazed how many people are making their own compost recent years and how patient you are in sharing your knowledge regarding it. I have been trying to make my own compost for years but my end results have not been very impressive – I always had some clumps of grass clippings visible even after months in my compost bin. This year I watched your videos and read comments about making compost at least few times (love it – it is fun to make compost) and attempted to follow what you recommend. My compost looks better (no grass clipping clumps) but at the bottom of my bin (I started filling up my bin in March) I have something which feels like wet (I did squeeze test – no drops) mud and does not crumbles like yours in your video. Can you tell me how your compost feels? should good compost be sticky in your hand?

  9. We have just “harvested” our first batch of home made compost and this will be our first year of fully no-dig, after struggling early this year with digging hard clay and a bad batch of compost I can’t wait to start seeing things grow, in soil fed naturally by what we would have thrown away.

    What are your thoughts on bare ground vs “green manure” type crops? I have sown things like lambs lettuce, spinach rocket and mizuna to go outside over winter but having not planted anything during Jul / Aug will still have some space empty. Any thoughts on sowing something to cover it vs leaving the mulch unplanted over winter?

    1. Sounds good Nicola and I recommend white mustard for it’s fast growth, then being killed by any moderate frosts, or pull out weak remaining plants end winter.

      1. OK thank you, I will have a go at white mustard! I assume no digging in of course, just leave roots in and put anything that survives above ground on the compost heap?

  10. Hello, could you give the reference on the Czech study? The farmer I rent my garden from is concerned about me over-fertilising though compost. I use no animal manures or nettle/comfrey teas.

  11. We have weeds growing all over our compost heap. It’s an inherited plot so we’re working hard on it, but how do we get weeds out of our compost?

    1. If that is your working compost heap, you have not been paying it enough attention. Weeds don’t arrive overnight.
      Sounds like a lot of mulching is needed, cardboard or polythene.

      1. Thanks Charles. Clearly I have not! I’ll get down there with some cardboard and mulch away. Should I be burning all of the weeds?

  12. Hi Charles

    Great advice as usual. Our allotment association is trying to reduce use of bonfires but there is much opposition for many reasons, including the perceived need to burn blighted material. The RHS is still giving that advice but I know from your new book (a lovely birthday present!) and your other articles that blighted toms and potato haulms are ok to compost. Would you agree that blighted tubers should not be composted in a cool heap? What to do with them? The council tip won’t take allotment waste and we shouldn’t take waste off the allotment to put in our household bins. The RHS recommends burying below 45cm if bonfires are not an option but I wonder if there are other alternatives. Would tubers and blight die if put in a container of water for several months? What about putting them in a bin liner for six months? Any suggestions welcome.

    If we don’t give plot holders viable alternatives to bonfires we have no chance of success.

    Best wishes

    John – Exmouth is even sunnier than usual.

    PS Kath and I visited Sculpture by the Lakes near Dorchester and spent much time in the kitchen garden with the gardener who knows you well and has an impressive no-dig patch.

    1. Nice to hear John, and that is Mick Denney, excellent gardener.
      I would and do compost blighted tuners, they are rotting anyway and once decomposed, the blight spores die too.
      I need to have a word with the RHS.

    2. Hi John,
      Wish they’d do the same on mine! Every time I’ve been round in the last two weeks, somebody (often more) has had a choking smoky fire. Not great if you have asthma. And a sticky end for countless ladybirds and maybe hedgehogs. Can’t understand why you’d want to burn so much valuable compost material myself.

      On a separate note, are you the John who has an allotment near where Nic Pawson had his?? Recently read his ‘Questioning Garden’. Interesting stuff.

  13. I live on the island of Arran .Ground frost is very late ,but we get cooler temperatures than you and more rain.I have become a no dig convert for the last two years and see an obvious improvement in the soil.
    I have ordered your latest book and calendar, and have access to a friend’s small greenhouse. Everyone has been admiring my vegetable plot.
    Thank you for your groundbreaking advice.David

  14. Hi Charles, brilliant tips on getting winter salads down and transplanted, thank you – I am running out of space on the greenhouse shelves!
    A question about pyralid damage: I added farmyard manure to the beds in my greenhouse last summer and suffered what I am sure was pyralid damage to my tomatoes (curling, stunted leaves). This year I planted my healthy plants into the soil in May and they sat and sulked, when I dug them up to investigate (and put in fresh compost pots) the roots were brownish. They have since grown strongly. What advice would you give for these beds now? I was considering digging out the soil due to these ill effects as I don’t want another year of failed tomato plants. Help!

      1. I think Jo is saying that the plants were doing well after having been moved into pots with fresh compost in them? So it’s probably not an indication of the soil healing?

        1. Sorry I missed that they went into pots, in which case the old manure layer would best be removed.
          It’s shocking that we have all this trouble because of one poison.

  15. Hi Charles. Another great article Always find something new and interesting

    I’m slightly confused on horse manure. I have access a lot of reasonably well rotted manure
    Would you spread / use this in the same way as you use garden compost ? Or should I not use it and stick to compost

    1. Normally it’s great when well rotted, and use as compost.
      Just the risk of pyralid weedkiller – do a check with sowing broad beans in some, before spreading.

  16. You wondered about the lowest temperature for growing Garlic. Here in central Canada, winters dip to -40 Celsius (conversion chart says that = -40 Fahrenheit). Yes, it’s cold, and we still go to school! I plant my garlic mid-October, and it does fine in clay soil under a deep bed of snow!

  17. Hello Charles. Thank you for so much good advice, I have 2 no dig beds on my allotment which have done really well and am on the way to converting the rest of the plot.
    I live in Manchester, UK. Could you please tell me which growing zone I am in, I suspect it is not quite the same as yours. I have tried to look this up but not found it yet.
    Thank you.

    1. Nice to hear Linden.
      I suspect zone 7, but it’s not a good measure of warmth, is more to do with first and last frost dates, which here are mid May and mid October, probably the same as yours – so you could be 8!

  18. So sickening that pyralids are STILL a problem, after gardeners have been highlighting for years. Finding the same with almost ubiquitous bits of plastic…

    Melons look to die for….. Such a shame we can’t taste down the phone!

    Is there a way of telling that Granat has fully hearted up and needs harvesting, or still had a way to go and will get bigger? Mine have been ‘balling up’ for quite a while, but never grown before.

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