October 13th rain and no dig, compost making, last tomatoes, salad planting, Brussels sprouts
Autumn has brought 160mm/6.4in rain in three weeks, but thanks to no dig the water is draining away, and without leaching nutrients. Almost all beds at Homeacres have had no compost since last year, and no feeds or fertilisers, yet growth is still rich and strong. I am giving no dig workshops next weekend in Birr, Ireland, and on Thursday 24th I speak at Galleywood in Essex.
On some outdoor compost heaps we planted potatoes in August to see what would grow, and had to harvest them already because of blight – they were delicious. Conversely the outdoor tomatoes are still mostly blight free, and this week is final harvest because the flavour is diminishing fast.
There is plenty of garden material now available to compost, much of it green and wet. Adding scrumpled paper helps balance this, also tree leaves, especially if you can chop them first with a lawnmower, to speed their breakdown.
Green materials bring heat, from bacterial breakdown. On their own they go soggy and exclude air, so it’s important to add a brown balance for keeping air in the heap. Homeacres heaps are 1.5sqm/5sqft which is enough to generate heat of 65C, from the garden of 3,000sqm/o.75 acre (one third of this is vegetables).
To turn compost heaps, or not
There is obligation to turn compost heaps, but I find that one turn (only one) speeds up the process and gives a more even compost, which is quicker to spread later on. It feels like a good investment of time, and a way to monitor the results of our work.
If you make compost in say a small plastic ‘dalek’, you can mix and aerate by using a proprietary ‘compost aerator’, available from Crocus in the UK. They are a metal rod with spikes on the end. Find more advice in my page about making compost, and in my online course.
Planting salads for winter, and broad beans soon
In southern UK there is still time to transplant salads such as lettuce, endive, mizuna, salad rocket and lambs lettuce. They will benefit from protection such as fleece or mesh, both from pests and weather. We recently transplanted spring cabbage and did not cover them immediately, then by the following morning every plant had been grazed to the ground by rabbits – they love small seedlings the most.
In these photos we planted bed one of the three strip trial: you can see the preceding beans in this recent video.
In cooler areas it can be good to sow broad beans already, but generally they survive winter better as small plants 5-7cm/2-3in high. For that I sow them here in early November.
Clearing and planting undercover
Tomatoes finished strongly here, all grown without any feeding. It helps that the soil is no dig and therefore biologically active, making nutrients more available. We simply spread about 6cm/2.5in compost in May, and then no more for a year. So for the salads we plant in October, there is no addition of compost.
Celebrate pumpkins and squash
I am judging two classes at a Festival in Bruton on 27th October. You have two chances to win £500, for the biggest pumpkin, and for the best in show – beautiful and mature. This may well be a squash rather than a pumpkin.
There are carving classes for children and excellent food available, a great day out in Bruton.
No dig Brussels sprouts
Two varieties, an early and a late one both planted at the same time. They are second crop after carrots, with no extra compost added.
No dig cabbage and find out more
We are running an offer on my Diary and Calendar for £16.50 plus shipping. The Diary covers no dig basics and timings of all work, the 2020 Calendar has sowing dates for next year and beautiful photos for each month. The Filderkraut cabbage heart weighed 5.3kg/11.5lb.
Find out more about no dig in my online course, which is receiving nice comments from participants.
And here is a nice video from Dr Neal Barnard, about the health benefits of eating mostly plants.