October 2017, trial results of no rotation & no dig, autumn harvests, polytunnel cropping, sauerkraut

Vegetables and apples are maturing ahead of normal. This makes some harvests for winter storage more difficult, such as hearted cabbages that are already fully developed and need cutting, in the warmth of mid autumn. At least roots can be gathered at the usual, later times.

October is a month for planting salads and leafy veg undercover, to crop until next spring. The only sowing I recommend this month is garlic. Wait until November to sow broad beans.

Rotation, forking soil, different composts

Check the video link to see some results of my question, how necessary is rotation? Fourth and fifth year harvests suggest that healthy soil and the weather are as or more important. Climbing beans in the same place for a fifth year are as prolific as ever, leeks and cabbage look good in their fourth year, broad bean and potato harvests were good. Filderkraut hearts weigh 3kg each.

Also in the video is a comparison of growth in forked and no dig beds: the latter give more yield, for less effort. See dig/no dig beds below as well.

A Trial at Beechgrove Gardens Scotland, dig/no dig beds

On this pdf, scroll halfway down to see the results so far in 2017. It’s admirable they are doing this, and I love how an initial scepticism for no dig has turned to enthusiasm. Likewise Tim Allen (Darina’s husband) at Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland, acknowledges how doubtful he was about no dig, until he saw the labour saving potential of having so few weeds!

In my dig/no dig experiment here of two beds, there are extraordinary differences at the moment, especially of recently planted brassicas and chervil. On the dug bed they look unenthusiastic, on no dig the leaves are abundant and glowing. Harvests to date are 10% higher from the no dig bed, full results published in December.


No dig is wonderful for needing less tools, just a few of good quality. We fashion dibbers from spade handles, which are long and therefore save bending, so planting is quicker and easy.

Copper tools are more expensive but a joy to use, save energy and disrupt soil less, in every sense.

Flowers, wildlife

Veg gardening is even more joyful when you have some flowers too. They are companions for me as much as for the food plants, and when having lunch recently in the conservatory, we loved watching goldfinches eating seeds (I think) of some Verbena bonariensis.

Protected cropping

If you are considering buying a polytunnel, see my advice here and save some money, perhaps problems too.

October is one of the two main changeover times for under cover cropping, as summer crops finish and winter veg go in. We do no soil preparation or feeding, just watering before planting. Usually the soil is dry by early autumn, especially under the non-watered tomato plants.

Courses at Homeacres

These are more popular than ever, do check the new dates for 2018: more to come soon. Day courses are an opportunity to see no dig in practice, to hear me explain it, and to ask questions. Then to eat Steph’s colourful and delicious interpretation of all the flavours on offer at that season.

Weekend courses have time to go more deeply into best methods, with a look at the economics and  practicalities of selling produce as well. Average group size is twelve to fourteen.



Harvests are coming ready now, though if many leaves are still green on squash plants, wait as long as you can. Slight frosts do not harm the fruit, but may kill the leaves, in which case it’s best to pick either just before or after an early frost.

Mildew on leaves is a good sign of impending maturity.


Harvest dates vary with variety, but a rule of thumb is that when a few without pest holes start dropping, best gather the rest. Pests such as codling moth make apples ripen earlier, so the first fallers do not mean all apples are ripe.

I have picked Katy, Sunset, Lord Lambourne, Cobra, Ribston Pippin, Falstaff, Ananas Reinette and Ingrid Marie in that order.

Still to pick are Red Windsor, Adams Pearmain, Jonathan and Jonagold.

Autumn selection

Harvests in these photos are in date order of sowing or planting. Raspberries planted June 2017 (potted), leeks sown 6th April, celery sown 3rd May, turnips sown 8th September, to overwinter as small plants (we shall see…).


These grow so fast when sown in summer, their best season of sowing, and they are all second crops. If you like the photos, make a note for next year to sow Romanesco broccoli early to mid June, calabrese third week June and kohlrabi early July. Or a week earlier further north.

Beans for dry harvest

I was worried that my runner and borlotti beans were too green in early September, but a lot of pods have yellowed recently, and we have made harvests of nearly 4kg Czar beans so far, shelled weight but still damp. Pick when pods are half yellow or brown, shell beans into a tray with air movement, then keep dry and warm until they are hard, for storing in jars until needed.


My helpers have been great for preparing cabbage as Sauerkraut, even we had a German farmer Anna who kindly chopped some. Her tips are “as fine as possible in chopping, rub just a little salt for at least five minutes until liquid is coming out”. Finn and I chopped some too and packed it into jars, so all the cabbage is submerged in its own liquid. Now the jars are in darkness under the stairs, fermenting at room temperature, anaerobically. After 4-6 weeks I shall move them to the cooler shed.

12 thoughts on “October 2017, trial results of no rotation & no dig, autumn harvests, polytunnel cropping, sauerkraut

  1. Do you use cover crops? If so how do you manage it? Or does no dig method eliminate the need for cover crops?

    1. I do sow mustard in October Nicole, if it’s a bed which has finished cropping, and is not waiting for broad beans. All other beds grow vegetables until year end, so vegetables are the “cover”, then the compost mulch we apply is a cover.
      Mustard is good as green manure because it’s killed mostly by frosts of -4C or lower.

  2. ok, i have a full size allotment and ive always been a fan of digging, well this year after another healthy crop of various weeds and with winter on her way ive found my veg which are not in bad shape surprisingly.
    Ive decided to go the whole hog and convert to a no dig, I’m not wanting to use cardboard (only for ground cover of pathways) but im thinking of a good thick layer of straw topped off with well rotted muck then top off again in spring with compost a 3cm layer. I’m also leaving the plot fallow for a year to recover as i fear its been over worked. any tips will be greatly appreciated. I have been allotment growing since I was 12 (35years) and still loving it.

  3. Hi Charles, all looking wonderful as usual 🙂

    Last year I grew filderkraut cabbage and, following your growing methods, ended up with some whoppers. Some of these were turned into sauerkraut using a traditional German fermenting vessel. This has a lip that is filled with some water and the lid sits in this, allowing gases produced from the fermenting process to escape whilst keeping bad bacteria out. Does your jar have any way for these gases to escape as I wondered about pressure build up? It’s alleged, both traditionally but now backed up by modern science, to be a health boon for your gut – tasted great too!

    I noticed you’ll be in york in January, so I hope to make it if not working that evening. Harlow Carr was nearly four years ago, how time races. Thanks for all your help, Tris

    1. Hi Tris and thanks for this comment, yes time flies and I hope to see you in York.
      Yes my jar is not sealed, it’s just glass on glass, will need a rubber seal once fermentation finishes.
      I love the modern take on nutrition and all the good news about microbes we need for our guts, most of which are in our gardens.

      1. Ah, no rubber seal answers it. The challenge I had was once I started to use the sauerkraut, bad bacteria got in and mould would start to develop on the top layer 🙁 not sure yet how to get around this yet so need to do some research. Hope to see you in January.

      2. In reply to your comment on mould, that concerns me and I wonder about transferring contents of the large jar to small ones once I start to use it. Or make sure there is always liquid above the cabbage. We can swap notes.

        1. Winter sauerkraut secrets:
          Salt: at least 2 oz. for each cabbage.
          Thyme, dill, horseradish for taste.
          Scoop a hole on top core and fill it with salt .
          Lay prepared cabbages in a vessel and fill with cold water.
          Temperature should be under 50 F, prefferably late October.
          Important Note: Not all varieties of cabbage are good for winter sauerkraut. Only the late autumn, slightly flat variety.

          1. Thanks for the tips Vasile. Here I think it was too warm, the result was a very strong taste!

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