October 2019 no dig plantings, make compost, harvests, book offer, Q/A
We pass from late summer to early winter in a short space of time, and since the weather is already making that shift, here are my tips on being ready for the cooler and darker months.
My recent interview with Joe Lamp’l (@joegardener) is proving popular, it’s a podcast on his channel.
Compared to when soil is cultivated by tools and machines, no dig offers a seamless transition from one season to another. You just keep clearing and replanting, with one application of soil food between now and Christmas, because it’s the most practical time to spread compost, after beds are cleared. (It’s still fine to spread compost at other times of year)
Soil food means organic matter, and compost is brilliant for vegetables, giving soil organisms lots to eat and convert to plant food, while not offering habitat to slugs.
If you have winter vegetables growing, there is usually enough space to slot compost between and around them. This saves time in the spring, and means your soil life is fed and covered over winter. An exception is winter salads: sometimes I spread compost before planting them, sometimes in spring after clearing them.
My dig/no dig comparison beds have had an interesting summer. The dig bed caught up somewhat after a slow start, and has better kale, but most other veg harvests are still larger on no dig, from the same amount of compost added.
All year we have been preparing a series for Which? Gardening about my small garden, see the video. Ceri the editor is calling it the family garden, and so far this year the harvests are 131kg/290lb from 25sqm/270sqft.
Which” Gardening are running a trial offer of the magazine, which this year features Homeacres garden and no dig. Photos by Jonathan Buckley.
A lot of success comes from timing: see this new offer in my shop for 2020 Calendar and perennial Diary together.
Now is the classic time, even late September is good. It’s quick with a wooden dibber, ideal for making small holes, to pop cloves in just below surface level. Then cover with the bed’s annual dressing of compost, say 3-5cm or 1-2in, depending how much you applied last year.
Rust on garlic leaves is a problem here every spring, and I don’t notice a difference between using cloves from my own garlic, which was rusty, or from bought garlic seed. Least rust happens to plantings under cover if you have any such space, even in containers.
Plant spring onions, spring cabbage
These words sow and plant…. here I mean to transplant multisown modules.
I wonder if I should use the word transplant instead of plant, to clarify. Some people talk of planting seeds, while for me that is sowing.
We put clumps of 6-10 onion seedlings at 25cm/10in spacing, and spring cabbage about the same.
The onions went in after clearing courgettes, with an inch/2-3cm of compost spread first. Spring cabbage are following beetroot. I am not working to a rotation plan, these were the only free spaces.
Under cover last of summer
Propagation, preparing for winter salads mostly
It’s that time, hopefully you sowed already. You can still sow a lot but they will be slower to establish in the cooler weather coming, and darker days.
I notice an incredible vigour in the home saved seed of Grenoble Red lettuce. Compare the pallet to left of the first two photos, how they grew in one week.
Keep adding! Remember it’s fine to add weeds and roots, diseased material (see Powdery Mildew video) including late blight, and half-decomposed wood in small pieces. We even mow the wood chips, once they are already brown.
We have been picking in the rain, the first time for quite a while. Salad leaves are my main sale.
The tomatoes are for fun, and to see.
For more answers see the FAQ’s. This is a selection of the month. And people often ask about cardboard.
A You don’t need to use it, mostly.
Only if there are many weeds to deprive of light, otherwise you don’t even need it.
1 Fertiliser or compost?
Q I understand fertilizer is not recommended however, my plantings seem as though they need some supplements so should I add some fertilizer? I live in an area where it can rain 30 days straight and in the course of a year it can and will rain basically 3/4 of the year. So most of the nutrients in the soil “will drain out”.
A Don’t use fertiliser, it spoils the soil biology.
The nutrients in compost and healthy soils do not wash out with rain. They are insoluble. and organic matter holds them in place.
2 Ground elder
Q I have ground elder in a patch of herbaceous border which I have covered … no dig style … for a year. Is it ok now to go ahead and plant?
A Just lift the edge of your plastic cover to see if there are any bright new shoots, which would be yellow or even white, from lack of light.
If there are more than one or two new shoots, this tells you that ground elder roots are still alive, although much weaker for sure.
If the surface looks mostly clean, you could lift the cover, trowel out any weed roots still growing, spread compost, and plant if you wish. Pansies and violas are good for planting now, tulip bulbs too.
3 Oxalis weed
Q I am at the end of my first year no dig. I now have pretty much bare beds apart from a pumpkin plant and some garlic and onions bulbs that I have recently planted after taking out carrots. I have been having some trouble with oxalis (the purpley clover like weed) all over my vegetable garden and was wondering how to control it I’m guessing now would be the right time to tackle it as my beds are pretty empty.
A Yes mulch it now. Annual oxalis is a difficult weed, seeding before you even notice it. Or perhaps you have the perennial Oxalis tuberose whose bulbs are incredibly persistent.
In either case I would lay cardboard then say 3cm/1in compost. a:ay cardboard on your paths also, and use any wood or rough compost on the path cardboard.
You need total light exclusion with the cardboard, so overlap it well. By November if any oxalis is reappearing, lay more cardboard and stay vigilant.