Charles removing broccoli lower leaves

October 2021 Autumn arrives with transplanting more vegetables, seed saving, mulching weeds in asparagus, saving time


September was lovely here, with gentle weather and abundant growth. We have continued to transplant outside, including spinach, spring onions, mustards, chervil and spring cabbage. In the greenhouse now are seedlings to transplant under cover once we clear summer vegetables.

The new area continues to impress,. We took a huge squash harvest from ground that was thick weeds and grass in February> Squash plants went in through black plastic, and now we have sowed that area with mustards, mostly as cover crop/green manure. They are killed by frosts below -5C/23F.

The garden remains fully planted for a while yet

Transplant quickly, effectively

Learning to use a long handled dibber speeds up the key process of transplanting. This enables you to maintain a full garden more easily and quickly than when sowing seeds direct for example.

My new dibber sold out rather quickly. This gave us the chance to add spacing intervals to the new stock, arriving mid October. See how I use a dibber in this recent You Tube video.

Another aspect of this is to pop in small plants, grown in the compact module cells of my CD60 trays, which mean you need less space for propagation. Also it’s easier to dib just small holes, to receive transplants which are ready to pop in just three weeks from sowing, as you see with the spring onions below.

Saving time and effort through skilful work

My new book is nearing completion, both of writing and editing. It has been a challenge to find time, and it’s a topic close to my heart, teaching better use of time, energy and resources. The photos below give examples to the topics covered.

No dig skills and results, more freedom

Mulching is the biggest timesavers, and is so good for soil life, learn more in my no dig book (on offer with the 2022 Calendar) and no dig online course. See the change in just six months with the two photos below.

A lovely result of no dig soil health, is the reduced need to rotate plantings. Grow more of what you wish to eat!

Comparison of harvests

Our summers are scarcely hot enough to ripen sweet peppers, and this year there were no coloured fruits until September. It’s a meagre harvest for much time and effort – chilli peppers give more harvests, and earlier.

By comparison, cucumbers crop regularly from early July to early October. I pick the cordon plants of Carmen F1 every day through summer, for harvests of consistent length and quality, sold to shops in Bruton mostly.

Seed saving skills

From the beetroots, carrots and onions we planted as roots/bulbs in March, this is an example of the beetroot seed harvest from one plant.

You need to grow at least six plants in order to have a large pool of genes for cross pollination. This means a lot of space in the garden, and a lot of seed. It’s the first time I’ve saved seed from beetroot and I’m not sure of the quality in terms of root harvest. I am sure that germination is excellent, judging by all the beetroot seedlings growing where the seeding plants were!

Learn more about seeds, seed saving and propagation in this module of my Growing Success course.

New no dig food garden at RHS HQ

Sheila Das manages all edible gardens at Wisley, as well as the education of students and apprentices. Since 2015 she has worked tirelessly to bring new understandings of soil, principally no dig, into the gardens and curriculum.

The new garden is testament to her efforts, and I am proud to have been her mentor for the no dig part of it. Wisley has seen quite a transformation and is worth a visit. I am giving a talk about no dig there, on 16th October as part of their Taste of Autumn event.

October jobs

Continue to keep your plot as tidy as possible, to reduce habitat for slugs and snails. This includes keeping any edges as short as you can. Turn any compost heaps, just once, usually 6-8 weeks after adding the last materials. This is not obligatory, but improves quality.

Asparagus leaves are starting to go yellow and by the end of October you can cut the stems at ground level, then spread compost. If there are a lot of weeds, including say couch grass and buttercups, you could put cardboard on top of the weeds firstly, then an inch or so of compost on top of that. By April, the card is decomposed and spears can grow through.

The main sowing in October is garlic, then broad beans at month’s end, see my Sowing Calendar for more details.

More news

You can now buy guides of my video selections, covering topics such as no dig, making compost and how to grow selections of vegetables. There is an AI search facility for every video, and you can have subtitles in your chosen language.

The Open day raised £3820, half for Send a Cow, half for Promise Works. Thanks to those of you who bought tickets to attend, and it was great to meet you.

We installed a Browning Recon Force Elite HP4 sensor camera at the edge of the new area. Mostly it’s filming foxes!

50 thoughts on “October 2021 Autumn arrives with transplanting more vegetables, seed saving, mulching weeds in asparagus, saving time

  1. Thanks for all you do. I’m reaching the end of my first season of no dig and everything has been so much easier. Thank you, it’s changed my life.

    One thing I can’t find any information on is voles or field mice. My home is surrounded by five acre haying plots full of mice and rodent tunnels. The old timers said no dig wouldn’t work because of the aggressive tunnel system the rodents build underground here. The voles first ate whole garlic, stem and all. I would come out every few days to a large hole and no sign of the plant. I pulled it early and it’s fine. This fall they entered my main plot and devoured all of the roots on some tomato plants, fennel, eggplant. Now they’re enjoying my large parsnip crop. I dug up parts of the tunnels and set various traps mainly used for moles. Not much success there. Now I’m onto basic snapping mouse traps. Most of the old timers around here use poison which killed a healthy family of hawks a couple months ago. We also have California Ground Squirrels which are easy to trap and move and I don’t think they’re in the garden this year.

    I’m considering setting more traps, (maybe a bucket trap during the height of harvest) and digging in hardware cloth around the exterior of my garden plot to prevent new generations from moving in. The tunnel system is impressive and parts of my yard look like Swiss cheese. I have a third acre of wine grapes as well that seems to handle the tunnel system pretty well so far but a nearby orchard looses a lot of plants yearly. He’s taken to planting in pots he then buries. They still get to even those. Even with lots of poison out.

    Thanks for any insight and thanks for being who you are. We need more humans like you.

    1. Thanks for this Brittany – and what a vole problem you have.
      It sounds like they have a strong niche in your area and soil, so it will probably always be a question of trapping as you say, together with a perimeter guard.
      I had just a few voles here when I arrived and found that normal snap traps for mice were effective, with peanut butter, as long as there was a large leaf over the top of them, since voles do not like coming to the surface normally.
      I am so happy you are not using poison. The advice you are getting is disrespectful to our environment!

  2. So I’m just about to spread this year’s lovely homemade compost on my beds but my Permaculturist neighbour has been chatting with me about her concerns about the leaching of nutrients from the compost over the Winter. Please could you clarify for me how this works out as I really want to be able to convince her that it’s the way to go – I just love the results of it so much!! Many thanks yet again.

    1. Hi Ele
      With no dig and compost, the stone biology holds onto nutrients, which are not in any case water soluble. She is confusing compost with synthetic fertiliser, but they are so different.
      If there were loss of nutrients from spreading compost before winter, Homeacres garden would look nothing like it does, and for me this proves the point. For example at the moment there is incredible abundance and strong growth, leaves full of colour and strength, from compost spread last winter and nothing else put on the soil since then.

  3. Thanks for being so generous with your expertise. A magazine article found me via a google algorithm just over two years ago! Firstly I binged watched as many YouTube videos as I could and read your blogs. I have been gardening since the 80s and was resigned to thinking well I like gardening but I’m just not very good at it. Not any more. The amount of ‘scales fell from my eyes moments’ from watching your videos and then following your advice has led to a vegetable plot which fills me with joy and pride. Please continue giving your direct – this myth is rubbish advice. I now know I don’t need a wormery, to make comfrey tea, to rotate my crops, to leave ground fallow. Instead I now sow seeds with their mates, plant where I have space, plant straight after another crop which has doubled the size of my plot. Weeds and prunings are now seen as compost fodder and cardboard boxes collected with glee. I no longer blame myself for seeds that don’t germinate and my greenhouse is a conveyor belt of growth. Finally I have a full vegetable plot in Autumn and aim for it to be producing and growing over WINTER??? Who would have thought?Thanks again.

    1. Hello Susan, and reading your account here has given me much joy. Lovely description of all the positives, have a bountiful winter 🥬

  4. Thank you for all the fantastic advice Charles. I have begun the no-dig method on my allotment this year. I wanted to ask a question about composting leaves from trees. I have a sycamore on my plot and on oak tree close by. All the plots on this allotment are hedged with hawthorn and some ash. I often put the leaves in a tumbler composter to break them down a little before adding to main compost, do you have any good advice about the best leaves to use in compost?

    1. Hi Joanna, nice to hear.
      Any tree leaves are good, but take a while to compost – they decompose more quickly if you can pass them through a lawnmower.
      I’m worried about all those trees and hedges close to your plot, because I suspect there are some tree roots in the soil. Not much you can do about it, but moisture will be probably reduced in the summer.

  5. I had similar problems to Urzula with tomatoes in the greenhouse for the last two years. I suspect eel worm.

  6. Curious about the copper tools; knowing copper has anti fungal properties, wouldn’t the micro abrasion build up over time and affect the soil life?

    1. That would be very interesting to measure. However I don’t have the means to do that, and all I can see is things are going very well here.
      With no dig, one does not use the tools much in an abrasive fashion, mostly it’s very light work near the surface.

  7. Very disappointed in”….scientists cannot measure the forces”…I follow you precisely for the empirical evidence that you provide, and now you seem to be veering away….

  8. Hi Charles
    Someone mentioned spent mushroom compost. We normally buy in farmyard compost for our no dig allotment but this year the supplier had none that they were prepared to supply due to the quality. Instead they offered mushroom compost. Only problem is the daughter of one of my fellow allotmenteers is highly allergic to mushrooms. Is it feasible/likely/possible that growing vegetables in such compost could produce a reaction if she were to eat them?
    Cheers, Jane

    1. Hi Jane, I don’t see any issue here because she is allergic to mushrooms and not to the mycelia which produce them. Or, if she is allergic to the mycelia as well, she would be having problems with most vegetables because soil is full of mycelial/mycorrhizal threads. So all should be fine, from using that.

  9. I have an asparagus bed that’s 10 years old and this year there are mushrooms growing in it. I’m sure it’s from earlier compost I have put on. Can I just chop the mushrooms up and leave them where they are or should I compost them first?

      1. We were very excited to find what looked like chanterelle mushrooms growing in one of our no dig beds. Sadly it was a false chanterelle having checked it out on fungi website.

  10. Thanks for another year of advice and guidance Charles. Despite it being a more difficult growing year because of some strange weather her in Kent I have been able to enjoy god harvests of a wide variety of vegetables by following the sowing and planting dates in your diary. It provides me with valuable information and is a great way to keep up with succession in my vegetable beds. Your emails with links to images and monthly advice are great too. Just today I saw how you have planted garlic between winter salads and have determined to do the same where I have already planted salads for winter picking in my small 8ft x 8ft greenhouse. I will be putting more outside again like last year. I also managed to grow my first melon in the greenhouse after watching your video! I was amazed at how much growth I got but the weaher meant that the second melon failed to ripen sufficiently but was still edible – just not as sweet.
    Gardening has become a real joy thanks in great part to you and no-dig. I can’t thank you enough.

    1. This is wonderful Rob, and I love it when people say things like that, that they find gardening joyful. No dig certainly enables freedom and creativity, keep it up!

    2. Thank you Rob. Sums up my thoughts after first year of no dig here in Tonbridge. Thoroughly enjoyed it and it wouldn’t have happened without Charles’ inspiration .

  11. Thank you for another great blog. On Saturday I took French beans, carrots and lovely multi-sown beetroot out (I had been sceptical, not now), raked, put on spent mushroom compost and planted my garlic; also small seedlings of Aquadulce Claudia and Kelvedon Wonder under mesh. Am anticipating they will both need fleece here in Norfolk. Enjoying my no-dig plot (partly inspired by your first book) enormously, and my non-gardener wife often says how good it looks.
    Looking forward to second book. I suspect you’ll have a lot of orders!

  12. I have been growing veg one way or another for almost 40 years, both my grandfather and mother were veg growers and I have passed the love on to my son.
    Having stumbled across your videos over a year ago now, I decided to give the no dig method a go, mainly because I have a bad back and so cannot dig any more. Last autumn I ordered in just over 2 tonnes of spent mushroom compost and spread it over my allotment, which is 30m by 10m and in the spring I started planting.
    I can honestly say it has been the best year I have ever had. To date I have harvested just over 256kg of fruit and vegetables. Both my freezers are full with various beans, peas, blackcurrants, red currants and gooseberries. I am beginning to look like a courgette as we have had so many this year. So quite glad that particular vegetable has come to an end until next year.
    I have, in the past, planted swede fairly early but left it until later this year as per your guide. They went in after the broad beans. I cannot get over the size of them. One I picked yesterday, weighed in at just over 2kg! I would usually leave them in the ground but not sure if I should lift and store them as they really don’t need to be so big. Surprisingly they are not a bit woody. At long last I have managed to grow celeriac which is larger than a golf ball.
    I love the seasonality of growing my own veg and look forward to the different seasons and the different vegetables available.
    Slugs are still a problem, probably because my allotment neighbours have very weedy plots.
    The next lot of spent mushroom compost has arrived and I will use the next couple of months spreading it together with the home made compost I have managed to make this year. We had to make a new compost bin as there has been so much.
    I’m looking forward to a bit of a rest during the winter, planning and ordering seeds, although I will still have winter pruning of my soft fruit bushes to do. I love a bright sunny frost morning to tackle that job, preferably with no wind. I know come January I will be itching to get started again and counting down the days until mid Feb.
    Thank you, Charles, it has been a great year.

  13. Hello, Charles, very interesting post, as usual. I have been gardening (on part time basis, after work) for more than 30 years, but this year was my first full year of no-dig having came across your posts in June of last year, and I though, this Spring, that my compost quality was much better than previously and my garden looked much better than before. However, I did encounter some issues and hope that you can help with your expertise. I always have had a very good results with my tomato plants, usually fruits were big and plants, despite being affected by late blight, would produce until first frost. The same with beetroots – always had big ones so needed to share them with my family. This Spring, encouraged by your videos, I grew my own tomato plants and peppers from seeds – they looked very nice prior to planting. I also put like 2 inches of mostly bought compost last fall to avoid any issues with it, and some of my own compost in Spring. I planted my tomatoes, peppers, beetroots and all other vegetables according to your planting guide, and everything was growing fine except tomatoes – they started wilting as soon as first fruits set up and nothing helped to keep them growing, By the end of August no plant survived, which is very unusual – previous years I had fruits through November. And then when I started removing dead plants, I have noticed that they almost had no roots – very small and short. Also, my beetroots are barely size of golf ball. It was very dry Summer here in Midwest – U.S. but I think I was watering my garden enough. So I am thinking that maybe it happened because of compost quality? I am composting everything which grows around my house, my kitchen scraps and, for brown material I use my office paper. Maybe I used something which should not be composted? Can you tell me if there are plants or other materials which should not be used in compost, not because they smell or look bad, but because they can poison or otherwise affect plants? I would appreciate your advise as I am still making my compost but do not want to have the same problems next year. Thanks.

    1. Hi Urszula, good to read this except about the tomatoes & beetroot.
      I suspect that compost you bought – there is a horrible weedkiller sometimes, called aminopyralid, is bad for many plants, and see my video about this

      1. Thank you, Charles but I think it may be some different issue – from watching your videos last year I was aware of this poison in compost so I bought mostly mushroom compost and I put it 5 months ahead of April, which is when growing season for me begins. Also, I did not notice any problems with my peas which were planted before tomatoes. Can you think of any other reason for my plants not developing any roots? Thanks for your thoughts.

          1. Thank you very so much anyway! I will try to research this more and try different kinds of compost next year and see what happens.

  14. My pepper plants from Delfland have been very good this year. Multiple peppers on each. I seem to remember they may have been a “Special Selection”. I’ll see if I can locate the labels as I want to order these again.

    I suspect I need to harvest those still in the greenhouse today and bring them to my kitchen to colour up. Here in the East Midlands of England we will be having our first air frosts soon and it has been quite cold at night already.

    This year I shall try to overwinter the sweet peper plants. I know it is possible with chilli plants but unsure about sweet peppers. Any tips?

    1. Nice to hear Suella and well done.
      Good plan to harvest by the middle of next week.
      I want to try this too, cut back hard but how hard is difficult to describe. Keep in spare bedroom with compost more dry than damp.

  15. What a very attractive front and back cover for your Skills for Growing book. Well chosen indeed. Will it be on pre-order? I’ll want multiples to share with friends as New Year’s gifts.

  16. Your new book Comes out just in time for my birthday! Very excited. ! Happy me. 😁🎉. That and a new dibber will be just wonderful. Sx

  17. Hi Charles – year one autumn on our no-dig allotment and I have a question about leaves and how best to recycle them. I have a sacrificial maple in the garden, should I
    1. cut it back now & add leaves (only a few just stating to turn) to compost pile with chopped branches, or
    2. Cut it back now & wait until leaves go crisp then add to compost pile, or
    3. Wait until leaves drop and create a separate leaf mould pile?
    The benefit of your advice would be very much appreciated.
    Best regards, Joy

      1. Many thanks!

        On the Padron issue – love these & thought we’d give them a go next year but my husband can’t tolerate heat from chilli – do you think a continental seed brand might offer less risk and also does harvesting green (how we usually have them in Spain) possibly reduce the risk of heat in them?

        1. The ones I have had in Spain on Tapas plate are green and harvested very immature – usually very few seeds have developed.

          1. Thanks Lisa – it’s useful to know about early harvesting, I hadn’t thought that far ahead but have made a note now!

  18. Very informative monthly blog Charles. I love seeing how your garden changes over the year. Good to see you have the same issues with peppers too, I’ve had 1 from 3 plants (couple more just coming now, but a very poor harvest too). Chillis a little more successful but not much.

      1. I have had the oppsite here. Its been the best year I can remember for a long time for sweet peppers. Some plants have had 6 or 7 full sized peppers on them and the bite-sized ones have had 20 or more. We picked the first ones in erly August and are still picking now – the last ones will go into the freezer next weekend.

        1. How amazing Kevin, great to hear.i guess you mean 6-7 coloured ones, mine had 5 or 6 but it still seems small return compared say to melons

    1. I have had the opposite here (Dorset). It’s been the best year I can remember for a long time for sweet peppers. Some plants have had 6 or 7 full sized peppers on them and the bite-sized ones have had 20 or more. We picked the first ones in early August and are still picking now – the last ones will go into the freezer next weekend.

  19. Its been my first full year growing as I was inspired by your videos in the first lockdown. I seemed to be plagued by slugs though. Have you found its been a particularly bad year for them ?

    1. Sorry to hear that Martin. I think you have been unlucky this year! There are definitely more slugs than normal and also it’s your first year. Often we inherit larger numbers from whatever was growing before.
      So take heart that things will improve, and venture out after dark to collect some and reduce the population.

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