September 2019 sow again, interplants, brassica pests, mildew, no dig allotment, more pyralid damage

Often the weather flips in late August from summer to autumn, and this year is no exception. The last 7 days here had an average maximum temperature of 25C/77F, then next week’s forecast gives 19C/66F. Still nice but with cool breezes. See my tips for sowing and planting below. See the garden Sunday 1st September with free entry, no need to book. We should have calendars for sale.

On my website we have made the forum read-only. Since the mass spam attacks of early summer, it has become difficult for many to log in, and difficult to maintain. There is a lot of information still available on the forum, use the search bar. And ask a question or comment at the bottom of any post, and on social media.


Spring onions, bulb onions (selected varieties), spring cabbage and winter lettuce top the sowing list straightaway, all for growing outdoors.

For growing over winter under cover, sow any salad soon, including:

  • For outdoor planting to crop in autumn/winter lambs lettuce, mizuna, salad rocket,
  • For outdoor planting to overwinter small, in early September sow lettuce, spinach, chervil, coriander, dill.
  • For undercover planting sow in early to mid September all salads (includes spinach, chard mustards, kale etc which you can grow large for cooking), spring onion.

New plantings

Jasper and I have been planting many salad brassicas, then protecting them from insects with mesh. The high number of flea beetles this summer has confirmed that I need a finer mesh.


If you run out of space, try this technique. Wherever you see space between vegetables whose cropping will finish within 2-4 weeks.

Fast growth late summer

I love this time of year for rapid response in the garden. We often plant module-sown seedlings at two weeks old, then there is no check at planting time. For this, you need to be controlling pests.

Plus have spare plants ready. About 15 lettuce virtually disappeared and we found leatherjackets under them, squashed them then replanted.

Summer pests on young brassicas

Flea beetles have been worse than ever, both leaf- and stem-eaters. Plus swede midge eating out hearts of young brassicas, so they barely grow afterwards, or on many small stems. Mesh has been my saviour and then Bacillus thuringiensis against caterpillars, once plants are older and uncovered.

Powdery mildew, not as bad as it appears

I see recommendations to spray fungicide on powdery mildew, as in no.4 here for example. However there is no need: powdery mildew is just a fungus which helps older leaves to decay more quickly. It’s a helpful recycling gent and does not develop on new, healthy leaves, unlike downy mildew.

Two more USA updates with gardening tips are here for the northeast, and here for the Southwest. Plus I am recording a podcast about no dig with Joe the gardener, Joe Lampl.

New calendar for 2020

The calendar is being printed as I write. We shall be posting preorders soon, and you can order here.

For release in September I have also revised my Diary, a few additions and updates, some new photos and a new cover by Jason Ingram. I feel fortunate to have Jason take this photograph because he is pretty much top man worldwide in garden photography. He is also photographing a 2020 series for Which? Gardening on my small garden.

The 2019 series in Which? by me is about no dig and seasonal garden jobs, available to buy here.

Cucumbers undercover fed by compost alone

Three years ago I lost my polytunnel cucumbers to downy mildew, from wetting leaves too often. Now i keep them dry and they are still cropping well, on stems which have looped over the top wire and are now descending. See some harvests on this video of late July.

I do not feed them, or my tomatoes. We mulched the soil with 6cm/2.5in compost before planting, and this will suffice for winter vegetables too.

Yet more aminopyralid damage

I am upset by how this poison has got into so many products and gardens. Dow/Corteva say “it’s not our fault” because their label says ‘no sprayed products  should leave the farm’.

Few gardening magazines want to name names for fear of litigation. These poisons cause harm in tiny dilutions which make them hard to detect in soil or compost samples.

Compost companies say it’s not their fault as none of their compost ingredients could contain pyralids.

In the case of Levingtons (below), their reason for being blameless is “no residues could be detected”.

While the response of Country Natural whose manure has contaminated many gardens and allotments, is an offer “to have a landscaper rotovate the soil to remove any possible  contamination even though there might not be”. This offer shows how they don’t understand poisons, contamination, soil biology and people! They tell people who complain “you are the only one”. Somehow we need to reverse this horrible poisoning of soil and plants.

Flowers and veg

Enjoy the beauty. Plus it turns out that marigolds do repel aphids, by secreting limonene.

Allotment success

Just this week I received a lovely message from Carl Williams of Phillipstown allotments on South Wales.

Last January 2019 I couldn’t turn my plot over because of illness and my plot became a jungle quite quickly. Then I had a letter from my allotment association that if I didn’t cultivate my plot then my plot would be given to someone waiting on the list. I was devastated thinking I got no chance to get my plot under hand in 8 weeks in which they gave me. But then I came across your channel on YouTube and it blew me away. I watched every video you made and started straight away implementing all your suggestions for the NO-DIG approach. All my fellow allotment holders laughed at me when I told them of my new found approach to growing veg. But soon as I started planting some things in clumps like you suggest and things stating to grow and grow they starting complimenting me and the way my plot looked. I have just been told that I have the best looking plot with the best looking veg on the entire site.

Winter veg

Growing for winter starts in spring. Sow celeriac March, leeks April, Brussels May, kale June, chicory July and spinach August.

Summer veg.

58 thoughts on “September 2019 sow again, interplants, brassica pests, mildew, no dig allotment, more pyralid damage

  1. My boyfriend and I moved into our house last September and inherited a well planned garden with fan type apple trees, a pear tree and lots of herbs, I decided to grow in the raised vegetable patch and also am using a few containers with different types of beans, some tomatoes in grow bags and lots of lettuces. I’m now having a real problem with aphids. We have woolly aphids on the apple trees which I’ve been “blasting” off with a homemade oil and washing up liquid spray which seems to be doing some of the trick. We have also purchased adult ladybirds and ladybug larvae as well as planting numerous marigolds however the problem is not going away. Any other suggestions would be very much appreciated!

    1. I have been struggling with aphid damage to fruit trees, the new leaves. I think that modern farming has damaged the insect balances and don’t have an answer except the water spray to reduce them a little.
      With vegetables I am noticing more ladybirds and generally find that after many aphids in May, the predators do mostly sort things out, as long a soil is healthy.

      1. Thank you Charles. This makes sense. I do notice less bugs when driving in the countryside now!
        I think my first mistake then was not finding your no dig method prior to planting out the raised bed. Next year will have healthier soil I hope!

  2. Looks like weather in NW London has just flipped toward autumn about four weeks later than you in Somerset. 50mm of rain overnight, further rain predicted until Friday morning, temperatures becoming like may in the high teens by day and 10-11C by night. I suspect I have finished watering for the summer, but I did a lot during September on salads, winter radish, swede, cabbage, turnips and fennel.

    Despite the drought, initial harvests of Autumn King carrots suggest a bumper crop to come.

    I have been following your timetables for swede, endive, chicory (leaves and hearts), spinach, coriander and late lettuce and all are progressing brilliantly and perfectly. Clumps of spring onions for spring are also now in the ground.

    No dig, compost and correct sowing dates: the key to successful vegetable gardening.

  3. Here in Connecticut USA, I have been lucky with no aminopyralid poisoning from the manure and spoiled hay I’ve gotten, but I know it’s out there, everywhere. Some bagged commercial ‘garden soil’ brands have killed and stunted friends’ gardens; by all signs probably this is the agent.

    Rather than take the chance, I’m switching from a Ruth Stout approach (deep hay mulch + compost additions), to cover cropping. I’ve enjoyed how potatoes perform in rotting Winter Rye sod for years. But this Fall I’m diversifying by also sowing mixed legumes, oats, and mustards that will winterkill and leave their residue. Some of the beds will also get a buckwheat smother next Spring.

    So: no imported hay or manure. The cover crop seed is cheap and harmless and produces biomass as well as nitrogen in situ. Plus, live roots present in the garden for more months of the year should benefit the micorrhizae. Supposedly. We shall see.

    My garden journal will receive the record.

    1. Hello Jen, I hate this poison and and that sounds worthwhile.
      Some of those green manures are easier for you, where winterkill happens in colder conditions than in the UK.
      Plus your shorter season means perhaps less chance to make second plantings, say after onions.
      Perhaps also fewer slugs in your climate, can be an issue with green manures.
      I look forward to hearing more.

  4. Charles

    Two years running I have had difficulty getting Lambs Lettuce to germinate in early September. Both times, other seeds germinated in a neighbouring row (Mizuna this year), so the soil is fine. Seeds were from two different suppliers, so I was wondering if Lambs Lettuce is a fussy seed or whether this is just coincidental bad luck?

      1. Ok, we are about 10 days in now and Mizuna was through in four. There are a very small number of small seedings/weeds (do not know which), so I will keep watering the rows and hope something grows.

  5. Just watched your latest YouTube video and in it you mention Bacillus thuringiensis powder and that you can buy it on eBay, I know its only available to commercial growers to buy in the UK and that they offer it for sale from other Eu country’s before I waste money ordering some is there any issues with customs that you know off please ? Lost 3 beds of Cauliflowers, Cabbage and swede to caterpillars this year already. Its been devastating.

    One a good note thank you for the advice on my compost my temps have gone from 30c to 63c just by adding a layer of grass before I add shredded raw kitchen waste, finished bedding plants and so on, Hoping it will be ready for the spring !

    thank you

    1. It’s an odd rule about the Bt and I have not heard of anyone having problems with customs.
      Nice to hear of your composting success.

  6. Hello Charles,
    I follow your posts and videos avidly, and am increasing the productivity and enjoyment of my gardening.
    I am on the NW coast of Scotland with strong winds and lashing rain during the autumn and winter, but few days of severe frost. I am planning to grow winter lettuce and salad plants outdoors but am not sure of the best cover that will withstand wind. Ordinary fleece is shredded within days. Would 50gsm fleece be significantly more resistant to bring torn by wind than 30gsm? And would it have advantages over Thermacrop which is woven from strips of very soft polyethylene, and so perhaps more resistant to tearing?

    1. Hi Dorothy, thanks, and you are a brave soul. I gardened on Iona in 1981-2 and saw the difficulty of that wind.
      However we did not have covers and I would use the Thermacrop. Also Agralan sell Envirotect, similar and good. Flat on plants or very low hoops.

  7. Sorry to ask and please advise a book if relevant or anyone else to answer, doesn’t have to be Charles/staff; but I would really like to understand this with regards beans, peas and squashs outside and toms and cues inside. I know what I am hoping for but what will happen anyway – heat I appreciate I could potentially control (with aditions) and same for light but using natural of both, what effects what? I’m confused! Day length and/or heat to get my fruits/veg to maturity?

    Many thanks

    1. Deborah it’s both heat and light, but warmth is the main variable which we can best control, hence polytunnels etc.
      Soil quality is important also, to enable strong growth which can utilise the warmth and light.

  8. Thanks Charles

    I’m going to start growing some flowers on my allotment next year too. I have never grain flowers before. If I was to start with say marigolds when would I sow them from seeds? Would I grow them in modules like vegetables?

    1. Gareth, in NW London sowing marigold seed before April full moon indoors in trays or modules (transplant to modules from trays after germination) and planting out in late May gives great blooms all summer. I find collecting marigold seeds one of the easiest home saved seed options going: you get thousands from one good plant and they always germinate well the following year.

  9. After following your no dig methods this year I have so far had the best crops and highest yields ,so OI will carry on and increase the the no area,I only wish my father was still alive he would have been interested. Thanks for your help.

  10. Our first year of no dig and a large polytunnel has been very successful using your methods. We haven’t bought any salad or veg since last spring and everything is so tasty and fresh now. Close family are also benefiting from our bumper crops of Tomatoes, Cucumbers, courgettes. Even Melons are climbing to the roof, (using seed from a Melon my son was eating) Potatoes grown in the polytunnel have been brilliant and much better than outside. Sweetcorn is now being eaten and so tasty. I have just got to get my head around planning for next year now to keep it all going.

    1. Lovely to hear this Ian and well done. Those flavour difference make it so worthwhile, plus the more hidden nutritional extras.
      Sow now for winter salads and other greens, sow carrots October for April harvest and yes, do your research.

    2. Ian

      I find a spreadsheet open and Charles’ diary by my side a great way to make an annual plan. Mine all fits on one Google Sheet, but I only garden 50sqm! Without wishing to sound like Charles’ agent, I tend to reread his Organic Growing book each autumn before drawing up my plan as I always find some gem I had not realised was a gem until then.

      You can get new- and full moon dates from and if you want a full ephemeris with moon signs etc you can find free ones on the net.

      I start by putting the new- and full moon dates in one column spread apart a bit so you can insert rows for each sowing entry.

      Then I have other sheets in the same file with rectangular blocks for my beds so I can enter areas for each crop, with two duplicate blocks allowing second crops to be entered also.

      During the season, I fill in cells with colour to show a task is done, I have a column for transplantation dates (also coloured when complete) and a column for inserting start of harvest and end of harvest. Then I have a column for a quick comment, which occasionally says DEAD SEED.

    3. I have a large polytunnel 14 foot by 45 foot. It has been in use for 18 years. I have a plan of crop rotation and most of the beds produce two crops a year. For example cucumbers or tomatoes or carrots follow early potatoes. Kale and cabbage plants are set in November after tomatoes or other summer crops.

      I also have plans for my 21 outdoor no dig beds which are manly 4 feet wide by 15 feet long.

      I also keep a record of sowing and harvesting dates. Thank goodness for spread sheets.

      Even so I do really appreciate the tips from Charles on what to sow each month and the accounts of what he is harvesting. And of course it is always fascinating to read the comments from other nodiggers.

      Thank you all.

  11. Regarding getting “clean” manure from sewage: on our allotments in Lytham (Lancs.) we have two disabled-friendly composting toilets which we got with National Lottery grants. Well worth a try if you have no provision for drainage. Too early to say that they make a significant contribution in any respect to manure supply but, boy, they do make life more comfortable!
    Can supply more details if requested via this website.

    1. Fantastic Roger.
      My experience of compost loos is that the output after 12-24 months is relatively small (but valuable) compared to what went in!
      Do encourage all contributions.

  12. I think we should try to cut out the big businesses and produce own compost from kitchen/paper/grass clippings/animal manure and if need more try to find an organic farm to source horse manure/other manure. I am lucky to be self sufficient in this regard and never use chemicals but also, we seriously need to start making our toilets composting ones instead of water closets using one asset, purified water, to dispose of another asset, natural fertiliser! Even if squeamish about using such compost on veg it could go on fruit trees and bushes. Fordhall Farm in Shropshire is a great example in this regard. Your approach has transformed my garden and approach to compost, thanks for making veg growing both a real possibility (finally!) and more successful year on year 👍😀

  13. I grew onions from organic seeds this year. As I prefer smallish onions they were planted out in groups of five/six. The bed was quite shaded and a lot have not grown beyond traditional set size. Can I replant these next year and will they grow into normal size onions? Also my neighbour is trying no dig but although his onions grown from sets were large, when cut they are brown inside and of no use. It has been a very wet year here could that be the cause?

    1. Perhaps the rain but onions from sets can be diseased before you begin growing them.
      You need to eat those onions, they flower next May if planted again.

  14. So I think I have amino pyralid damage on my Jerusalem artichokes. So I am thinking if I just leave the tubers in for a couple of years, it will have worked its way through the system if I just keep chopping the growth off at the end of the season? What are your thoughts on that Charles? Thank you!

    1. How frustrating and yes I think it’s your best plan, the poison will dissipate then you will see healthy growth.
      Unless it’s enough poison that they die, hope not.
      Please report it to, we have to keep telling them or they think all is fine.

  15. A couple of points of interest Charles:

    1. I have tried two independent goes at maturing compost using biodynamic preparation ‘balls’: broadly you fill a dalek with fresh waste and immature stuff from wire cage piles of waste and when it has reached the top three times (still immature but definitely on the way), add five balls prepared using a mix of compost and soil and a teaspoon of biodynamic preparations (yarrow, chamomile, dandelion, oak bark and nettle) in five equally spaced holes prepared in compost pile using a dibber.

    All I can say is that six weeks later, I have the most wonderful black compost.

    I would need to do proper with/without experiments to prove its value, but the indication is that BD preparations certainly have no adverse effect on compost maturation and may well be beneficial..

    Whether the compost is sufficiently superior to justify the costs of buying the preps I do not know.

    2. I planted some spare chard in late May in an area expected to be colonised by squash a month or so later. After harvesting the squash today, the chard plants are healthy but still small, thus ready for providing leaves in the autumn (their brothers were starting to be harvested in late June and through July). I also put spare spring onions and leeks in the same bed. The spring onions were harvested today, the leeks are much thinner than their brothers planted in a dedicated bed, but still very healthy.

    It does suggest that you can also space certain harvests by using one sowing but altering the growing environment, at least as an amateur grower.

    Our temperatures have gone from 32C to 24C! The heat was great for maturing Cupidon dwarf bean pods to harvest seeds, but it did not do the same for Cobra climbing beans! It was also great for ripening Sungold tomatoes in the soil: absolutely fantastic taste.

    By the way, if you believe in biodynamic calendars, today is a perfect day to harvest tomato seeds!

      1. I cut off the dying leaves, and buried the bare stems. The squash seem a bit rejuvenated for a last hurrah of fruit!

  16. Regarding Aminopyralid damage, it looks like the big companies are all taking us for fools who know nothing, when actually we know and understand what’s happening better than them, because we’re working with the soil and plants every day.
    At our allotments, I have begun rigorous questioning of any of our manure suppliers, many of whom were previously unaware of the issues, but are now beginning to know, understand and hopefully cooperate to prevent us receiving contaminated manure.
    We have to keep pressing on to make people aware, make them listen.

      1. I have had a problem this year with aminopyralid damage on the bed I had set aside to grow flowers for picking. I couldn’t work out why nothing would germinate. The sweet peas I grew on and then planted just turned up their toes and died. Then I put in £40 worth of dahlias. They grew all misshapen with bulbous stems and stunted growth. I looked up aminopyralid because this period coincided with Charles’ post on it, and sure enough, dahlias are badly affected by it. I moved them to another bed but it was too late for all but one which went on to flower. Apparently brassicas are not affected, so the bed is now filled with them for the winter and they seem to be doing well. Does anyone else have any solutions to this problem?

        1. Oh bad news for you Helena. The only solution we know is soil microbes dissipating the poison. Can take a year or more, depending how much there was. So your bed may be ok next year – check by removing some soil and sowing broad beans or sweet peas.
          Which compost was yours? You should report it to
          And buy a different one next year.

  17. We’ve started to go no dig on our allotment with wood chip paths but these seem to attract badgers who dig them up regularly. How should we deter the badgers and the rats that have been eating our beetroot?

    1. Wish I knew how to deter badgers, it’s why no sweetcorn at Homeacres.
      Rats too, the million dollar Question.

      1. My neighbour swears by ‘marking his territory’, fortunately applying via a bucket rather than directly. It seems to keep the badgers off his sweetcorn.


          1. I now grow sweetcorn in my fruit cage. Three years ago the badgers got it, then the last two it was muncjac (?how do they spell themselves) but this year Success!

          2. Some electric fencing.150mm off ground should stop badgers. Make stakes buy cheap insulators. Fencer costs money but last for ages if looked after.

  18. Hi Charles

    You mention harvesting red Kuri squash now but, in a winter veg video, you show them being harvested in October with the Crown Prince. Do the red Kuri keep better, say until the end of the year, if harvested later? We were still eating Crown Prince in May – what a great variety!


    1. John it’s just a Q of when they mature/ripen. If leaves have died off (as this year here) there is no advantage to leaving them in the ground. Crown Prince often mature later, depending.

  19. Hi Charles,

    My daughter has set up home in Cantabria, northern Spain. She would like to start a veg garden asap, a y tips on things to grow in this zone? I have made her aware of your books etc so she is quite excited to get started.

    1. Hi Wendy
      Sounds nice and just sow a week earlier spring, a week later after July, depending on altitude etc. Check out local sources of organic matter.

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