September 2020 no dig, new book, interplant, sow, space, pests, apple(s)

Growth this summer has been strong and abundant, with few weeds thanks to no dig. The garden is full, but we are still finding just enough gaps to set out new plants, and making new sowings in trays, see below.

Average afternoon temperatures from 1st to 28th August were 23C 73F and nights were 14C 57 F, warmer than usual. Sunshine of only 122hrs is 30% down on average, rainfall of 121mm/4.8in is 30% above average. 

No open day

So sorry we can’t do it. Here as a small recompense is a video tour of the garden, filmed 31st August.

Sow now!!

In early September you can sow lambs lettuce (corn salad), mizuna and salad rocket in any spare corners outside. For salads to grow undercover through winter, this is prime time to sow a range of vegetables and herbs, from lettuce and endive to mustards, land cress, winter purslane, sorrel, tatsoi, coriander and chervil.

It’s still just possible to sow spring onions and spring cabbage. Don’t delay even one day, for these plants to have time to grow large enough to survive winter.

Before transplanting in a few weeks from now, it’s good to spread compost for the year ahead. Also a little woody material on paths, no more than 3cm. This helps path soil to stay fertile, and roots can use it for food and moisture.

Apples and Apple

The harvest of apples here is not good, after too strong growth in April, followed by the frost of 12th May. Only a few fruits survived in Homeacres frost hollow (!), and many have coddling moth, or are rotting. Just too weak.

It’s similar with my Apple iMac. It failed on 21st August, never to power up again, and  was only just accepted by Apple for repair. It is 17 months old.

Photos for this blog are from my (Apple!) phone.

Brassicas, pests and new growth

Brassicas including Brussels sprouts, cabbages and kale have benefited from the rain. However, butterflies and moths are not deterred, I spray brassica plants with Bacillus thuringiensis every 18-20 days.

This worries some, because of the use of Bt in genetically modified crops such as cotton and corn. This does not make Bt bad of itself, nor does it make cotton and corn bad! Bt is simply a soil bacteria

We are picking lower leaves of kale, not too many, keeping all brassica plants tidy too. Simply remove lower leaves before they go yellow. One result is fewer slugs under the plants.

How to judge ripeness

I covered this in my melon video. Fruits turn soft, or change colour. Cucumbers turn from pale to darker green then more yellow as seeds form. Watch fruits to learn the stages.

Winter squashes may now  be close to harvest, and watch for the stalks drying, the key sign. They are maturing here earlier than normal.

Dig, no dig so interesting

These two beds are endlessly fascinating. Sometimes small differences, sometimes large ones.

Cucumbers suffered more mildew on the dig bed, carrots come out cleaner and larger from no dig, French beans are better on dig, and celeriac looks stronger no dig.

Both beds measure 1.5x5m/5x16ft, and have the same amount of compost once a year. Yields from the year’s first plantings were  46.4kg dig bed and 52.5kg no dig. We weigh vegetables trimmed and kitchen ready.

From second plantings, up to 28th August we have harvested 13.1kg and 16.1kg respectively. Over the year, no dig is 20% ahead, similar to the previous two years. All from 4cm compost last December, plus a few handfuls of rockdust. No feeds, no Grow more!!

New book is out, and Calendar too

It’s been a big project, creating the large book. It’s based around my first online course, and includes the quizzes, with answers too. And it’s hardback, so heavy, as Martin and I noticed while unloading the 3 tonnes of books to Homeacres! They arrived just before the thunderstorms.

The book covers no dig history, my trials here, how to smother weeds, how to make and use compost, and the difference between compost and soil. It’s 240 pages, 84,000 words, 900 photos. Signed copies from this website, also in UK shops, and in the USA from Chelsea Green Distributors, once the boat arrives.

The last two chapters are plans and harvests of the small garden, and one bed by the shed. Examples of growing a lot, through all seasons, in smaller areas.

Interplants

There is often very little free space at this time. You can pop new plug plants between existing vegetables, when the latter are close to finishing.

Examples in late summer to early autumn include spinach between lettuce, spring onions under cordon tomatoes, and fennel between cucumber or between new spinach.

Weeds and slugs

Do pay attention to innocent-looking weeds, which can set hundreds of seeds in September’s warmth. For sure, small weeds at this time are not competing with existing and established crops, which perhaps gives a false sense of ease about their presence. If allowed to drop their seeds, you will encounter difficulties through winter and spring when hundreds of new weeds may smother new seedling vegetables and young plants, and make more weed seeds.

It has been slug weather, and I am impressed how few we see. The one place with damage is where I spread some less-decomposed digestate, from a methane gas plant, anaerobically fermented rye and maize. So much difference compared to my normal compost mulch.

Spacing

Some plants can be equidistant in all directions. My salad spacing is 22x22cm average, whatever the vegetables. If you space closer, plants live for less long.

Tall plants in tunnel or greenhouse are following the line of an overhead supporting wire, and these wires could be up to 90cm apart. Then cucumbers are at 60cm from each other.

56 thoughts on “September 2020 no dig, new book, interplant, sow, space, pests, apple(s)

  1. I have planted out young Mizuna plants which are about 4/6″ tall – do I need to do any sort of covering? Fleece or mesh etc?

    Thank you

    1. Tjat is big!
      An option is to cover immediately with mesh, unless you are in say windy coastal areas with little flea beetle.
      They may be ok with no cover, your timing is impeccable.

  2. Had some lovely harvests from no dig potatoes this summer and still going, thanks loads Charles! But a couple weeks ago one dodgy plant where the foliage had fallen down and half the tatties were rotten. Is this potato wilt? How do you treat this or should I get them all out now? Is is safe to compost them or will this spread it?

    1. Could be blight Emma esp if the tubers are smelly. You can compost them.
      I recommend always to harvest when ready, rather than leaving in the ground. A bird in the hand…
      Store in paper sacks, they taste good for many months.

  3. Hi Charles,
    I’ve just watched your video tour and it’s so inspiring, so many thanks for your garden tour.
    We have grown melons this year in the greenhouse, but only one fruit per plant, is this usual? What variety do you grow?
    My second question is about sweetcorn, looking at your sweetcorn it is so golden in colour, my sweetcorn is a much paler yellow with not a lot of depth to the kernels. The tassels are dark brown when I harvested the first few cobs so just wondering how I can improve next year?

    1. Thanks Karen.
      Melon number depends on sowing date, spacing, variety, soil etc. When all good, four is achievable.
      That may be the sweetcorn variety. Mine is Earlibird. Also yellows as it matures.

  4. Hi Charles
    Can you advise me please, I have been doing the no dig system for two years now, it’s great, my question is I have top dressed my empty veg patch (was potatoes) with two year old leaf mould, can I grow onions in this next spring or should I dig it in, the leaves that are collected this year will lay until 2022 when I grow potatoes in again, I have two areas about 12ft square each for the leaf mould and I grow potatoes in one of them each year, usually earlies, saves wasting the year until I spread it out again.

      1. Thanks Charles, that will save me a lot of work, interestingly not for carrots and lettuce, I will bare that in mind. Enjoy your U tubes, going to get my granddaughter to start watching you as well.

  5. Hi Charles

    As you predicted the rain brought my swedes back to life and I cut off a lot of the lower leaves that had much grey/white/ black fly on. Not having grown swedes before I wondered when is the optimum harvest time and are they better after a frost as I have read? All other brassicas are growing really well with no fly of any shade on them. My second question is about leeks. When are they safe from leek moth and anything else that might attack if I remove the mesh from over them? I didn’t realise the moth could affect garlick and I never cover my garlic.

    Best wishes, Eliza

    1. Nice to hear.
      Around now is time to remove covers against leek moth. There seem to be less of them than 6-10 years ago, hence your garlic being ok.
      Swedes bulk up until Christmas so no rush to harvest, and yes the flavour improves in cold.

  6. I have thoroughly enjoyed your videos on YouTube and have learned a lot which I plan on putting into practice in my new garden. Mine is ready for a layer of compost once I put in trellising. The only weeds that have come tru my current layer of mulch is the alstromeria, which I will have to dig out. A tip to combat coddling moth in out area is to plant peppermint pelargonium underneath the apple trees. It has been successful for my friends.

  7. Hi Charles,

    The Garden Diary arrived 2 days ago 🙂 I love reading it, and adding notes on what i will do differently next spring.

    On the “interplant” section where you showing Fennel interplanted with Cucumbers, are you growing cucumbers on the ground? I am a backyard gardener with a small garden bed and thinking if I should try this option next year… the reason being, the trellised cucumbers this growing season blocked all the light for the garden bed and nothing could really grow underneath.
    Any suggestions are much appreciated.

    1. Yes Aliona we transplant fennel between cucumber as it is finishing.
      For your trellised cucumbers, curt off lower leaves to allow light below

  8. Hi Charles, I wonder if you can help with the problem I have had this year with leak moth/onion fly which have decimated my spring onions and young leeks.
    I sow my leaks in 9″ pots and then plant out when ready. Having had the problem last year I decided that I needed to protect them. One of my raised (8×4) beds has been used for onions/shallots and has been covered all season with insect mesh on a home made frame. I have had a good crop of both with no damage. However, in order to protect the leeks, i placed the 9″ pot under the cover with the onions but they were attacked and destroyed. Also i have lost all my spring onions although they also were under a fine insect mesh. So, does the fly/moth over winter in the ground and if so why were my onions and shallots not attacked? The only successful spring onions i had were Senshyu sets planted in a large planter last autumn, over wintered in the greenhouse and picked as young spring onions. Many thanks for your monthly news, so valuable.

    1. This seems odd.
      Before leeks were in 9″ pots, I guess they were in modules, maybe moth’d before pot went under mesh.
      Leek moth does not attack onions as far as I know, just leek and garlic.

  9. Hello!
    Regarding your no dig style and no use of fertilisers and chemicals on your property. And with connection to fungi network web and that the plants are healthier overall I found this article here about plants being intelligent:
    https://www.techtimes.com/articles/252153/20200831/from-recognizing-relatives-to-counting-mounting-evidence-suggest-plants-are-smarter-than-what-had-been-thought.htm

    But interesting thing I found there quoting:
    “ Moreover, a study has also shown that shrubs can recognize their relatives and release more chemicals to fend off predators when planted near their kin.”
    That’s interesting because if you don’t dig and disturb the soil – the plants can work together to for example fight off pets .
    Is it not cool ?😊👍
    Kind regards,
    Kamil Olczak,
    Llanelli.

    1. Hello Kamil
      Lovely work here to find this and give another reason for the success of no dig. Fascinating!
      I do agree that plantS’ intelligence and abilities are underrated.

  10. Please can you help, I started no dig Three years ago with Eight Raised beds 1.5x 2.4
    All 600mm deep With good compost, I have added each year about 2 to 3 inches of home made compost and leaf mould, but they are all rock hard I can’t grow beetroot or carrots, in fact the only thing that seems to grow well are the strawberries in one of the beds, what am I doing wrong.We live in Nantwich Cheshire, All the beds also have drip irrigation.
    Any advice will be great fully accepted.
    Regards
    Tony

    1. Hi Tony, and this is odd because I have not heard before of compost going rock hard!
      I suspect it’s the drip irrigation, and significant drying between the drip water, so the hardness is from doing out.
      Plus a bed of such depth with wooden sides will dry more than a shallow bed.
      So watering is best remedy.

      1. Hi Charles, thanks for you reply, most of the beds are 300mm deep and with all the rain I hardly put the drip irrigation on, the soil/compost feels damp but is very very hard, should I dig it to break it up or completely soak it with a hose, I actually planted multi sown beetroot in April and the plant are still only about 100 mm tall with no beetroot ar all and carrots never produced. I am at a loss of what to do next.
        Regards
        Tony

        1. It happened to me on a bed with aminopyrallids. Sorry to say that growth there is still not normal in spite of all sorts of treatments . It’s been 6 ot 7 months now.

  11. My new book arrived this morning and I have turned every page to see what delights I have in store. I’ve already picked up a couple of hints that will be put into effect this afternoon. I look forward to giving the book my full attention later. Thank you so much. I’ve already overcome my gardening ‘incompetence’ and am really looking forward to being able, finally, to realise my growing plans!

  12. Once again, the third year in a row, slugs and millipedes have devastated my potato crop. The slugs get in first then the millipedes invade and eat out the centre of the potatoes. Unfortunately, my vegetable plot runs alongside an old stone wall which I presume is harbouring all the little pests. I’ve tried slug resistant varieties, Charlotte and Kind Edward this year, and keeping down the grass by the wall – still no good. I’m told nematodes won’t penetrate deep enough to catch the slugs which probably live underground. We have fantastic bird life around us but they just don’t dispose of the slugs. Have you any suggestions from your wide experience?

  13. Thanks for answering Charles. Do you grow kale for baby leaves or salad? Would you use the same spacing as for cooking and what varieties do you recommend?

  14. Thanks for this Charles.
    I am growing squash for the first time this year (Uchiki Kuri, Spaghetti and Crown Prince) and have been looking for guidance on when they ready/should be harvested etc.. Other websites state that they need to be lifted off the ground and sat on a piece of wood or terracotta pots. That’s another job that I don’t need to do, thanks to you!

  15. Hi Charles,

    So useful to get regular reminders of what I should be doing! I have a reasonable size kitchen garden with 14 12′ x 4′ raised beds made from 6″ x 1″ timber (if I were doing it again and could afford it I’d use 6″ x 2″ for strength) At the moment the paths between are laid in landscape fabric which is very efficient but looks ugly. I see you advocate wood shreddings for paths, I am considering this but my only concern is that the shreddings will eventually turn to compost and encourage weeds. Have you found this material to be reasonably low maintenance? My other alternative is cinders from the local heritage steam railway!

    Thanks again for an inspirational site.

    Steve

    1. Thanks Stephen. Not cinders of coal ash, some toxins I believe.
      Wood does turn to compost which feeds soil life! Pull the few weeds you see.

  16. Book arrived safely, read it cover-to-cover before putting it on hold for a fortnight before I read it again more thoroughly. I very much look forward to you writing a book to cover your soon-to-be-released Course 3….

    I harvested 10 Red Kuri and 8 Crown Prince squash on Sunday, leaving a few on the plants as they did not yet look totally ripe. Only 13 weeks between planting out and harvest.

    This year I tried sowing some fennel a bit earlier than the solstice and several are going to seed: still edible, but it shows that there is sense to advice about when to sow fennel.

    Another lesson I learned is that celery grows much faster in the ground than in modules/pots, so putting them out as young as is feasible gets them to a good size quicker. The second crop I transplanted at 4 weeks old in early July and then they grew like the wind in the ground.

  17. Charles, I always find the information and photos of your beautiful garden very instructive and inspiring. I am a market gardener based in Laois, Ireland, having started up a veg box scheme last year. We begin our selling season in April. I am wondering: what Spring cabbage varieties do you especially recommend? Hope the Mac recovers soon. Many thanks, Jeremy

    1. Cheers Jeremy and nice to hear.
      I am having trouble with badly maintained, open pollinated varieties, and suggest Cape Horn and Spring Hero F1. They should mature in succession.

  18. Hello Charles,
    I’ll be purchasing your literature very soon. Your conversions to inches, feet, ect. are fantastic in your videos.
    I am trying to start no dig on a hay pasture. My question if you have time to answer, the top layer of my soil is about 2-3 inches of sand, it probably has small amounts of clay/ ect, but it’s very loose. Below that it gets more dense then goes to clay. Will leaving the loose sand on top before I cardboard/mulch be just fine? I’m able to remove the sand but if I dont have to that’s great.

    Thank you kindly

    1. Hi Wayne and thanks.
      I would leave it in place, can’t see it hurting, but have to qualify that by saying I do not have experience of such, it sounds like something to do with horses.
      May your garden be good.

  19. Innocent-looking weeds ;-))) – guess I’ll have to bite the bullet and get some TB next year, the caterpillars have been demolishing all my cabbage-family seedlings, have never had that problem before, but it has really set me back this year. I really appreciate your reminders to get sowing and planting, it’s only something I’m beginning to get better at. So a nudge in that direction is extremely helpful.

  20. Hello, I see you have some lovely kale growing there. How far apart do you typically space kale and how quickly after planting do you start picking? Thanks, Ja

  21. Thanks Charles, We have moved back to Dorchester, Dorset not a million miles from you, I have my name down on the allotment waiting list so looking forward to buying your book in preparation.

  22. After moving back from France which was a rural house with a sizeable plot into a town centre flat, I find I am missing the buzz of growing our own produce. I have been following you avidly on your You.tube channel and now look forward to buying your book Charles. Thank you for fuelling my interest with such an inspirational enthusiasm.

      1. Thanks Charles, We have moved back to Dorchester, Dorset not a million miles from you, I have my name down on the allotment waiting list so looking forward to buying your book in preparation.

  23. Congrats on your sweetcorn!! I know you were dubious with the badgers. It looks very scrummy. Enjoy!😋
    It’s been a strange month here. First half very arid with temps 32 – 36C for a week. Then the weather broke with thunderstorms and very welcome rain – 138mm/5.5” (more than you!) in the last couple of weeks. Then storms Ellen and Francis within the last few days bringing 40 – 60 mph winds, sadly toppling 75% of sweetcorn and leeks, and de-leafing runners. I must have been a very comical sight out in the rain, battling to stay upright while attempting to sew ripped netting together with it regularly being whipped out of my hands and clothes pegs holding it together flying off in all directions!🤣 Brassicas have enjoyed it though. And great to see grass turn back to green.

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