Lollo lettuce we pick weekly with Medania spinach interplanted

September 2021 pests, propagation, transplant and interplant, tomato, cucumber, bindweed

After some dry summers recently, when we dreamed of having more rain, this summer we had welcome rain and growth has been abundant. And the other result is slugs, snails and late blight, especially on tomato plants – see my new Small Garden video for details of those.

At least we have had steady summer warmth and almost all vegetables have profited. One tends to focus on the negative because problems need to be sorted, but growth of vegetables and flowers is mostly excellent. It has been good weather for transplanting and interplanting too.

I look forward to meeting some of you next Saturday 4th September, when we have open morning 09.30 to 12.30, and open afternoon, 14.00 to 16.30, as ticketed events in aid of charity. There are some places still available for both times.

I was interviewed recently by Lewis of Somerset Stories and you can hear more about my life with no dig in this new podcast

Problems and solutions

There is always an answer, and many possible strategies. No dig, using covers at appropriate times, and sowing at best time help to ensure healthy growth, which reduces pest damage. Find more about sowing dates in my website timeline, and Calendar of best sowing dates. We offer deals on purchases of the Calendar with say my No Dig book.

In difficult moments I favour night sorties to reduce slug numbers, careful watering of indoor tomatoes to keep leaves dry + blight resistant varieties outside, and growth of alternative plants such as endives in late summer for salad leaves, since they do not succumb to root aphids.

Transplanting tip

Plant small for rapid establishment. As long as you have pushed compost firmly into the cells of module trays, seedlings can be popped out any time from one to three weeks after sowing.

“Don’t tell a plant it’s been moved”. Little transplants suffer less check. Healthy no dig soil helps, see the next section. Find out more in the spacing and transplanting module of my online Growing Success course.


Plants like companionship, so when setting any out at wide spacings you can often gain a free harvest by filling the space between. Use either plants which grow more quickly to harvest (leeks between celeriac), or whose pattern of growth does not interfere with the other plants (sweetcorn with squash).

Now in late summer many gardens are very full, meaning there are few new spaces for transplants or seeds. Therefore it’s good to find space between existing plants, which will finish cropping say within one month. Lettuce are the best example, even spring broccoli, also see ridge cucumbers below.

No dig helps because the healthy network of mycorrhizal fungi link new plants to the older ones. They do trades and work together in wonderful ways, see Dr Kris Nichols’ video.

Trials, nice growth

I love to run trials because they always teach something new. Discover more on my website Trials page.

One striking difference this year is the stronger growth of the dug bed, in my two bed trial. Harvests are still behind the no dig bed, but with a smaller difference the in previous years.

I suspect this comes from removing the wooden sides last December. Plants growing in the dug soil can now access help from fungal networks in bordering pathways.

Propagation now

It’s soon too late for sowing spinach to plant outside, but still you can sow mizuna, salad rocket, lambs lettuce/corn salad, chervil, coriander, Claytonia and land cress for outside planting.

For growing undercover, almost any salad plants are possible! Best sowing time is early September, then up to equinox for brassica salads which grow most quickly.

My new design of module trays are working well. They need only a small amount of compost, are economical on space, and plants pop out easily. You can buy them from Containerwise in the UK and The Farm Dream in Europe, who also sell some of my books and the Calendar. Containerwise may soon ship to the USA and Canada.

Pak choi transplants

Pak choi are often eaten by slugs. I want to encourage you to plant small, in beds with no wooden sides!

Using my wooden dibber saves backache, and is energy efficient from making a hole exactly the right size, just a little deeper than the module. Stems can always be below surface level.


A slow year, But it’s finishing better as long as you have no or minimal blight. See this video we made for Instagram, after I discovered blight on leaves in the polytunnel. It is however not calamitous on those plants, which are still cropping well.

Cucumbers and interplants

We have picked so many cucumbers, both under cover and outside. The outdoor ridge plants will soon finish, so we interplanted bulb fennel for October harvests.

Don’t worry about powdery mildew on leaves, it’s normal as plants age. Remove leaves if you wish, or not!

See more about growing cucumbers in my online lesson. The online lessons include unique videos not on You Tube.

Vegetable garden beauty

I so appreciate the beauty of food gardens, and just love the garden right now. The third dimension from May to October makes a nice difference, as well as the colours and vibrance of all plants.


It’s losing vigour here! The combination or mulching, no dig and regular removal means that new shoots are thinner.

Plus we have had nice amounts for adding to the compost heaps. See more about results from different heaps, in this video.


Homeacres courses keep selling out, and we posted a new date of 15th September.

If you can’t make it here, learn no dig in my online course. We also offer online lessons about growing all the main vegetables, including spinach, and price offers when you buy bundles.


57 thoughts on “September 2021 pests, propagation, transplant and interplant, tomato, cucumber, bindweed

  1. Thank you Charles for recent posts and videos. Comments: (i) on preferred vegetable seed varieties. Tomato ‘Ferline’ is so wonderful I’m not surprised it sells out early; but it is becoming difficult to get any supplies. I manage to get mine now from Seaspring, who are a great company: they reply personally to communications, and how many do that? Interesting that you mention Hungarian Hot Wax peppers as a mixture of sweet and chilli types. Ours this year became incredibly hot – but by removing the seeds and the ridges you can keep the flavour without burning your mouth. (ii) Long dibber in video. Absolutely agree (and would buy one if I didn’t have an old fork stale already). But… can someone please invent something (other than leaving out in the rain) to solve the problem of getting tape off cardboard boxes? Looking forward to second book in January.

    1. Nice to hear Alan.
      Yes seed supply is becoming an issue. Agree about Seaspring.
      We had similar experience with Padron this year, except maybe even hotter.

  2. Hi
    We have just moved into a house with a garden that has been under gravel for many years. The gravel is up to 6 inches thick and underneath it is plastic sheeting. We are removing the gravel and the plastic and hope that the soil will be good enough to start a ‘no dig’ plot – it is quite damp and doesn’t seem to be anaerobic. Have you any advice? Thanks.

    1. Those are good moves and I suspect that soil will come back to life within a year or so. Add a decent amount of compost, say minimum 4 in/10 cm, and add half as much again next autumn

        1. Had a similar situation here on mid-somerset clay.
          Worm population looked more or less normal, after two years of mulching with lawn grass cuttings and farmyard manure.
          Now after 8 years of garden compost, manure, grass and leaf mold it is quite good.
          But 4ft tall Brussels sprouts are actually a bit of a nuisance.
          Just grab as much stuff as you can and repeat every year.

  3. I have raised beds some which have now been emptied of their summer crops and the soil is now bare. They are nowhere near as productive as your lovely beds, we have biggish trees to the south of the garden and so light levels are fairly low added to which I’m struggling to get the beds to hold moisture despite adding about 3” of compost (from big bulk builder’s bags) earlier in the year. I’m planning to add as much rotted manure as I can to boost the moisture retentive properties but am wondering if I should do this now and if so should I cover the beds until spring planting starts? What would be a good cover, cardboard??
    A second question,the bulk-buy compost wasn’t as moisture-retentive as I’d hoped, do you have an recommendations for buying compost? Would mushroom compost be a better option? Or spent hops if I can get them?

    1. Jane, I suspect that there are tree roots in your bed, and I hope that I’m wrong! Because they could be sucking the moisture all the time, it’s a worse problem than shade. Make a hole and have a look and if there are woody roots, you may need to dig the bed.
      Or perhaps it’s the green waste compost, which was too fresh when you put it in and therefore stays dusty for quite a few months, not holding moisture. That will improve as it ages and yes I would try mushroom compost, perhaps a few spent hops as a surface mulch. No need to cover overwinter, nor to use cardboard

      1. Thanks Charles, that’s helpful. I think it’s unlikely to be the trees, the beds are not near any of the leaf canopies (two big hollies about 20m away to the east, damson and pear 10m to the south, oak about 12m to the southwest casting most shade) but it may well be the compost so I’ll look forward improvements as it ages and try and find mushroom compost or hops to spread.

  4. Hi Charles,

    I have been following your YouTube Channel and blog posts quite a bit recently. I am a new(er) gardener and appreciate all the information you put forward. You are very clear and concise and find your information more organized than other sources on the internet. I had for awhile, used the traditional method of gardening, but have gradually moved to no dig, allowing my small yard to act as a bit of an ecosystem, recycling “waste” material into compost and using that compost to grow stronger and healthier vegetables. This method has saved me a lot of money as I do not need to buy soil and amendments at the big box stores. It’s exciting to see that people can have fresh, sustainably produced fruits and vegetables with relatively little work and bit of planning from a small space in their backyard. For someone who has never been excited about eating fruits and vegetables, I find myself eating much more as the flavors of these from my garden are much better than those from the supermarket.

    I look forward to learning more and continue to seek out past and present videos and blog posts.

    Warmest Regards from New Jersey,


    1. I am so happy to read this comment Tom. Thanks.
      My mission is to spread health and well-being, through gardening and working with nature, and it’s clicking with you for sure!

  5. Hi Charles,
    How do you recommend planting raspberries? I am planning to buy some non-bare root plants (i.e. not bare root canes) and plant in a patch of lawn on my allotment. The conventional approach would be to dig the ground over but I want to avoid this if possible…..

    Any advice gratefully received,


    1. As with all other plantings Peter, ignore ‘conventional’ advice.
      Usual mulching, and use spade or trowel to make enough hole to place the roots.

      1. Thanks Charles – I’d thought as much but nice to know “officially”. Planting as you suggest will make it much easier and save me so much time – time I don’t have. With two small children no-dig makes gardening possible for me.
        One more question about raspberries – convention has it that they should be planted on a north-south axis so that both sides of the row get equal amounts of sun. Any opinions on this?

        1. Nice to hear. Conventional advice ignores that most of us have sites which cannot be perfect, and the main thing is to line your raspberries in a way that works within the general layout, and for access.

  6. I have 3 no dig vegetable beds which have been had various degrees of success – always learning!
    At the other side of the garden I have a slope 6 feet wide, and around 20 feet long which borders my neighbour. I have a variety of bushes, trees etc in this but there is an area which is mainly grass covered that I have my eye on to putting in some sort of herbaceaous bed. To this end, I have covered this in cardboard after strimming it very short and then piled on peat free compost. After further investigation on your site, I plan to tread it all down but then I am stuck as to what to do this time of year (Cumbria). Should I cover with permeable membrane and plant in spring, put bulbs in now, plant up anyway and cover with fleece to keep the cats away from a new potential litter tray? I know I am rambling but not sure I should have stuck to the veg beds…..
    Thank you for any comment

    1. If cats are that much of a problem for you, I would plant bulbs now and then cover the whole area with bird netting on the ground, and then plant your shrubs et cetera in the spring.

      1. Thank you for your reply, my beds are always covered with fleece/butterfly netting which deter the cats, so I will carry on with this new mini venture, and they will get the hint…. After all they are spoiled with fields and hedges around us.
        I look forward to continuing to follow your videos.

  7. I’m trying Bacillus Thuringiensis this year as per recommendation.
    I think its working -at least on some brassicas (such as ornamental Crambe cordifolia) that normally get decimated by caterpillars.
    However, for many of my cabbages and kale, the leaves are so slippery, the spray just runs off. I’ve tried adding some Organic castile liquid soap as a surfactant, but still no luck with the really slippery varieties.
    Any suggestions/advice!

    1. Hi Gareth, I ahve been using BT for about 4 years now and yes, it does appear to ‘run off’ when you spray but worry not, it still retains an active film on the leaves and does the job. My plot neighbours can’t believe how I never have caterpillar damage. I just spray every three weeks from early/mid July to mid September. Regards. Kev L

  8. Hi Charles,
    Many thanks for releasing the recent excellent videos on the small garden and your various compost heaps. I was inspired by the latter to go and measure the temperature in my current compost heap which has the same volume as your small plastic one shown which you say can never get above about 45°C and I was surprised to find it is currently 63°C !
    In compost making, as in all aspects of life it appears that – SIZE DOES’NT MATTER!
    With much respect and warmest wishes
    Peter (5 foot, 5 inches in my socks)

      1. Quick update – last week the temperature peaked at 71°C, now it’s back down to a mere 68°. I’ll wait until it drops to about 50 and then give it prod with my aerator.

  9. I think I need to look into getting better potting compost next year, wickes/homebase own brand aren’t cutting it. Your transplants always look bigger than my own at the same stage.

    Are you still going with moorland gold or have you found something better?

    I know you don’t like to recommend as brands seem to change every year but just as a guide of what has been good previous it would be useful to know.


    1. Hi Scott, yes I still use Moorland Gold and it’s good.
      Also we have trialled adding 50% of sieved home-made compost to the Moorland Gold and the results are promising. Except that the home-made compost does not stick or bind together so well. Best of luck!

  10. Charles, my onion crop grown from Sturon sets is good; but I would prefer not to have 18oz onions with thick necks. If I grow from seed, will that solve the problem? And Charles, one last question. I have to buy in compost to supplement my own. Some companies talk about compost with the addition of soil improvers; you have taught me to be wary of such language. What are they selling?
    Many thanks,

    1. I’m not Charles, but one can normally limit the size of crops by planting closer.
      Heaven knows what a soil improver is.
      As he would say, compost is the best improver.

  11. Had to take my tomatoes down at the allotment because of blight, which unfortunately has affected some of the tomatoes. However, the ones outside at home are ok (only 1 mile apart) and the ones in the greenhouse are also fine at the moment. I am keeping a close eye on them.

  12. Hi Charles thanks for this, perhaps someone can tell me why so many of our cauliflowers and cabbages are coming up blind with no centre that looks like it has been nibbled or rotted off it has been a real problem this year. Could it be the seed or a pest of some kind ? I have heard of others around with similar issues

    1. Hi Ali, sorry to hear and that sounds like swede or gall midge.Destroy the heart leaves.
      They were common here too, but not on beds covered with fine mesh, seems the best answer, applied immediately over new transplants for 6-8 weeks

      1. Thanks for that we were trying to use BT and not net as lots of birds eat the caterpillars lesson learnt for next year, always learning something

  13. I grew Padron peppers fo the first time this year, in the conservatory. I was attracted to the mild flavour for tapas.
    They have finally fruited but the first one set my mouth on fire and the next 3 ! Now I’m looking at them and they’re looking at me seeing who will blink first.
    Any advice ?

  14. Thank you for advice and pictures and especially sowing/planting list for this time of year.
    Haven’t had blight here (NW Norfolk). Tomatoes grown: Gigantomo as well as the usual Ferline and Sungold. Great harvests, best ever taste now that I am growing in compost + soil in the greenhouse.
    Earlier in the year I planted kale (Starbor) in the shelter made by growing peas (Alderman) up both sides of a home-made A-frame. I hoped it would keep the pigeons off. It did: lots of lovely leaves until a couple of weeks ago. However, now completely stripped by caterpillars, since though it kept pigeons out, it wouldn’t let me in to squidge the eggs! I shall do it again though.

  15. Hi
    I am wondering if it is possible to cut down your new 60
    Module trays as I find ten plantlets of most crops is sufficient for my needs. I have planted different crops in same module trays but so often the germination rate varies. I multi use cut up plastic ones at the moment but drainage holes are always very small and being flimsy a squeeze of roots is required to remove plantlets.
    I would just like to endorse the NO WEEDS in no dig- it’s great 👍🏼 I love it.

    1. Hello Jean, thanks for this and yes with careful use of a hacksaw, they are strong enough to work in smaller widths!
      We are hoping to bring out 15’s & 30’s, not yet though

  16. This year has been my best garden ever and it will be producing into the winter thanks to Charles sharing his way to garden. The best part is “I have not spent a single hour weeding my garden”. I simply pull tiny wind borne weeds out with my thumb and index finger while watering and the “weeds” I mostly pull are volunteer tomatoes from last years compost. God I love No Dig Gardening method taught by Charles Dowding.
    Thank you Charles,
    Forrest Gill

  17. I tried sowing Corn Salad in a tray, then pricking into modules this year, after several dodgy years of direct sowing of seeds. It worked very well indeed so far, with 39/40 healthy plants now about a week from transplanting.

    I have had challenges with bindweed at the new plot when they emerge under blackcurrant bushes or at the base of a hazel tree: it’s quite hard to get access to where the rooting area is and the danger is that you suddenly get a profusion of the stuff in late August. Getting it out of vegetable beds is fairly routine.

    The cooler weather seems to show the difference in heat requirements of Kuri Squash vs Crown Prince. The Kuris are as prolific as ever this summer, whereas the Crown Princes are somewhat less large than the past two years.

  18. Similar findings here in the North East UK. I grew Losetto F1 and Tumbler outside, and while both have resisted the worst of the blight, I can’t recommend the Losetto for flavour. Honeycomb and Brandywine Yellow continue to do well undercover. Peppers are being removed every few days as plants succumb to blight on main stem, but a decent crop has been had on all varieties. Main crop potato yield variety Valor was down this year. Some early blight seems to have stunted tuber growth before I got it under control. Salads and Brassicas that survived the slug invasion have been growing fabulously, and root vegetables all seem largely unaffected. An unfortunate year, but not a total loss by any means. I do hope new gardeners are not put off by this trial by fire.

    1. We continue to have very dry weather here in northwest Wales. No sign of blight yet. I am growing Koralik tomatoes outside and they have performed very well . They were ready to pick before of the greenhouse vine tomatoes and they are still going strong.

  19. Question:

    How can I fix a no dig garden that was freshly laid that cats and dogs have toileted in?

    I would love some advice. We were so guttered after being so excited for our first no dig garden and now to have it ruined by our pets I don’t know what to do.

    Would really love some advice.

    1. That is a shame. You can remove all the poops with a trowel and if your compost heap is regularly added to, pop them in the middle.
      I would buy some bird netting to lay over and mesh works too

    2. I lay hedge trimmings (beech, blackthorn mostly but the ‘spikier’ the better!) over my beds. Keeps my cat off/ reduces damage, veg will grown through the sticks/branches.

  20. Charles,
    You have taught me SO much! Thank you! Here is in the US I could not get your nice module trays, so I had to use some with smaller drainage holes than yours and more slanted sides. Result is still very good! I used a chop stick to push up the module and loved having nice, little modules to pop into the holes made my new Charles Dowding Dibber which arrived just in time for these seedlings that were ready to one planted!

    I love the dibber! I made such short, efficient work of planting 72 module-raised seedlings!

    For my next set of plantings, until your module trays are available here in the US, my husband used a knife to cut an “X” in the bottom of each module, and it should be quite easy to pop out the seedlings next go round! Even more time saved the planting and even better plantings!

    I am so thankful for your blog, videos, books, and calendar. I purchased the book for the first class and except to also purchase the online course! Many, many thanks for your fantastic teaching!

    1. This is great news Evelyn, thanks for sharing.
      It really helps me to have such feedback and I hope the trays will be available soon.

  21. Re late blight on tomatoes. I grew Crimson Crush (on your recommendation) for the first time this year. Every almost every other outside plant succumbed to blight but the Crimson Crush stood tall despite being downwind of blighted spuds. I suspect blight will be more prevalent as we get warmer, wetter summers due to the climate crisis. These will be my outside medium toms of choice from now on alongside Gardeners Delight and Rosella which also seemed to do well v. the dreaded P. infestans. I’ll try Crimson Cocktail too.

      1. Question: This year I sowed saved squash seeds, second generation Kuri and Marina di Chioggia. Neither have come true and look like they’ve hybridised with butternut. Is this common? Do I need to buy 1st gen seeds to get true phenotypes?

      1. Thats a shame. So did mine but the indoor ones are OK. Probably the best flavoured variety I grew this year but not the biggest yield.

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