August tomatoes, potatoes, compost heaps, sow now! 13

July had one hot week, I hope you had it too. It has been dry here with just 14mm  (half inch) rain in the month. My no dig approach has helped growth, with mycorrhizal fungi finding water for plant roots, in tiny crevices of soil, which are too small for roots to penetrate. 

Outdoors, we have been watering salads, celeriac and all new plantings of chard, beetroot and brassicas – twice a week on average.  Check the video for more on how Homeacres looks at the moment.


  • Pinch out tips of cordon tomatoes
  • Sow rocket, oriental leaves, spinach, turnips, coriander, chervil
  • Harvest onions and potatoes
  • Keep weeding, allow none to seed
  • Mesh brassicas or spray bacillus thurigensis (dipel) to control caterpillars

New sowings

Its now a good time to sow rocket and oriental leaves! In summary:

Sow Chinese cabbage, endive, chicory and Florence fennel in the first week, spinach by mid August for autumn cropping and also to overwinter (Medania is a great variety), lettuce now for autumn cropping and then in late August to overwinter as small plants, oriental leaves, salad rocket, wild rocket, chervil, coriander, dill, then land cress and claytonia (winter purslane) after mid month. 

Weeds in no dig

As long as you did a thorough mulching of perennial weeds, you should be finding little new weed growth at this time of year, except for seeds blown in (hoe off as seedlings), and residual bindweed or marestail (keep pulling or removing with a trowel).

I notice more germination of annual weeds on the dug bed of my trial, where compost is dug in. On another trial where the soil is forked to “loosen it”, and compost is applied as surface mulch, weed growth is little more than on the undug, and harvests are similar this year at 55.9kg from the dug beds, 57.4kg from the undug ones with the same compost, each strip is 2x9m.

Compost bay

I feel a lucky man, it’s beautiful, and now has onions hanging from some of the rafters. We screwed some backing boards onto the back side. Total cost of structure around £2500 plus labour to dig the deep holes for posts.

We have planted small, ‘green-roof’ sedums into a long bed at the base. Most of this bed has an old concrete foundation (1960s greenhouse), on which we spread one to two inches soil and mushroom compost. I hope its enough for the sedum plants, which were sown on June 16th.

Potato harvests

Charlotte continued to grow through July, when there was a lot of blight in the locality. Its health is from undug soil! The harvest was clean and fine (July 26th) with tubers swelling in the surface compost, roots going into undug soil below, which is now hard (not compact) from being so dry.

See charles_dowding on Instagram for fast harvest video of potatoes without digging. 

Some Sarpo Axona are still growing, from home saved seed, for late-August harvest.


Summer lettuce is good so far, though I am nervous about the arrival of root aphids in August, especially as its so dry. Watering helps and some varieties resist the pest, such as Navara. Also its good to have some endives in reserve, we have planted a fair few Frenzy.

Tomatoes in the ground

We are approaching an end point already, to pinch out the growing tips of cordon tomatoes in August’s second week. Its not easy to do, in full summer, but directs plants’ energy into developing and ripening existing fruit. Rather than making new trusses which run out of time to ripen in autumn.

Aubergines should keep going to early October. I bought red spider predators (Phytoseilus) at vast expense, wish there was a cheaper way, last year the plants (cucumbers & beans too) suffered by September, especially in the polytunnel.

Tomatoes in pots

I have been impressed at the early harvests of Garden Pearl in particular, and its fine flavour, grown in the greenhouse. I tested the juice for Brix and it was higher (11) than all the soil-grown tomatoes. Maskotka was later to ripen and is cropping heavily now, but has thick skin.

Plants are in West Riding compost, no liquid feeds given, but I put two handfuls of dried chicken manure pellets on top of the compost in early July.


Felix just left after twenty weeks here of consistent, thoughtful work that has helped Homeacres garden to improve again. He wants to make his own market garden next spring, after he finishes horticulture studies at Mannheim. 

Steph will be helping more now, and occasional volunteers.

Party for Felix on his last night - Edward my son, Felix, Gert my permaculture neighbour, Steph and Mick (Tasty Leaves)

Party for Felix on his last night: Edward my son who films the videos, Felix, Gert – permaculture neighbour, Steph and Mick Denney (Tasty Leaves)

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13 thoughts on “August tomatoes, potatoes, compost heaps, sow now!

  • Lottie

    Thank you for the lovely tour of Home Acres and the other great midsummer videos! Inspiring and informative!
    I noticed your leeks are covered with mesh. Should I be doing the same? Mine were planted out a few weeks ago. Are there any particular pests to watch out for?

  • charles Post author

    Some are covered here, others not, its against leek moth which is not prevalent everywhere. If it lays eggs in the heart leaves, subsequent growth is much damaged. Flying time is now so cover asap if you suspect problems.

  • Karen

    Hey Charles,

    Love your latest video of Homeacres. Edward did a fantastic job! Once again, hats off to you for your commitment and everlasting energy!

    A question, I noticed you covered your mushroom and greenwaste compost… is there a reason for it? I am assuming you keep all well-composted compost covered, be it mushroom or animal manure compost so that rain doesn’t wash the goodness away?

    • charles Post author

      Hi Karen, yes it decomposes even better when covered, though its optional and I am not convinced that many nutrients leach out of compost. Unlike say fresh manure.

  • Karen

    Btw, one of my neighbours visited our garden yesterday and she is more impressed than ever with our garden as she has known us for 4 years since we moved into our home and have observed our garden from day 1. She is amazed by the health and variety of vegetable we are growing now.

    And of course, I told her YOU were part of the reason as having read your books, attending your course and keeping tabs on your forum that has given me the confidence and courage and patience to venture into more different types of vegetables.

    Her husband tried our sweetcorn (Sweet Nuggent F1) as he was never a fan of this vegetable and to say the least,,, he was sold! As he was with green asparagus! Ha!

  • charles Post author

    Thanks Karen, nice comment and I am happy to hear of your garden’s abundance.
    Felix wondered what is ‘no dig’ in German? Nicht umgrauben?

  • Converted no digger

    Thats a beautiful and like Lottie said an inspiring video Charles. Very nice I must have watched it 10 times.
    I am wondering were you able to sow carrots and parsnips in the stony ground that you used to work on. I am after getting about half an acre of stony ground that was very compacted and overgrown which I got a digger in to clear off and turn over the sod. I had planned to do a once off run of a rotavator before getting the beds set up but with the amount of stones I am not sure now it might help bring up some more stones. I have removed any that have come to the surface already.

    Did you add extra compost on top when setting up at the time?

    • charles Post author

      Glad you like the video!
      Yes it was very stony, loads on the surface and at all levels. I never removed any stones.
      I used a 2-3in layer of cow manure to start with, then half inch per year on beds and some straw in paths.
      Carrots and parsnips sown in the surface compost grew well but often a little crooked where they met a stone.
      Stones tend to rise, for example after cultivations and in frosty conditions, and no dig helps more of them to stay where they are.

    • Rhys

      I’ve found over 3 years of no dig that the stones tend to come naturally to the surface each winter with the rains and now I get hardly any new ones. Growing has been OK in the interim…..