Homeacres Courses 2018, day and weekend

CoursesLearn about growing all kinds of vegetables and many fruits too, productively, healthily and with less effort.

Both day and weekend courses are available at Homeacres garden in Somerset, through our no dig partnership. If you have dietary requirements, please say this when booking.

  • To book a course, scroll down and click on a date you want, to bring up a new page with “Add to basket” tab for payment by card. Or if you prefer, post us a cheque.
  • We sell course vouchers which the recipient can redeem at their convenience 

    Ideas for accommodation are at bottom of this page

Day Courses

10.30am to 4pm £150, includes refreshments and Steph’s amazing lunch. 
Here is a short video about my one-day course

We start with the principles of no-dig growing, how it saves so much time, for results as good as if not better than in dug/tilled soil. You see how to create a productive garden, even when a beginner, and how to be on top of weeds, including couch and bindweed. Experienced gardeners learn time-saving methods to increase the growth and health of their plants.

Going to one of Charles Dowdings No-Dig Days completely changed my way of managing my allotment. I almost didn’t believe the results could be so good having read about it, l like to see things with my own eyes! Using cardboard mulched over with compost/well rotted manure was like having at least 2 extra pairs of hands keeping the weeds down. The cardboard was free from work, there are 3 of us now doing this on our site & in January the weed-covered plot next to me was taken over by another no-dig enthusiast!

Helen Tierney on Allotments UK

Gardening is often made to sound more complicated than it is, especially with regard to feeding plants and coping with weeds. I empower you with understandings of the methods you see at Homeacres, which you can then adapt to your own garden. Homeacres is a quarter acre market garden and a field lab too, there is loads to see and learn from.

From Susan Torry Sept. 2015: I attended a day course with you and Steph in your new plot in 2013 and immediately created new no dig beds on the back half of our lawn- going great guns ever since- your tips and tricks were brilliant and still ringing in my ears! Results improving each year 🙂

  • Getting started – clearing grass and weeds by mulching rather than digging.
    • Making soil clean of weeds – a prerequisite to having time for creative work.
    • This includes –
    • Different composts and manures, when and how to use them for best results.
    • Different ways of making compost, what ingredients work best. There is plenty to see in the heaps here!
    • A look at Homeacres’ trials and comparisons – dig/no dig, fork/no dig, non-rotation, and different composts.
  • Sowing and propagation – directly in modules, pricked out, or into surface compost. We look at examples.
    • Seasonality and timing of sowing for strong, healthy, growth.
    • Influences of the moon, biodynamic preparations, copper tools.
  • Growing
    • Uses of fleece and mesh to speed growth and protect from pests.
    • Reducing slug numbers, protecting crops from other pests other pests.
    • How and when to pick crops for healthier, long lived plants.
    • Advice on polytunnels – size to use, orientation, and what to grow in them.
    • Advice on fruit, especially apples, with different varieties now in their fifth year.

It was inspiring to see how you grow so much, and to see no dig in action.  Most of all though it was learning so much about your approach that really made the day. The focus on keeping it simple and debunking some of the more complicated elements is really motivating and I found the way you explained everything really straightforward to understand, and to remember.  

Ffion Thomas, Sussex February 2017

We start at 10.30am, so please arrive a little before; and we finish around 4pm. The day includes an amazing lunch made from vegetables both stored and growing. Steph creates a colourful range of dishes served with Charles’ rye sourdough bread made from freshly milled flour.

 I particularly appreciated your more relaxed, less dogmatic approach which is very liberating for a near beginner veg grower like me. Betsy Bowman September 2017

“The most useful course I have ever done” Cristina Crossingham, Easton Community Garden in Bristol

Steph's dishes for a course lunch on 29.8.2016, includes Yellow Brandywine tomato with Czar beans, also there is bread and salad leaves. Plant based, all veg from Homeacres garden.

Steph’s dishes for a course lunch on 29.8.2016, includes Yellow Brandywine tomato with Czar beans, also there is bread and salad leaves. Plant based, all veg from Homeacres garden.

 An article about my courses, in Country Smallholding March 2017

From Vicky Fowkes and Alan Taylor, August 2017:

Thank you for such an enjoyable, intriguing, fascinating and helpful day yesterday!

We talked all the way home, along the beach with the dog, over a light supper (after that amazing spread at lunchtime), and long into the night…about your ideas that really CAN be implemented, the delight of being in your garden and soaking up its beauty of colours and textures, diversity of vegetables, tastes, compost loo, your interesting, diverse knowledge…..phew…I slept well last night!

I love the jolly flowers at the end of each bed….like a satisfied full stop at the end of a well composed sentence!!

Weekend Courses, market gardening

Two-day courses, £275 Feb & £285 Apr, includes all refreshments and Steph’s amazing lunches.

The course is about understanding the simplicity of no dig methods, and learning to use that knowledge to garden more efficiently and economically. The main contents are below, but days 1 & 2 often overlap.

  • Day 1 – Costs and benefits of creating an undug growing space – 10am-5pm
    • Setting up an area for market growing: how big, how quickly, mulching inputs. 
    • Maintaining productive soil without cultivation, key to healthier growth with less weeds and better returns.
    • Weeding, often the Achilles heel of soil cultivators. No dig, no weeds – the details.
    • Growing in tunnels and undercover, including use of fleece and pest-protection covers.
  • Day 2 – Details for good growing – 9am-2.30pm
    • Propagation – composts, seed inc. seed saving, trays, sow or prick out, watering, hardening off or not. Heating a propagating space, a look at hotbeds.
    • Time needed proportionate to costs and returns for different vegetables, depending on local market.
    • Finer points of both growing and picking salad leaves, currently the only profitable crop for smaller growers.
    • Tips for selling in less time and the importance of continuity.  How to describe your growing to the public.

Accommodation on Saturday night can be at Homeacres in your own sleeping bag for free, space permitting, or you could book into a local B&B.

Food and refreshments are included, and kitchen facilities for Sunday breakfast: lunch is soup (in cool months), bread and the Stephanie Hafferty salad bar.

 It was a real privilege to share the weekend with you. It was enlightening, engrossing and inspiring.

Dean Jehan, February 2017

Course Dates

Once a course is booked, and if something unexpected happens your end, we may be able to agree an alternative date, but I cannot guarantee it, particularly if a course has sold out and I have therefore stopped advertising it. Email me to enquire.

Courses By Request

You can create your own course day at Homeacres for any number up to eight people, for £1000/day, with a similar format of 10.30am to 4pm and all refreshments provided.

Send an email to enquiries@charlesdowding.co.uk and we can discuss your wishes. I can also run courses at other venues, such as West Dean College.


It’s rare that you look forward to something knowing that you will enjoy it, and it’s even better than you expected. This ranks with our holiday!

I was impressed with the holistic approach from caring for the soil, propagation, maximising yield, dealing with pests organically, harvesting and finally, the best bit, eating excellent, tasty and unusual food that everyone enjoyed. Impressive teamwork both on the day and of course running Homeacres. 

Eric Brooks-Dowsett January 2017

Thank you to you and Steph for a really enjoyable and extremely useful weekend. It’s left me with so many ideas to think about.  I found our group so interesting and friendly too.

Christine Adey August 2016

Many thanks for a lovely day ! It was without a doubt one of the most fun and informative course I’ve been on.

A lot more clarity as a beginner with an allotment as to what I have to do – mulch the weeds with cardboard and compost, create cardboard paths, start on my compost boxes, keep the edges of the beds trimmed and the grasses on the surrounding paths short !! I have a lot of rubbish to take to the local skip too. That’s enough to start with!

Melody Burke, June 2015


“I was so impressed by the simplicity of the no dig approach. Your garden was clean as a whistle, with beautiful, healthy plants and it works so efficiently.
Thanks too to Steph for a gorgeous lunch and warm hospitality.

David Love Cameron, November 2014

“Thanks so much for today Charles. My mother really enjoyed the day and how you presented it to us all. We all got something really useful and positive from the day, and the food was wonderful.”

Phil Roberts, June 2014

“Thanks for an amazing and inspirational day yesterday. And a great lunch – I look forward to the cook book coming out.”

Peter Lowman, November 2013

“Thank you so much for a most enlightening day at Homeacres. It was so interesting to receive the information and tips you offered. The delicious lunch that Steph produced was just scrumptious, in all we were all made very welcome and benefited hugely from the experience. I can’t wait to put this all into action.”

Hildegard Edwards, March 2013

Terms and conditions

To inform us of special requirements

If you have already booked a course and wish to inform us of any dietary or other requirements, please email us enquiries@charlesdowding.co.uk at least 2 working days before the course date.

Please select from the below dietary requirements:

  • Vegetarian
  • Gluten intolerant
  • Nut intolerant
  • Serious food allergy, please specify


Friends and family are welcome to attend a course in your place, please  provide us with the name and dietary requirements.

We can offer transfers to an alternative course date, provided we have been given enough notice (subject to availability).

Due to the limited number of places at our courses, we are unable to refund purchases unless you give enough notice to enable a resale. If you are unable to attend and let us know more than 4 weeks before the date, we will endeavour to resell your ticket. If we are able to, we will be happy to offer you a refund, less a £10 admin charge.

If we cancel a course:

If for unforeseen circumstances we need to cancel a course,  you will be contacted and given the option to transfer to another course of the same value, or to receive a full refund of your payment.



Accommodation near Homeacres, Alhampton, Somerset BA4 6PZ

Kate and Geoff Webber, The Barn, Ditcheat BA4 6RB, 1mile

Longhill Farm, Ditcheat, 1 mile

The Brook House Inn and Touring Park, 1 mile and near Castle Cary station, takes tents and camper vans

Lark Hill, Hadspen, nr Castle Cary BA7 7LX, 2 miles, £80 per double

For those with tents and camper vans, just one mile away and near Castle Cary station is
Brook House Inn & Touring Park

Sue and Nigel Begg, Ansford, Castle Cary BA7 7JJ, 2 miles

Andrew runs Airbnb at Pylle, 3 miles away

Travelodge, the closest is Wincanton (7 miles), probably the cheapest option here

Pippa and Miles Thistlethwaite, Evercreech 1 mile away, minimum 2 night stay £85/mill cottage
Cutterne Mill BA46LY

Turks Hall in Bruton, 5 miles BA10 0BX, £80 double, top reviews

Oak House, Bruton, 5 miles, trains from north and south: Denise and Martin Bottrill
denise@oakhousesomerset.co.uk (link sends e-mail)

At the Chapel, Bruton High St, restaurant with (smart, new) rooms £100-150, good bakery and restaurant too
www.atthechapel.co.uk 01749 814070

Lower Farm, Shepton Montague for self catering in the barn, 6 miles

The Pilgrims Rest, Lovington, 5 miles, Jules and Sally

Chris & Prue Banbury, Cadbury Cottage, South Cadbury, Somerset BA22 7EZ, 7 miles

Roses farm, Wraxall, 7 miles

The Pines b&b in Cole near Bruton, Willie and Jean Constantine, 7 miles

Manor House Inn, Ditcheat, 1 mile

And another local puib, one mile in the other direction near Castle Cary station, with camping:

Diana and Chris Hoare, Greystones House, Lovington, Castle Cary, BA7 7PP. 4 miles

Frances Morton-Jenkins, Huxham Farmhouse, E Pennard, Shepton Mallet, BA46RP. 4 miles

Brewers Cottage, Isle Brewers on the Somerset Levels, 26 miles