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October 29, 2023
Deep autumn, November harvests composting and no dig prep
Compost heaps enclosed by pallets at Charles Dowding's garden
Now is the season of spreading compost. My three pallet system has compost ready to be turned into this middle bay - and we are spreading from the middle bay now, it's 8 to 9 months old. Then we can turn the 1-4 month old compost from the outer bays, into the middle one. The closest bay was filled June to July, the further bay August to September.

Turning cooler finally, and so wet

Last year, November was almost tropical. This year October has been warm (I'm writing on 29th) but signs of a change are coming. We are forecast an intense, insanely deep depression of 950mb over England for 2nd November. I'm worried about wind and floods.
On 28th October we had 24mm rain in two hours. I'm impressed by how the no dig soil and paths can drain water really well. Even when it was raining at 48mm/hour, there was little water in the paths, and it soon disappeared. My soil is silt over clay, potentially sticky if disturbed.

Find out more about no dig and seasonal garden jobs in my free newsletter. You can subscribe by filling the box at bottom of the homepage.

Tall stems of broccoli after removing lower and yellowing leaves
Purple sprouting broccoli Claret F1 will crop in April, if it survives pigeons and the winter. I deleaf plants to keep ground clear of slugs underneath and plants then blow less in the wind, they are not staked. We have already spread next year's compost underneath.
Slug eggs on a pest-attacked Chinese cabbage but its heart was fine
Slugs are everywhere now and they love Chinese cabbage. I found these eggs on top, showing how wet it is. I don't have time to deleaf these plants!

Many jobs- see my video tour of the garden late October

This busy time is of harvests, keeping the garden tidy, making compost, and ground preparation for the coming year.

With no dig, as you clear it's best to leave most roots of old plants in the ground, as food for microbes. Then spread the 2-3cm / 1" compost on beds, a little woodchip on paths. And that is it.

Adding cleared leaves  to compost heaps brings welcome bulk. Cut or slice woody stems to length no more than 10cm / 4".

compost spread after clearing cabbages, mid October in Charles Dowding's no dig garden
After clearing cabbages, this is 2-3cm of year old compost for a whole year of fertility and soil improvement. On right is mustard green manure which will be killed by frost, allowing garlic to grow through, both went in on 30th September.

Brussels sprouts tell us about soil and weather

I had this comment on Facebook from Angela Blackwell in Nottingham: 

I'm just discovering how long the soil holds its fertility and I'm so pleased. This year my Brussels are the best ever and it's only 1st year no dig, following your book, learning afresh! After a life time of mistreating my soil at last I feel I'm working in harmony with it.

She has clearly used a reasonable amount of good compost.

In contrast, someone on Instagram asked about black spots on her Brussels plants, known as Alternaria leaf spot. It indicates low soil fertility, and tells you to add more compost before next year's plantings, whatever they are. I know this from when I started a new garden on poor soil, in 1999, and had too little compost for year one.

If you are just starting no dig, and want to learn about controlling weeds and increasing fertility in the soil, see my beginner's page on this website.

Cavolo Nero Kale 'palm trees' and Brussels sprouts in perfect condition
27th October, the Cavolo Nero has given many harvests already. Soon I shall harvest the first Brussels sprouts, and you can see how I keep removing lower leaves, to the compost heap. Otherwise they tsker moisture, then fall and attract slugs.

Asparagus

The tops are going yellow and there may be weeds underneath, After cutting them down, mulch with any kind of compost.
However if there are many weeds, you  could lay cardboard first then a little compost on top. The cardboard disappears before asparagus grows next spring.

Asparagus ready to be cut in late October, is over 2m high
My asparagus before cutting with a scythe. Then we ran the woody stems through a shredder to compost.
Same asparagus after cutting, now we see the mustard I sowed 20 days earlier, to left is celeriac
Asparagus after cutting, now we see the mustard I sowed 20 days earlier, which will be killed by frost. The sky is continuing thundery, and to left is the celeriac in next photo.
In late October, this Prinz celeriac has not been deleafed and the new leaves are sill strong
Prinz celeriac sown mid March and transplanted 10th May, not deleafed and hardly touched since planting, a few weeds have needed pulling and we watered twice in June, and that's it. Bright new leaves show growth continuing, they are noticeably larger than a month ago and show no sign of septoria, despite high humidity.

Romanesco shows spacing q close around 45cm 18in, hence smaller heads
Shows close 18in spacing of Romanesco Navona F1

Kimchi and sauerkraut

Fermenting food is an easy and fun way to store it. My staples for winter are sauerkraut and kimchi.
For kimchi in late autumn and winter, you have many options according to what’s in your garden and store, and how you like to eat it. Flavour keeps developing and is more pungent after a week or so - keep in the fridge if you like it milder. Add no water!

In this December video I used:1.2kg /2.7lb Chinese cabbage harvested 4 weeks earlier (it half froze in store!), 800g/1lb carrots, 400g/0.5lb winter radish, 6 spring onion, 8 garlic cloves, Dessert spoon ginger, 3 desert spoons coconut sugar (optional), 1tsp chilli flakes, 50g/2oz salt approx, 2-3% total weight.

Cut according to your taste, I like large pieces esp carrot. But that means extra rubbing to have enough juice from the vegetables for covering all ingredients in the jars. You can vary all these ingredients to taste except salt at about 3% by weight. Start eating at about two weeks old, when it's super tasty plus pungent. Everyone here loves it.

Ingredients for making kimchi grown in my no dig garden, October
The four jars have a kilo of ingredients each, with more carrots than you see here, and garlic.I used a leaf of Filderkraut cabbage on the contents of each jar, to help them stay underwater for best anaerobic fermentation.
Making sauerkraut with Filderkraut no dig cabbages
Two of us filled this jar two thirds full for sauerkraut, with rubbed cabbage and salt only. That took four hours chopping and rubbing, and used six of these Filderkraut cabbage weighing 3kg on average. The jar is in my shed, its cabbage is fermenting.

Sow now

The only sowing this week is broad beans, in climates where winter temperatures are above about -8°C, 18°F. If you do not have mice nearby, it's good to sow them direct.. Either direct into dibbed holes at 6in/15cm spacing and say 40cm/16in between rows across a bed

Otherwise in medium-size trays works well, such as the 40 L from Containerwise.
We also sow them in the small cells of my module trays, but you must then transplant them within two weeks.

Find all your 2024 sowing dates in my beautiful wall Calendar, the link is a sale price for two so you can give one as a present!

Making holes with a digger to sow broad beans, late October
For large seeds I use my long handled dibber to make holes, in this case 5cm deep. You can do it before or after spreading the annual compost, this is after.

Brassica whiteflies

The white flies on my spinach leaf, bottom left, had fallen from a cauliflower leaf just higher than it. They are often endemic in autumn on the undersides of brassica leaves, and cause no damage that I notice. They are Aleyrodes proletella, not the same as greenhouse whitefly which suck sap.
These whiteflies are more than normal this year, and I take no treatment against them.

Brassica whiteflies on a leaf of spinach where they are harmless, they fell from cauliflower leaves above
Brassica whiteflies happened to land on this spinach leaf below

Harvest options in November

What's in season outside? Almost everything in fact, excpet for tomatoes and summer vegetables finishing. See the profile photo of this post.

  • Celeriac – if leaves are still a healthy green, leave them a while, because bulbs will grow more. See the Septoria photo below – if you notice this disease, I recommend harvesting straight away, before all the leaves are brown. It is a variety called Porthos, which is supposedly resistant to Septoria disease but is clearly not!
  • Celery is maybe close to final harvests, especially if leaves have Septoria.
  • Chard and leaf beet are losing vigour – we find that it now takes longer to harvest the same weight.
  • Lettuce is growing only slowly and soon it will be the final harvest – leaves are thin from lack of light.
  • Cabbage – check for tight hearts, once once a head is firm, it risks splitting open if left too long before harvest. They store better off the plant once fully developed.
  • Calabrese and broccoli.
  • Cauliflower, including Romanesco, are now amazing.
  • Parsnips can be harvested from now, even though the flavour will be less sweet, and they are still growing strongly!
  • Carrots – we are finding much root fly, even under mesh! That is from June sowings. We then made a last one on 5th July – I harvested a few yesterday, and they also had some root fly damage! It's clearly a very bad year for the pest, although in the summer they were absent.
  • Beetroot – gently twist any of a size you like from a multisown clump.
  • Turnips are good, and Tokyo Cross variety is delicious.
  • See harvest timings all through the year in a "Useful Information" pack, £6 in the shop
Celeriac Porthos is susceptible to Septoria blight damage, hence the brown leaves
Septoria "celeriac blight", rapidly kills leaves once installed, then can rot the celeriac itself
Romanesco cauliglower shows Fibonacci sequence of fractal geometry
Romanesco cauliflower sown 21st June, as were the kale, cauliflower and cabbages below. We transplanted them all on 17th July, then covered five weeks with mesh, against insects
These cabbage, cauliflower and kale were all sown on the same day 21st June, for multiple harvests
Land cress and spinach transplanted September and mizuna mid October, this is 28th October with no dig soil quality
Land cress and spinach transplanted September after sweetcorn. and mizuna planted mid-October after runner beans, all in new compost. Endives on left are picked of outer leaves, chicory right is for radicchio and sugarloaf
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