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November 12, 2023
Mid November, fast compost one turn, mild autumn, trial results 2023

A mild autumn here, one tiny frost by mid-November. I put a Your Garden is Winter Ready video on You Tube and had some comments from colder regions, like 'you are so lucky!'! The climate here is oceanic temperate, 51st parallel, short days and it's dark from now until mid-February.

Brussels Brigitte F1, with chicories beyond, one stake!

No dig results in firm soil. That's a good thing, as the upstanding Brussels sprout plants show.

Brussels sprouts heirloom varieties are mostly no longer maintained properly and do not give harvests like you see here, Brigitte is a hybrid F1. I sowed early May, transplanted them between carrots mid-June. See my how to grow Brussels Guide.

I took up the drone on 10th November: the green grass and mustard indicate the mild weather.

New area since March 2021, had a lot of convolvulus and now it's all gone except around the edges, see Edge video

You still have time in milder climates to make more compost. For example from crop residues, weeds and other wastes you can scroungs.

I have been experimenting with making compost even more quickly, but always with one turn only.

Pallet 3 month old compost nas just been turned from edge heap to the middle heap

In the three pallet system, we turn each edge heap into the middle. Sometimes when the compost is still warm.

Making Compost, one turn

We are pushing the boundaries, since we have had so much compostable material this summer.In one outer bay we added the first ingredients in July, and it was full by the middle of August. Even for us, that's a quicker fill than normal. Then, Adam turned it late October into the middle bay, and that's the photo above of three month old compost.

In mid-August we started to fill the other outer bay, and it was full by early October. Adam just turned it into the middle, on top of what he had already turned from the oher bay. So now the middle bay holds the contents of both outer bays.

  • The average age of this compost is under three months

It's looking almost usable and worms have arrived now that the heat stage is finished. Heap temperature rarely exceeded 60°C, briefly hotter. Decomposition is quick thanks to warmth being held close to the sides, by cardboard lining on the inside.

Corrugated iron keeps rain off the middle bay and the one which has maturing compost. I leave open the heap we are adding to frequently, it's too much effort to keep removing and replacing covers from it.

Both edge heaps are now turned to the middle, whose compost dates from July to September, photo 10th November

Three strip trial

Each strip is 2 x 9 m and has around 14.5 m² of beds - about double the area of each bed in my two bed trial.

From left to right, strip 3 is mulched with cow manure, apart from one of the six beds receiving compost from the garden toilet, see video at 06:07.

Strip 2 is mulched with half green waste compost and half mushroom compost.

Strip 1 has the same surface compost as 2, but we fork the soil once a year.

All composts 2-3cm deep are applied once a year, mostly in autumn, also a little woodchip on paths.

Harvests over 9 years 2014-22, are 8% less from the forked beds of strip 1, compared to no dig in strip 2, with the same compost.

Strip 3 is on left, 10th October

Most weeks we are taking some harvests and weigh them every time. This week it was some leeks as in the photo.

Through 2023 the harvests so far are: strip 1 91kg, strip 2 109kg, strip 3 124kg.

Forking must damage the mycelial network. Do it only to remedy severe compaction. Remember that firm soil is good for growth, when no dig biology is in good shape.

Leeks strip 1 bottom 1.01kg, strip 2 middle 1.02kg, strip 3 top 1.41kg, all from four clumps multisown, and all are somewhat damaged by leaf miner

Dig / no dig trial beds

he two beds of my dig / no dig trial above, have given varied harvests this year. Still to come are fennel. rocket, kale, romanesco, celery and chard.

Dig bed below is on the left. Up to 11th November in 2023, kitchen-ready harvests are 81kg from the dig bed, 96kg from the no dig bed. They both grow the same plantings, and receive the same amount of compost. It's year 11 of this trial, details here.

Growth often looks fairly similar, but when we come to weigh the harvests, no dig is almost always ahead. Beds are both 1.5 x 5m.

Just before the beetroot harvest, 10kg dig bed and 11kg no dig

Sometimes the difference is more dramatic, as with the celery. It's Greensleeves, sown May and planted from CD modules in early July. Quite late for celery and that's why it's small.

I shall sow the first celery of next year on 20th February, in a small tray on any windowsill in the house. The seeds need light to germinate, so don't cover them.

The difference in celery is dramatic, dig on left and no dig right.

No Dig Global

Do check out our new world map. It's to enable connections between gardeners in any country, using the map to discover neighbours who are also no dig gardening.

For me, one of the best bits of my work is meeting so many of you from all over the world.No dig is incredibly international and there are some of you in every country.

Please send your details to Anna, so she can pop you on the map.

Start no dig

Black polythene is such an easy way to tame wild weeds, including convolvulus, creeping buttercup and dandelions in this case.The plastic is in its fourth year of use here. It's on the ground from early February to late September, so that's eight months.

Before laying it, we spread in this case 7 cm/3" of compost. It need not be 'perfect' and in this case was old woodchip, purchased green waste compost and 10 month old cow manure.Six to eight months is enough time for most weeds to die of light deprivation, at the same time as having a significant harvest of delicious and storable food. Red Kuri and Crown Prince squash in this case.

Learn more about these No Dig methods in my book, and we sell it on offer with my 2024 Calendar, which gives you timings for all your vegetable sowings. We also offer it with a chart to hang on any wall, the whole year of sowing at a glance.

Plastic laid January on vigorous grass and weeds, 7cm compost, squash planted 19th May and photo 6th September, squashes are either sold, eaten or stored

Meet Alby, nine years old. He came second in our competition for children's gardens.

I met him recently in London when giving a presentation for children at the Garden Museum. It was fascinating to meet several under 13's and to see how motivated they are. I am encouraged!

Find out more about this young man on his Instagram page @nodigkid

Winter Events and RHS endorsement

There are still a few places for the talk and meal on Sunday 26th November, in Fred Berkmiller's wine bar/restaurant in Edinburgh.

Nicola will be posting Homeacres course dates for 2024, in around three weeks time.

I'm off to Chile on 28th December, with my daughter Rosalie. Giving several courses - Wini Walbaum 31st December may have places. Contact Leslie Sirvent in Puerto Natales for 2nd-3rd January, and on IG see @huertocuatroestaciones for the market garden event 8-9th January.

Before flying back on 12th January, we have a day in Buenos Aires on 11th, but sadly the Agricultural University is closed for summer holidays, otherwise I might have given a talk there. I'm really looking forward to meeting many of you in South America. Wini tells me there is unusual spring rain in Santiago just now!

On Saturday 27th January, I teach a day course at West Dean College, Chichester. If it sells out, I shall give the same teaching day on Sunday 28th January.

No dig is gaining ground, see this page on the RHS website.

Sheila Das was inspired about no dig through a lecture I gave at Kew Gardens in 2011. Four years later she started to manage the edible gardens at RHS Wisley, also the teaching and care of students and apprentices. And the teaching program is on her radar, such as the different levels of RHS training.

She has worked hard to include new methods and approaches. Wisley edible gardens are all no dig and the syllabus is changing towards no dig.

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