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July 12, 2020
July update 12th, prune squash, sow more & transplant leeks, make compost, onion and potato readiness, path mulch

It’s speeding up now, but growth has been slowed by the weather here. A cool two weeks until 10th July saw daytime maxima always under 20C 68F and averaging 18.5C 65F, with just 4.5 hours sunshine per day and 35mm rain in the two weeks. Not much heavy rain, but grey and damp.

Good weather for succession planting! Almost every day I make new sowings in the greenhouse and we transplant a second crop outside. See the Sowing Timeline, my Calendar if you have one (new edition September), and online Course 2 for details and descriptions. Be wary of sowing dates advised on seed packets, see below!

New beetroot transplants in July
Beetroot multisown 7th June then transplanted 12 days ago, after clearing the last of spring planted broccoli
Cucumbers and marigolds polytunnel
Cucumber Carmen F1 in the polytunnel with interplant of French marigolds
Carrots intersown between lettuce
Lettuce picked weekly and one more pick, carrots sown four weeks earlier

Pruning cucurbits

They are greedy plants, and fast growers in midsummer. You can cut and move the stems of squash and pumpkin plants as much as you like: they just want to grow and are opportunists.

Letting them ramble on bare soil will increase yield, as they can then root into new ground. Vertical growing is possible if not too windy. However they can’t then make new roots.

Crown Prince squash and corn
A bed of 8 Crown Prince squash and we prune the edge, to keep picking lettuce! Interplant of sweetcorn.
Escaping stems of Kuri squash plants
Kuri squash plants in a bed by the cabin, looking to move in.

Sowing dates

No wonder there is confusion. I bought some seed packets from Plants of Distinction (UK), and was amazed to see the recommended dates for sowing, on their seed packets.

Look what they suggest, compared to my best dates in brackets.

Lambs lettuce February to July – (February and August to September)

Mustard March to July – (February to March and August)

Lettuce February to May – (February to August, September for undercover in winter)

Parsley February to May – (February to July)

Salad rocket February to May – (February and August)

Wallflower April to June – (July to August)

More details in Sowing Timeline and Course 2.

Nrassica seedlings to prick out
Germinating kohlrabi for autumn harvest, and cauliflower for spring harvest, we shall prick them to modules tomorrow, singles
24 day old French bean, since transplanting
Cupidon French beans transplanted 17th June so 24 days ago, broccoli for spring to left
Lettuce still cropping sown five months ago
Saragossa lettuce has been picked 11 weeks so far and is just starting to make a flower stem, one more pick

Making compost

I had this question: I’m about to start 2 x compost bins. You suggest 50:50 green to brown manure. A number of other articles I’ve read are saying 25-30 parts carbon (brown) to 1 part green (nitrogen). How come the difference? – from Craig near Sydney

I notice how proportions are indeed quoted as carbon to nitrogen. Which is difficult for most of us as we don’t know how much of either is in different materials.

I find it simpler to work by green and brown. Half and half green and brown is a rule of thumb, but no more than an estimate. This measure is more by weight than volume, and I guesstimate it. In summer the mix has more green, in winter more brown. That means decomposition takes  longer in winter, when there is less heat-producing green. See my website page for details including what is green and what is brown, and I give more details in lesson 13 of online Course 1.

Old miscanthus grass
From a local farm where a bale of miscanthus, for horse bedding, had got wet and started to decompose. A good brown.
Current compost heap filled for a month.
My current heap 12th July and we have been filling it for one month, perhaps two weeks more.
Wood shaving two years outside in a heap
This is oak and therefore slow to decompose, has been standing outside for two years, is good now for compost heaps. Or paths

Onions, ready or not?

Growth and health is good here this year. I tried a closer spacing of the multisown clumps. One risk is mildew in wet weather, and it has been damp, but not relentlessly wet. Another risk is small onions, but spring warmth and soil fertility sorted that one.

I have reports of leaf miner, endemic in some regions, and white rot from sets. Sorry no time here to look further into that. An indication of ripeness is when about half of the stems have folded flat on the ground. Either pull and fold the rest (makes thinner necks) or fold the rest and pull 10 days later.

My wonderful Rose de Roscoff harvest grew from seed fiven by Max Epstein of Krautgaart no dig market garden in Luxembourg. It’s a wonderful place if ever you have the chance to visit, @krautgaart on IG.

6th July and we just pulled these Rose de Roscoff, multisown 7th February and transplanted equinox, then fleece cover
Homeacres no dig onion bed multisown
The onion bed 11th July, four other varieties not quite ready to pull
Pulled onions and still growing, all multisown
Behind the Rose de Roscoff (five days since pulled) are Hylander F1, resists onion mildew

Potatoes, ready or not?

A key indicator for me is leaves losing lustre, turning paler, with stems falling down more too. Flowering will have been 2-4 weeks earlier. Second earlies come ready from now, see my recent video. It was the Three Strip Trial and lowest yield was from the forked bed.

This was the sixth consecutive year of Charlotte in the same beds. Even there was blackleg last year on one plant.

If you notice the brown, translucent leaves of late blight, cut stems off, and compost the blighted material. Then harvest as soon as there is a dry afternoon.

Charlotte potato leaves turning pale colour
Charlotte potatoes 11th July in a new no dig bed, with leaves turning paler and now well spread, harvesting 13th June and watch for video
Harvest no dig potatoes by pulling
Harvest in damp weather of 9th July with kate my helper, this was filmed and it’s the Three Strip Trial

After potatoes

Use my timings to transplant whatever you want to eat, there are still many choices. For direct sowing, the options are fewer.

Charles marks lines with a dibber
After the potato harvest, I mark lines for planting leeks in four rows along the beds
Leek plants laid in four rows
Leek plants laid out and ready to plant, were multisown 5th April in modules, then potted on
Multisown leeks transplanted and covered
Covered with mesh against leek moth, just two hours since starting the potato harvest of 42kg.

No dig flowers

Some of my favourites are blooming now – zinnia, salvia patens, echinacea, snapdragon and French marigolds. I like to dot them around the garden, which attracts insects and looks gorgeous.

No dig and compost mulch grows lovely blooms.

One hyssop plant near an apple tree
Hyssop under an apple tree on M27 in my front garden, I thought I had pruned the hyssop hard last winter!
Homeacres conservatory no dig flower border
No dig flowers here include lychnis or rose campion, rudbeckia, zinnia, yellow nicotiana and guarda
Self sown sweet pea in pear tree
Self sown and the sweet pea appeared March, I have supported and pruned it a little, keep picking, this is a pear tree

July fast growth

July is crucial – keep at it this month. Pop in new plants as quickly as possible after ground comes clear from a final harvest. July’s warmth and light means it’s the most growing month, unless your climate is super hot.

Dig bed on left, no dig right 4th July
My two trial beds on 4th July. They are the only two beds with wooden sides, dig bed on left, no dig on right, same amounts of compost each bed. Lettuce are intersown with carrots.
Same beds 8 days later
Same beds 8 days later, lettuce finally finished, I bent the onions over and cleared the peas. Harvests so far are 34kg dig bed and 39kg no dig, potatoes were the same at 12.4kg 8 plants, each bed

Second cropping options are also to intersow and inter plant, and also to plant very close to vegetables whose final harvest is coming soon. See the result with leeks and celeriac. Same beds, photos are from the other end.

11th July before clearing peas
11th July before clearing peas on the no dig trial bed. The variety is Starlight and they gave 6kg pods from 32 plants in two rows.
One hour later, now you can see celeriac and leeks
After clearing and you can now see the celeriac which I popped in on 7th June, five weeks ago, and leeks planted 23rd June after a potato harvest

Pyralid weedkiller

I am so upset to hear of increasing problems from this. It’s getting even more serious.

The main identification is a deformation of plants’ growing tips. And crinkling/yellowing/distortion of older leaves. Labs often cannot measure the tiny amounts of this lethal poison, which are enough to damage our vegetable and fruit plants. Roses and apple trees suffer too.

Curling lower leaves is not a symptom of itself – on tomatoes that can be leaf roll and even old age.

If you suffer the misery, email

Probably pyralid damage to broad beans
Probably pyralid damage to broad beans, curling of the tips after growth was initially fine, a mild dose in this compost
Probably pyralid damage to tomato
Same story of deformed and stunted tip growth on a tomato plant, probably pyralid damage

PATHS are important

Path space is growing space. Paths need to be weed free when your beds have no wooden sides. Vegetables can root into paths and weeds cannot root in.

I had a question from Hannah, who laid first cardboard over vigorous weeds two months earlier:

The pathways are still currently just cardboard. Which due to rain the cardboard had raised and changed shape slightly, but we are putting bricks and other items to try and keep it down. We have topped up the cardboard in the pathways. How long do we need to leave it to add the woodchip? Or can this be done straight away?

The answer is conditioned by weather. Moist conditions make cardboard soft and curling, and I would add the wood now. If dry, you may not need to and then it’s easier to lay more on top after 8-10 weeks, if perennial weeds are still alive and growing through. With a little wood mulch applied then.

Allotment mulched was weeds two months ago
Hannah’s allotment, which was thick weeds two months earlier
Clean paths in small garden
Mature garden paths are easy to keep weed free by hand weeding mostly
Path overgrown with parsnips and onions
This path has even disappeared and that is fine! Onions transplanted 15 weeks earlier, parsnips sown March equinox

French translations

My online Course one will appear in French on 1st September. Same price as in English, more details to follow. Alex the translator has been highlighting the differences in language, for example with this question about garlic:

Here (France) they categorise in three main types

– white: to plant in autumn, for colder climates

– violet: to plant in autumn, early and for warm areas

– pink: to plant in the spring, late cropping

The equivalence categories in English are:

Softneck is white and violet.

Pink (‘rose’) garlic is hardneck.

Vive la difference 😀 but not too much!

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