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January 15, 2024
Midwinter 2024 15th January

Frosts come and go here, we alternate between green and white, but no snow yet.

It's time to prepare, and reflect.

Lambs lettuce 15th January no dig, is fine in frost
Lambs lettuce 15th January, is fine in frost. We harvested a LOT already from this bed

No need to worry about some things often advised

  • With no dig, soil's microbial life helps plants to find the food you need. Ignore all that stuff about 'heavy' and 'light' feeders.
  • Unless your soil was damaged by heavy machines, you don't need to loosen it. Even by forking. My trial of forking shows reduced yields.
  • Soil pH in most soils is fine for most plants. In biologically active soil (no dig), plant roots can modify the nearby pH.
  • Don't install an irrigation system, and water less. Unless you are in arid conditions.
  • There is no rush to plant everything soon, or even before the middle of spring. See my Timeline and Calendar, including for the S Hemisphere.
No dig garden in midwinter, Charles Dowding
470 sqm of no dig beds with compost mulch, woodchip on paths

Check out these things

  1. Temperature requirements of each vegetable and sow accordingly, see Calendar Sometimes at a different time to the seed packet advice.
  2. Space needed for each vegetable, see video. Plan accordingly, in a rough plan initially.
  3. For certain vegetables it helps to know when they rise to flower
  4. How to propagate vegetables, many have different requirements and early warmth helps, see video
  5. Make or buy decent compost for propagation. You need finer and more nutrient rich compost, compared to what goes on your beds - tips on making your own mix in this video.
  6. Succession plantings - write some ideas now. It's helped by knowing when vegetable harvests finish, such as peas in July. Have new plants ready, and my harvest table helps, in Useful Information, costs £6 and covers many of these topics.
  7. Pest and disease potential problems at different times of year. Sounds a lot but there are a few main ones such as Slugs, see webpage.
  8. Biggest of all - weeds. No dig helps immensely, see webpage, but you need to stay committed!
Mid January 2024 no dig garden and beds ready for March plantings
Mid January 2024, 11 year old no dig garden and beds ready for March plantings
Garlic in January frost shows patchy emergence, is normal
Garlic in January frost shows uneven emergence and growth, is normal

World Map of No Dig

I am thrilled to be hosting on my website, this page, which enables anyone anywhere to enter and be located on the map. You just need to email Anna anna@charlesdowding.co.uk with your location details and any other information you wish to share. The idea is for no dig gardeners to find others nearby. Then we can learn even more.Just today, we had a request from a grandmother of young gardeners in Lahore, Pakistan, who I hope will be uploading their details.

Likewise my friends in Chile, such as Huerta Cuatro Estaciones below.

Huerta Cuatro Estaciones in southern Chile, beside the Andes ice-fields
Huerta Cuatro Estaciones in southern Chile, beside the Andes ice-fields, a hugely productive market garden in transition to no dig

Our webinar about gardening with and for children is attracting much interest, with 650 registered already. It's at 11.30am UT, and once signed up, you can download the presentation later.

An attendee at Wini's event, and I signed her no dig jacket!
An attendee at Wini's event, and I signed her jacket!
A typical view in Patagonia, the snow-covered Andes often present, and this is Christian's no dig garden
A typical view in Patagonia, the snow-covered Andes often close and this is Christian's no dig garden @almaverde, it will be in a YouTube video later
Brigitte F1 Brussels sprouts now 8 months old and still cropping, no dig Charles Dowding
Brigitte F1 Brussels sprouts now 8 months old and still cropping, just!

Sweet Brussels

At this time, Brussels sprouts become more valuable than ever. They withstand so much frost, although mine are now difficult to protect from pigeons because they are so tall. You can see the jagged edges where pigeons have pecked.

However, they have done their growing and have become wonderfully sweet after some -5°C 23°F frosts. I checked the sugar percentage with my RSG 100ATC portable refractometer, and it is currently 11.5%, more than many cherry tomatoes in summer.

Brussels have a spicy mustard flavour, disguising the sweetness to a point. I love to eat them raw, and winter spinach too which is sweeter now.

Portable refractometer is easy to use, the harder part is extracting juice, I use the garlic press

Threat to allotments in Bristol

The city's allotments face their rents being doubled at short notice, plus a mass of new rules. I am shocked by their severity. Huge resistance is building, and if you are a plotholder in Bristol, please don't give up because it can be turned around if enough people resist. There is a petition you can fill, a WhatsApp group you can join, a consultation you can answer by 22nd Jan, and a meeting on 24th Jan - email Pauline Butcher allotmentsforum@outlook.com to confirm attendance so she books a suitable venue.

Events coming up

A wassail. Normally these happen outside in the cold and wet, but this oneis a show undercover.on 20th January, by my brother Oliver. There will be an apple tree to decorate on the terrace, together with mulled cider and Morris dancing. Buy tickets in advance as numbers are limited.27th January

I give a no dig day course at West Dean college, now sold out.A few tickets are still available for the Chichester supper on Friday 26th.

I am speaking on both 23rd and 24th February at the sub-tropical gardens in Trebah, S Cornwall. I shall stay near Falmouth at Budock Vean Hotel.

The Events page has details of my courses in Madrid early March, and Ireland early April.

Homeacres first course is 16th March and this page has details.

I had to decline an invitation to speak in Alaska, because of dates clashing, but another US event may happen in late June.

Homeacres Open Days are Sundays 19th May 1-4.30pm, and 1st September 9.30-4.30pm.

The village pub is going well and is about to open a kitchen.

Wini Walbaum introduces Charles in Santiago
Wini Walbaum introduces Charles in Santiago at her no dig garden
Course attendees preparing a no dig bed to sow carrots after clearing spinach and making a compost heap
Course attendees preparing a no dig bed to sow carrots after clearing spinach and making a compost heap
In Somerset UK my favourite winter salad is spinach, sweet after frost
And back in Somerset, my favourite winter salad is spinach, sweet after frost
Sacks of potatoes with different compost
Sacks of potatoes with different compost in June - fill sacks by March
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