November II: season review and lessons learned….

2017 was the first year I gardened no-dig with good compost. As a result,some crop yields improved spectacularly, meaning a glut of over-production occurred. Equally some crops are proving difficult for reasons I am not clear about.

1) Radish yields in good compost were spectacular, suggesting one 1.5m row sown each two weeks from the spring equinox to the end of April is more than sufficient for a family.

2) Carrot yields have also risen hugely, both in the soil and in bags. Indeed, four 18 litre polypot bags would last all winter on the yields achieved in 2017. Yields of carrots sown in early May were higher than sown in early April.

3) Maincrop potatoes mulched with plenty of cut comfrey yielded very well, perhaps due to plenty of rain from mid July to mid September. Early crops were very poor in the arid spring. Pot-grown first earlies yielded very well.

4) Successful late sowings were:

i) Pick and Come Again lettuce sown early June and harvested August and September;

ii) Cavalo Nero Kale sown early June, harvesting from October onwards;

iii) Leaf Chicory, sown early July and harvested from mid October;

iv) Florence Fennel, sown late June and harvested late October and November;

v)Winter radish, sown early August to be harvested through winter

Spinach, chard, rocket and cabbage have established successfully for spring harvest, however Augusta Onions did not.

Ongoing challenges remain with:

i) Autumn turnips – plants which established yielded roots, however pest damage is still too high;

ii) Winter cabbage suffering from leaf damage and only small hearts, barely worth five months in the ground;

iii) Pak Choi continues to be eaten within 3 weeks of transplantation.

iv) Allium leaf miner continues to devastate winter leek stands, such that only growing early crops is now the reluctant conclusion.


As a result, the following changes are envisaged in 2018:

1) 75% reduction in rows of carrots sown, expanding onions instead;

2) Growing Red Kuri squash instead of Musselburgh leeks;

3) Reducing beetroot sowing by 33%;

4) Adding three brussels sprouts plants in the sunniest location;

5) Attempting Borlotti beans for the first time;

6) Replacing leaf chicory with chicory hearts.


I will expand the growth of roots in bags/35 liter pots to include parsnips as well as carrots.

2017 was a big step forward.

2018 will tell me whether this was by luck or by design….

Author: Rhys

Rhys trained as a research biologist, working for a decade in the cancer research charity sector, before completing an MBA and working in management consultancy, technology transfer and early technology investment spaces, mostly working with UK academics to turn their scientific discoveries into value for society. AS a younger man, he was fascinated with mountains, both climbing them and ski-ing down them. Whilst living in Scotland, he completed a round of (then) all 277 Munros, the independent mountains over 3000ft originally complied as a list by Munro. He also spent his holidays representing the Ski Club of GB, as a Representative and Party Leader between 1990 and 1997. During that time, he found to his bemusement that he was able to predict, without understanding fully why, to a remarkable degree of accuracy, when good snow conditions would occur in the Alps, gaining an unworthy reputation for predictive genius in 1990 when predicting the evolution of the 1989/90 winter in Wengen, Switzerland for his CEO boss. He used this skill for the next seven years to ensure that he enjoyed powder snow pretty much every time he went ski-ing. An MD student he was training in Oxford also impressed his wife by taking Rhys' advice about when to take her to Italy in the mid 1990s! In recent years, Rhys has turned his mind toward how to grow prize tomatoes, winning several prizes in local and London shows and has, in the past 3 years, moved toward taking over a 50 square metre urban vegetable patch, which he has turned into a no-dig area since autumn 2014.

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