I am thrilled to bring you Get Ready for Summer Homestead Projects week here at Broken Teepee. I’ve got three great books from Quarto to help you and they will be showcased all week long. All were sent to me for review at no charge. Today I bring you the first one, Charles Dowding’s Veg Journal which offers expert no dig gardening advice and much, much more.
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About Charles Dowding’s Veg Journal:
Learn to grow a year’s worth of healthy, organic crops while preserving the soil’s integrity with the help of Charles Dowding, the UK’s leading no-dig gardening expert. With seasonal checklists and expert no-dig advice, this month-by-month journal draws on Charles Dowding’s Vegetable Course to help you plan bumper harvests the no-dig way. From tomatoes to basil, carrots to coriander, follow simple steps to find success with growing more than 35 vegetables and herbs. Start a no-dig veg plot on virgin or dug ground, improve the soil and become an expert mulcher and weeder, as well as learning the techniques for intercropping, companion planting, seed viability and crop succession. This easy-to-follow step-by-step guide by one of Britain’s top gardeners is illustrated with photos to help you learn how to plan a veg garden, construct a raised bed, sow seed indoors and outdoors in spring, grow on young crops, protect plants from the weather and pests through the season and, finally, celebrate the joy of harvesting. Organised monthly from January to December, this journal is full of key dates for sowing, staking, harvesting and storing, as well as time-saving monthly checklists to help ensure a successful no-dig harvest.
About the Author:
CHARLES DOWDING grew up on a dairy farm in Somerset. After graduating from Cambridge he worked for a hotel in the Inner Hebrides before starting to grow organic vegetables commercially on the family farm in the early 1980s. In 1990 he left behind what was by then a large market garden to live in France and Zambia. Returning to Somerset in the mid 1990s, he established a bed and breakfast and vegetable growing business at Lower Farm in Shepton Montague, Somerset. There, Charles’s salad bags were the main output from his two-acre garden of permanent raised beds and fruit trees. Charles runs vegetable-growing courses and lectures and writes books on his unique growing techniques. Since 2012 Charles has begun a new garden at Shepton Mallet in Somerset which he has designed using no-dig principles.
Before I get to the hubby’s thoughts on the book – as I’ve mentioned a myriad number of times, I kill plants. The spider plant is barely living. If we were dependent on me running the garden for us to eat well, let’s just say we’d be dead by now. That aside, I did look through the book and it’s aesthetically beautiful. The photos are bright, bold and colorful; certainly motivating to anyone wanting to start a vegetable garden. Hopefully you all will be less murderous towards plants than I.
The book is, as the title indicates, a journal offering advice for planting and soil care for each month of the year. The challenge arises in that the author is British and the United States has 12 different hardiness zones for planting (or up to 45 if you use sourcing other than the USDA.) Great Britain has 4. As Mr. Dowding writes what he knows, much of his advice is to the zones where he lives which is, if I am reading the map correctly 7 or 8. The maps say we are 5a/6b. So, not all of the info is applicable but that doesn’t mean the book isn’t useful.
Having the journal available as a reminder to do certain things on a schedule is always a good thing and in knowing your area you can basically apply the information to what is appropriate for your area. It will also serve as a great record for next year when you start all over again.
If you are curious about no dig gardening or have started the practice the book will offer you lots of advice on how to make it the way of life for your garden (Farm note: we have been very happy here with how it has helped with the output of our garden.) You will also find tips on how to grow plants like tomatoes and zucchini – although I personally don’t know how anyone or anything could kill a zucchini once it started to grow. They are prolific.
All in all it’s a book that offers you a place to keep notes, keep organized and learn.
Do we use no dig gardening?
Here on our little farm the hubby started out using a mechanical rototiller to get the garden areas ready to plant. When we first moved here the lot was an absolute mess; it was completely covered in weeds and there were a gazillion rocks (I know that ’cause I counted every single one ) He felt that there was going to be no other way to get a garden going. As he started reading more on producing a harvest in our zone he also read more on organic farming practices in general and he learned about the tenants of no dig gardening (learn more HERE).
He then bought a broadfork which he now uses each year to turn the soil before he plants his seedlings and seeds. The only time he uses his rototiller is if he is going to start a new garden area on the lot and he has to break new ground as he did when he put in the potato garden. After the first year, he then used the no dig method with that garden as well.
The advantages to no dig include not killing the earthworms in the garden that are so beneficial to aeration. You also keep weed seeds below the surface so they can’t germinate and grow. There are lots of other reasons to go this way and the Veg Journal goes into some of them plus the exercise you get using the broadfork – right?
As the week goes on I’ll show more of the garden and what we hope to accomplish this year. But here is a look back at what the garden looks like early it’s incarnation. I don’t have video from last year as we were away in June when I usually take the first show of it and then the fires started and I didn’t spend much time outside due to all of the smoke: