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PS Just seen Cleansweeps advice, we must have written at the same time. As ever he provides wonderful thorough detailed adivce, much better than mine!
I was similarly new to vegetable growing when I was granted my plot 2 years ago. It was considered the unlettable plot at the allotment. Choked with weeds, couch grass and brambles. I cleared the brambles, no need to clear the weeds, but by all means cut down anything tall or woody. I then covered the plot with approx 5cm (2″) of compost. I covered the compost with mypex woven ground fabric and pegged it down (nb if you use this type of product, don’t cut the material as it will fray over tine and the strands go everywhere, use a cheap blowtorch to cut it instead). Cardboard is a decent alternative, but in my case the area was rather large (approx 2 plots, 500m2) so I opted for fabric. I followed Charles advice of leaving this for a full year (couch grass and bindweed take a year, longer than most). I then lifted the fabric, positioned and filled a wooden frame with a mix of well rotted horse manure walked over to firm it down, and then a finer compost layer on top. Ready to plant straight into. I then moved the frame to make up the next bed and so on. You can have permanent wooden sides to the beds if you like, but they’ll provide an unwelcome habitat for slugs and woodlice, plus be an extra cost. And the beds don’t actually need sides. My paths were left bare, the original compost laid down was more than enough. I admit I was sceptical how effective this would all be, but it worked almost like magic. In my first year of growing I had very few weeds, and I just pick or hoe off any I see when they are tiny.
You can plant through the cardboard or fabric in places if you want to start growing earlier, or if you have less invasive weeds than I had. I’d also recommend any of Charles’ excellent books, maybe start with ‘ How to create a new Vegetable Garden’. His videos, on this website or his You Tube channel are also very helpful.
Good luck with it all!
Another good source of information are Charles videos, free to view.
I find these invaluable as a reference alongside the excellent books.
You’ll find these on the website under
Learn – Browse All – then scroll along to the right to find videos.
You’ll also find them all on his You Tube channel
Best of luck
In response to your question about pre grown plants from modules – correct, these are just seeds that have been planted in plugs/modules and have germinated and grown into little seedlings. Charles raises almost all his plants this way (Carrots and Parsnips being two notable exceptions), as he gets much better results. The seedlings are more resilient, and less prone to insect and wildlife attack by the time they are planted out, than seeds straight in the ground.
Charles uses a dibber, of approx the same diameter as the plug, which saves time. Dib a row of holes, pop the plugs out and simply drop them in the hole. Its better to plant the seedlings slightly deeper than you’d maybe expect, only just above the level of the surrounding soil, as this gives them extra protection as they establish. And no need to firm them in and backfill, you can just drop the plugs into the dibbed holes and they’ll grow fine. The beauty of Charles method is he has refined it over 40 years to cut out all the unnecessary time wasting work, making it a much more efficient use of your time.
Rotation – Charles does advocate this, but perhaps not as rigorously as other say. If you are double cropping a bed in one season, you don’t need to rotate. But a good idea to do so from season to season when possible. Established perennials stay where they are of course.
Fine to dump the compost and simply plant the plugs straight into it, as long as it is well rotted (approx 1 year for farmyard manure), or not too hot in the case of green manure. Green manure will probably have slightly less nutrient value than the humus rich option. A mix of both would be good, but should be fine on its own, it looks like decent compost on the link you provided.
Every year, you just top up the compost once. a few inches on each bed. No other fertilisers needed
Good luck with it.
I finally contacted the farm that had supplied me the horse manure, and described my experiences and test results.
They were shocked to hear it, although said they had never heard of Aminopyralid, said they’d never had that in 20 years etc. I asked if they bought in their hay or grew it themselves. They said they grew it all themselves but never used any chemicals at all, didn’t trust in them as they always feared these would affect the horses health. They said that the straw for bedding was bought in, suggested that maybe the contamination was there (nb they also use wood shavings). I said I thought that AP use was forbidden on straw or any cereal crops so it was unlikely to be that. Its possible that this information is incorrect, but I am inclined to believe them. I’m wondering whether I could try an additional bioassay ( I think I read this somewhere, maybe on this forum?) by taking some of the straw, and separately some of the hay, soaking it in water for a while and watering the beans
with the resultant solutions to see if the problem is there?
Many thanks all for your detailed responses and advice, much appreciated.
Charles – I’m relieved to hear that I might be able to keep some or all of the manure. Its interesting because several plants did bounce back, so hopefully it wasn’t too severe and is dispersing. I’ll start a Bioassay tomorrow in a few beds with broad bean and pea seeds, good idea. I’m sorry to hear of Sarah Ravens woes, but glad that she is pursuing the fight. I’ll certainly do what I can, report to HSE / Chemical Regulation Division (CRD) and of course dear old Dow.
Plantsmark – like you I surely wouldn’t have been alert to AP but for Charles in the first place. I suspect that many growers on my allotment and elsewhere have been blissfully unaware of the problems AP has caused them, assuming it was just some disease or something they had done wrong. I think one of the main problems in dealing with this poison is tracing it back to the culprit. The farm / stables where I bought it from may well have bought their hay from a middleman, who in turn buys in from several sources. I’d like to still use animal manure because of the abundance of microbes and organisms in it, but will certainly try and test a source first in future, and look at green manure.
Wellies – Fingers crossed that you will be unaffected. Cow manure sounds an interesting option, I’ll try and locate some myself. It will be interesting to see what your farmer colleague says on the subject.
And finally ‘ lexicon of misunderstandings’ – love that phrase Charles!
And a few more pics to add to the above post
Hi Charles and Mark,
I fear that I too have become a victim of Aminopyralid contamination. I thought I would post here as a follow up to yours, and thank you Mark for all your posts on the subject, hugely helpful, and of course Charles for your continuing wonderful and generous advice on all things.
In brief, I took on a plot last year at my local allotment. Hadn’t been touched for 5 years and I’ve had a great time returning it to cultivation, based on Charles books, videos, forums, and courses! Initially I covered with bagged compost about 5cm deep and covered in fabric (Permatex) from June 2017. I removed the fabric end of March 2018 and made 20 beds of 4.8m x 1.2m. I used well rotted horse manure from a local farm. I did ask them about Aminopyralid (oh no nothing like that), and since our allotments have always used them I figured it would be fine. And then covered the horse manure with a few cm of the finer bagged compost.
All seemed fine, initial growth was excellent, weeds have been scarce. I also constructed a greenhouse in the spring and filled the bed with the same horse manure and compost.
20 June was the day I realised this might be Aminopyralid.
Potatoes (King Edward) were starting to show leaf curl after a healthy start. Dwarf French Beans Speedy were doing badly, I had initially assumed due to cold nights. Broad Beans, previously growing well, started to show distortions. Tomatoes in the greenhouse were showing some leaf curl.
I started a bioassay test on June 25th. Six 5″ pots with a 50:50 mixture of the well rotted horse manure and multipurpose compost, six pots with just the compost. Four different bean types in each (Greek Gigantes, Dwarf French Bean Speedy, Climbing French Bean Cobra, Broad Bean Aquadulce Claudia). Those in the compost only pots grew fairly well, those in the mixture were poor. I’d had 3 x 4 tonne deliveries of the horse manure over the months, and I used two samples from each batch. Pics below.
Despite this, some plants have done well. Tomatoes (Sungold, Sakura, Iris), mostly in the greenhouse, have been super productive, but had quite a bit of leaf curl. I assumed this was AP, but maybe its leaf roll (he said hopefully)?
Potatoes were doing really well, but started to get leaf curl in June. Charlotte still produced well, King Edwards not so well. Peas were very successful, but French Beans (Speedy and Cobra) planted in the same bed were terrible. Greek Gigantes Beans started badly after planting out, but after a month have come back to life and are now thriving. Jerusalem Artichokes (which should be v. susceptible?) have had mixed results, most showing leaf curl at some point, most recovering fine, a few less so. Onions have seemed Ok but not very big, beetroot good, corn good.
So I’d appreciate your view on all this. I have assumed this is AP and that I’ll need to strip all the raised beds off and start again. Which depressed me for a few days back in June, but I’m over that now!
Many thanks if you got this far!
An update for anyone who may be interested.
Styropack were very helpful and Kevin and I collected some bags of these rigid polystyrene 24 cell trays today (see pictures in earlier post above).
They come in a minimum order of 60 trays – if you collect in person.
Cost is 24p per tray plus VAT ie £14.40 + VAT for 60 trays.
They will post if you prefer, but I think the minimum order is 480 trays by post, and I believe the unit cost is higher to include postage.
We dealt with Styropack in Ford, near Arundel West Sussex 001903 722811.
They also have depots in Blackburn and Aberdeen, who presumably can offer the same.
Many thanks for the suggestion Peter.
Kev do you want to call me, might be easier?
Hi Kev, so here are some pictures. They look good and solid. Each cell is 55x40x55mm deep.
There’s a drainage hole in the bottom, 10mm diameter. Big enough for a pencil, bit small for a finger.
Charles do these look good to you?
They are cheaper per unit if you are collecting. They have a depot in West Sussex, near Arundel.
I’m down that way from time to time, so would be happy to collect.
I’d certainly be interested. I spoke to Styropack yesterday, they were really helpful and are sending me a couple of free samples so I can see exactly what they are like. Happy to take a picture and post it here when they arrive.
I’m in North London, Highgate.
Did you ever buy any trays or get any response?
I’m looking to buy a load myself and would be interested.