A dry July update from my no dig garden

Like much of the country, Bruton has been very hot and dry for weeks and weeks. Frustratingly all of the recent rains have missed my small town.We can see dark clouds sometimes but they are benefitting others, we’re just getting a very light shower if anything at all. Have you had rain where you are?

Last week I visited Cardiff. My daughter Caitlin was graduating her MSc in Sustainability Planning and Environmental Policy. She is currently completing her second MSc and will be starting her PhD in the autumn! All at Cardiff university. (#proudmum!!) It’s a great city, I love visiting Cardiff and it actually rained for a little while, lovely to feel the raindrops on my skin


The hot, sunny weather means that early starts are even more important in order to get as much work done as possible in the cool. It’s a bit of a battle really trying to fit in all of the gardening I need to do, including the seemingly endless watering, and all of the writing work too! I’m neither use nor ornament when it’s really hot in the afternoons, we have no air con of course so rely on draughts from open windows. Oh for a swimming pool!

I’ve been driving to Charles’ before the dawn on Friday mornings to pick salad. The early mornings and late evenings are so beautiful.


Charles’ very dry lawn is looking so brown but weeds are still flowering. We don’t mind bindweed in the lawn, the flowers are so pretty. Salad is one of the key crops that Charles is watering; it is the main cash crop and valuable in the market garden.


I’m watering  the beds at Roth Bar and Grill every week or so, new plantings more often otherwise they would frazzle. It’s looking pretty good considering, although productivity is down compared with last year. The undug mulched beds are fortunately holding moisture below the surface.


The beds are right next to the car park. Here ragwort has been left to grow, a vital food source for cinnabar moth caterpillars.


The weed will create no problems for horses or other livestock as it literally is in a car park!

These videos are in real time, those little caterpillars are very speedy!!




The kitchen garden is part of Hauser and Wirth Somerset, which had its annual summer party at the weekend. Such good fun. The Piet Oudolf garden is looking amazing thanks to the hard work of Mark (the head gardener there) and his assistant Jasper.

My son Ruairi (in sunglasses) ran the gin bar!


I’ve watered my allotment twice so far this summer, new plantings more regularly of course. It’s doing well considering the bonkers weather. Usually, I only water new plantings once or twice but they are needing more this year to get established. It’s more of a challenge because of course I am experimenting with a year of no mulch – which would have helped conserve the moisture in the ground….. Fortunately 9 years of no dig has meant that the soil is in great condition.


In my back garden we’ve been enjoying so much fruit – currants, gooseberries, strawberries, boysenberries, tayberries and now plums. Usually I protect my much of fruit but the wild birds are so thirsty I’m happy to share. The birds are not as appreciative of my generosity as I had hoped and actually tell me off when I’m picking gooseberries for myself! That’s what it sounds like anyway! I successfully picked 5 plums, but the birds and wasps have had the rest as soon as they have ripened.

I’m protecting the cherry tree though! This photo was taken just as the cherries were changing colour. They are  ready now and so sweet.

Last week the flying ants emerged, fascinating to watch. These climbed up one of my dalek composters before launching themselves.


My little potted forest garden is looking happy, making this area of concrete abundant and diverse. Here I have an apple tree, pear, sour cherry, mystery stone fruit, tayberry, kiwi, bay, lots of scented pelargoniums, aubergines, cucumbers, tomatoes, chillies, sweet peppers, edible flowers  and many different kinds of herbs.



Every day I am picking cucumbers, aubergines, basil, tomatoes and other herbs from my polytunnel. There are two courgette plants in here too.


Outside, the front garden beds are struggling in the heat. Built on top of rubble, they dry out very quickly – you can see in the photo below how quickly they droop in the hot sun after planting; some water soon perked them up. One bed is covered with butterfly netting, the other with enviromesh temporarily until I have brought more cloche hoops back from the allotment. It’s tucked around the courgette so that pollinators can reach that.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Back in the polytunnel, I have pulled the Grenoble Red lettuce. It’s hanging upside down drying, for seed. Grenoble Red is a wonderful lettuce for overwintering. I’ve been saving the seed for 6 years now.


When I am not in the garden (watering…!!!) I’ve been working on my new book The Creative Kitchen and also making lots of seasonal dishes for our gardening courses at Homeacres. Yum, I am feeling hungry just looking at those photos, especially the Baba Ganoush (in the Moroccan bowl) which is time consuming to make but oh so delicious.


Last Tuesday we welcomed members of the Garden Media Guild to Homeacres, what a lovely group of people. Here Charles is explaining all about no dig and one of his fabvourite things, compost!


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It isn’t all good news in the garden, mostly due to the unusual weather. I think my next blog post should be all about the things that haven’t quite gone according to plan!


10 thoughts on “A dry July update from my no dig garden”

  1. Steph, wow, I don’t know where you find the time to do all that you do and write such an informative blog as well, with such lovely photos. Thank you for all the hard work you put in, even if it does make me feel like a right slouch! Congratulations to your daughter.

  2. elaine Kelleher

    Considering the dry weather I think you have done marvels with your Polytunnels etc. Let’s all. hope for those thunderstorms really soon. xx

  3. We’ve been lucky up here on Skye with the weather this year. A bit of a cold start, then hot in May, a spell of rain in early June then dry again, but the last couple of weeks have been cooler and damper again. I’m glad I’m not trying to garden further south: the few weeks we had hot were quite enough for me!

  4. We finally had a bit of proper rain with a few cracks of thunder last night……I dont mean to be ungrateful ..but …..we need more for our veg gardens .
    Your doing really well considering the drought ..I always feel hungry after reading your journal..all the delicious food pics !

    1. Thank you! We had a few drops of rain last night but not enough. It’s grey and cloudy now so feeling hopeful there’ll be more but as you say, we need much more for the garden.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: