Book Review: Charles Dowding’s Vegetable Garden Diary

Charles Dowding’s Vegetable Garden Diary


I recently purchased this book and thought I’d share my thoughts on it.

Over the last few years I have purchased a few of Charles’ other Gardening titles, and  in line with his advice on how to set up raised beds easily I did just that and now successfully grow a wide variety of produce.

My biggest raised bed.
My biggest raised bed.

The Book

The book is intended as a manual of Gardening techniques filled with splendid illustrations and contains many pictures of Charles’ own garden and produce.

Big pictures and lots of information.
Big pictures and lots of information.

168 pages long, at least three-quarters of the book is Charles’ advice on how to grow great crops.

Although devised as a diary, it is in-fact a perpetual or any day dairy designed for you to add your own notes, comments and to  store your own information, for future reference.

Beautifully set out with space to write your own notes accompanied by lovely pictures relevant to the time of month.

The advice printed in the diary section is linked to each week of the year, some of the information included is when is the best time to sow, different tried sowing and planting methods, the advantages of no dig which results in less time needed, and how to control weeds by mulching.

Start of the seed sowing
Start of the seed sowing

The seed sowing starts in the Diary on Valentine’s day, and guides you through on what to sow right through to the week before Valentine’s day the next year, Charles also covers how to feed soil, for resulting  strong and healthy growth and more productivity, and the best times to harvest, including information on storing your produce.

This book has been designed as a gardening companion with seasonal pointers, the intention is that you can add your own notes alongside the advice given by Charles.

Ring bound for easy use.
wire bound for easy use.

The book is wire bound and the covers are laminated for easy use when out and about in the garden.

Sections covering everything you might ever need.
Sections covering everything you might ever need.

I’ve already read this book cover to cover twice and made notes along the way, and I’ve  set out my planned seed sowing regime for the coming Spring following Charles’ advice, and already started adding more mulch to my raised beds in order to get my no-dig adventure off the best start in 2017.

And through the pages of Charles book I’ve discovered the solution to my ponderings  on how to grow lots of onions close together in order to produce lots of pickled onion sized onions for my Pickling needs in 2017.

7 seeds sown close together give many smaller onions. perfect size for Pickling.
7 seeds sown close together give many smaller onions. perfect size for Pickling.

I’ve found this book easy to follow and beautifully set out, there is a large index containing everything I needed to know and I cannot wait o get sowing my seeds.

This is a great book for any beginner or the more experienced Gardener, and would be a great Christmas present for any Allotment Grower.

The Book is priced at £14.95 or Signed at £15.95 Direct from Charles who Self Published the book.

Order here

The book is also available from that other online bookshop, but I suggest you buy directly from Charles as he posts out very quickly.

For more information on Charles Dowding’s other Books, Courses, and the No-dig method visit his site here.


(Disclaimer, I do not, and have not gained in any way by reviewing this book)

Hasty Harvest, Potential Produce, Sweetcorn Struggle.

Its almost the end of May and I’m fairly confident that the frosts have finished now, however we did have a slight last frost here last year on June 6th, so I’m keeping an eye on the weather forecasts armed with copious amounts of Fleece just in case.

Garlic crop under cover.
Garlic crop under cover smothered in rust.

I’ve been growing my Garlic in a raised bed under a covering of Enviromesh in an attempt to thwart the Allium Leaf Miner,  this pesky beast has moved into the region where I live and has become quite a nuisance in regards to the Onion/Allium  family, I’ve found it particularly bad in regards my Garlic, I had a poor crop of Garlic last year, in-part due to an infestation of the Leaf Miner, so this growing season, my use of Enviromesh is an attempt to see if I can produce any worthwhile crops.

I have slightly  definitely planted too many Garlic Corms in the space I had available, all autumn planted varieties, I planted a row of Spring violet, 2 Rows Of Solent Wight and 2 rows of Early Wight.

I noticed last week that the first row of Garlic, being the Spring Violet, had started to produce flowers and needed pulling, I did battle with the Enviromesh and forked the row up.

Not the most impressive of crops.
Not the most impressive of crops.

While I had the mesh off, I took the opportunity to fluff up the soil in between the rows and add copious amounts of Fish, Blood & Bone to the growing space in an attempt to perk up the plants in their final few weeks of growing.

I think this was fruitless as the plants don’t look very good.  I suspect my anti Leaf Miner attempts have just encouraged more rust which as affected the plants vigour.

The other crops I’ve got growing in my raised beds are showing great potential.

Beginnings of Broad Beans. Var Robin Hood.
Beginnings of Broad Beans. Var Robin Hood.

Lots more flowers growing, and flowers means more beans…   I guess I’ll soon find out if I actually like Broad Beans.

Lovely markings.
Lovely markings.

I’ve just about finished planting outside crops that I have been raising in my greenhouses.

Ooh look.. A Siamese Twin fruit.
Ooh look.. A Siamese Twin fruit.

Courgettes are planted out in big tubs with compost enriched with some shop bought Manure, also in Tubs are all my Potatoes, Parsnips and a mini Squash called a Squaskin..

Scroll over pictures to see captions if your on a PC…..

I’m also growing some fruit in big containers, plants such as Blueberries because they prefer Acidic soil and Red Currants because I’ve not got any room in the sunny part of the garden for them to thrive in.

Incidentally, that picture just above this comment shows the total crop of Red Currants to date.

I’ve also treated myself with one of these new types of Raspberry that can be grown in a container, Raspberry Ruby Beauty from T&M, earlier in the year they had a all plants half price offer, so I bought 2.

Raspberry Ruby Beauty
Raspberry Ruby Beauty

The growing instruction that came with the plants stated that they needed to be planted in a 10 Litre tub or bigger for best results, I’ve planted mine into 25 Litre tubs, and so far they have been putting on leaves. I suspect it will be a good year if I want Raspberry leaves, the fruit might be another matter though.


Won’t be long before I’m harvesting an early crop of peas.  I’m tempted to re-sow with more peas in the same spot when this crop is finished…..

My 1 and only germinated Carrot.
My 1 and only germinated Carrot.

My Carrots have been an unmitigated failure though…. I’ve sowed 2 packets of seed, with the 2nd packet sowed twice, still only achieving 1 seedling.  I’m wondering if it is possible to get rubbish seed from 2 different suppliers or am I the Anti Carrot Grower.!

In the greenhouses I’ve been moving crops into their final growing positions, it’s not been easy with the cooler weather in the early part of the month preventing many plants from staying outside.

Scroll over the pictures to see the captions if your on a PC…..

And finally, onto the crop I just have to grow each year Sweet Corn.

This is how I grew my Sweet corn last year. (2015).

Sweetcorn 2015. Dont try this at home.
Sweetcorn 2015.
Don’t try this at home.

I just didn’t have any room to do the plants justice, so began a complicated sequence of events where I obtained 28 second hand 10 Litre pots, a growing medium mixture of loam, Multi-purpose compost, slow release fertilizer and a small quantity of manure in each pot, the plants were liquid fed at regular intervals.

I stood back….. and watched the weeds thrive.

Now the ‘experts’ will tell you that you can grow Sweet Corn in pots, and yes you can, just don’t expect any actual cobs to eat though. Of the 28 plants I got about 7 cobs, and they were very small, about half average length.

I’ve had all winter to be bitter, and to formulate a plan.

I decided to build a raised bed over an existing flower bed, and in-order to make it bigger I dug some lawn up.

So my new bed is about 7 ft long by 6 ft wide, full of old compost, soil improver and manure which was added early in the season so the weather could work on it…

I’ve got about 26 plants planted out now, with added Mycorrhizal fungi in the hope that’s the magic ingredient to a bumper crop.

Sweetcorn Swift F1
Sweetcorn Swift F1

In each corner of the bed I’ve planted 2 plants of Pumpkin Winter Luxury, which is supposed to be a small but beautifully formed fruit and 2 plants of Squash Winter Sweet F1 and should also be a smallish fruit with all the good looks and keeping quality of Crown Prince.

So in a way 2 sisters and a weird uncle…..(row of peas along the back).

So I’m hoping for a bumper crop later this year, even if any potential corn cob will have cost in the region of £10 each to produce.

Bye for now.





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