No dig gardening

Away from the allotment which, by the way, one of my lovely allotment neighbours has neatened up by mowing the paths down the sides in time for the annual “tidiness” inspection on Saturday, I have 2 board enclosed, west facing vegetable beds measuring  8 x 4 feet in the back garden at home.

We made them a couple of years  ago to define a salad growing area in the garden. The soil is better here, the garden is walled-so no “animal” pests  and the water tap handy. As is the back door and the kitchen. Last year, as well as growing salads, I raised plants for the allotment.

I attended a talk at Bath Universitylast week, given by Charles Dowding, a leading exponent of the no-dig growing method. I have toyed with this method before, but I have decided this summer to start giving it a real go-Charles was very persuasive and the pictures of his vegetable garden inspiring. To be fair, these beds are already well cultivated with no perennial weeds, but I have covered them with a thick layer of horse manure mixed with garden compost, and have started to plant through it.

One of the principal ideas behind no-dig is to cover the soil with organic matter to a sufficient depth to suppress weed growth. Worms and other soil organisms then slowly work the material  into the soil, improving the structure and helping to release the nutrients by effectively passing the mix of soil and organic through themselves. I know that there is less worm activity in the garden, despite the better “look” to the soil than on the allotment where I thatched the plot with manure last autumn. Dowding’s mantra is really “feed the soil, not the plants”  as fertile soil naturally leads to healthy plant growth.

The first plants are some commercially grown lettuce plants -a cos and some mixed lettuce varieties. I have trays full of seedling plants but they are still too tiny to plant out.  I am sowing everything out of doors this year, so am a bit behind. The larger plants at the front of the right bed are some self sown perennials that need moving but it’s a bit late now-the foxgloves will be throwing up flower spikes very soon.

Over the summer months I will see how the plants respond and more tellingly, how anything that follows on performs. If you are interested in no-dig gardening, Charles Dowding has an informative website here.


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