An introduction to no-dig

The team at Rocket Gardens asked me to do a post on No-Dig Growing to tie in with World Soil Day on 5th December, so here it is…a little intro for any newbies to the no-dig approach to gardening.

Why to choose no-dig

The no-dig approach is a really good one if you want to really look after your soil and help it to replenish itself. It’s incredibly simple and within a couple of seasons you should notice the change in your soil quality and in the veggies that you’re growing. I think it is particularly good if you’re starting a new plot from scratch, if you have an ongoing battle with weeds/pests/disease, or if you’d like your garden to involve a little less work and time.

What is no-dig?

Essentially, the no-dig approach is what it says it is – it’s an approach to gardening that involves NOT digging. Instead, you leave the soil as undisturbed as possible (as this is how it creates the almost invisible eco-systems that it needs to maintain its health and texture) and mulch heavily each season.

From my own experience and learnings, the best things to mulch with are either well-rotted manure (but be careful that you know where it comes from and that the animals have fed in fields that are not infected with weedkillers) or compost. You’ll need quite a bit to get started in the first year, but thereafter you won’t need quite so much.

How do I go no-dig?

To get going with the no dig method is quite straightforward, and even if you didn’t intend to continue with no-dig in the future it is a very quick and easy way to set up a new bed/plot.

Step 1 – pull up any ‘tough’ weeds – docks, brambles etc – but you can leave other weaker weeds and grass in situ.

Step 2 – cover the beds with cardboard (staples/tape removed)

Step 3 – cover the cardboard with a thick (10-15cm) layer of compost/well rotted manure

Step 4 – plant your plants straight into the compost in spring

Step 5 – hoe regularly to keep weeds down (gently pull up any that slip through the net trying not to disturb the soil too much) and top up the beds with a thinner layer (3-5cm) of compost the following autumn (or a little thicker if you find weeds have been more of a problem than anticipated)

Honestly, it is so straightforward and quick to get going. I really recommend it. It can be a little pricy in terms of buying compost, but well worth the investment in the long run and will save you hours of weeding etc.