A no-dig approach to autumn

This year I decided to give no-dig a try. I did a lot of reading and attended a course by Charles Dowding back in early spring, and did my best to put the method into practice when it came to planting time, which for me was in mid-May. Back then I covered my empty raised beds with sheets of cardboard and then topped them with a 5-10cm thick layer of various different organic matter – well rotted manure, bought compost, home made compost, rotted down grass clippings, leaf mould and anything else I could get my hands on.

The veg patch has done well with this method – I definitely noticed a significant decrease in the numbers of weeds I’ve had to deal with, and I felt that watering was less onerous than it was last year, in spite of the drier weather. The veggies have mostly flourished, and all in all it has been a good experience. So now it’s on to autumn….

I’ve harvested and pulled up several crops now – all the various peas and beans have finished, I’ve pulled out sweetcorn plants, the lettuce all bolted so I took that up (the hens loved it) and I’ve harvested loads of beets and carrots already. This left me with a few square metres of empty space which I wanted to fill with autumn plants. In no-dig style, where I traditionally would have weeded and dug over the space, this year I have simply added more compost. I reckon I managed a 2-3cm layer on each bed. I’ve planted straight into the fresh compost and watered my new babies in well.

That’s the empty beds sorted. Now I am left with several beds full of summer crops that are still growing – all my brassicas, leeks, celeriac, parsnips and late planted beets and leaves. I’m not exactly sure what to do with these as I feel like I ought to be putting fresh compost down to keep weeds down and protect the plants from colder weather that will be here in a few weeks no doubt. I think it might need to be a trial and error situation – I’m going to try spreading leaf mould around the veggies in a few beds, adding compost to a few others and simply leaving things as is for the others. This should give me a good idea of what to do in subsequent years, and I’m all for a bit of experimenting when it comes to growing my own nowadays. Too often I listen to all the advice and blindly follow it, but I think it’s important to find out what works well for your own veg plot.